An unequal crisis: Addressing the intersectional dimensions of COVID-19


On Tuesday, April 14, 2020, YW Boston convened over 500 individuals for the lunch-time webinar, “An unequal crisis: Addressing the intersectional dimensions of COVID-19. Crises are not experienced equally. With the COVID-19 pandemic, we are seeing how inequitable policies and responses are worsening existing disparities. Knowing this, our President and CEO Beth Chandler invited LeadBoston alums Dr. Julie Levison and Dr. Jonathan Jackson from the Massachusetts General Hospital for a virtual conversation about COVID-19. They discussed how Massachusetts has responded to the pandemic, how it is affecting already underserved populations, and how community members and leaders can be supportive during this time.  

The conversation included: 

  • Beth Chandler, President & CEO of YW Boston, LeadBoston Class of 2014 
  • Dr. Julie Levison, Co-Director at MGH Chelsea HealthCare Center Community Research Program, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Member of the Infectious Disease Society of America, LeadBoston Class of 2018 
  • Dr. Jonathan Jackson, Founder and Executive Director of the CARE Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, LeadBoston Class of 2019 

Dr. Levison and Dr. Jackson, with their extensive knowledge of both medicine and social equity, explained the barriers to access many communities of color are experiencing during COVID-19. Both leaders are stepping in to ensure we address this public health crisis with an equity lens. They had recommendations for how individuals across Boston can do the same. Learn more from our recording of the webinar and a list of resources, below: 

Captions are available for this video. To activate closed captioning, please start the video and select the icon labeled “CC” at the bottom-right corner. 

Video Transcripts

Click here to access a transcript of this video in English 

Click here to access a transcript of this video in Spanish 

Key Takeaways from “An unequal crisis: Addressing the intersectional dimensions of COVID-19”

  • Inequities pre-dated COVID-19 and an equitable response to COVID-19 requires cross-sector participation 
  • Vote at the top and bottom of the ballot. Make sure the perspectives you value are presented in our democracy 
  • Demand data transparency and broad vaccine access from your elected representatives 
  • Complete the 2020 Census as this data will help appropriately allocate funds for our communities 
  • Support medical research by participating in clinical trials ( 
  • Support the people around you, whether that be emotionally, financially, by sustaining a mental health peer support network, through solidarity and vulnerability, or any other way that you can

Resources and Volunteer Opportunities

At YW Boston, we believe it is important to  work to address the systemic inequities that have led to disparate impacts  of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Based on our conversation with Dr. Levison and Dr. Jackson, we have compiled a list of resources for  individuals  wanting to get engaged and to meet immediate COVID-related needs. The organizations mentioned in this list are not affiliated with YW Boston and a listing does not signify endorsement.

Healthy Communities and Housing  
  • Suffolk University Housing Discrimination Testing Program offers  Fair Housing 101 training for housing organizations and for high school students.  This training is free and can be conducted via Zoom.  
  • Citizens’ Housing & Planning Association has multiple committees dedicated to the belief that “every person in Massachusetts should have a safe, healthy, and affordable place to call home.”  
  • Parenting Journey’s Family Emergency Fund  supports families during COVID-19. 
  • Foster care system college students who have aged out of foster care are experiencing a housing crisis as they are forced off campus, facing homelessness. Together We Rise  offers  resources for individuals and organizations that want to help. 
  • Call2Talk is a  mental health, emotional support, and suicide prevention program run by Mass211 operating 24/7. They also offer volunteer opportunities. 
Food Insecurity & Access  
Civic Engagement  
  • COVID-19 has impacted public access centers and other supports for the Census. The Census impacts how federal funding for education, food assistance, transportation, and other areas, is allocated.  MassCounts  is accepting volunteers for remote phone banking.  
  • The Boston Globe has established the page “Boston Helps” where individuals can share needs or an ability to help. The site matches needs with volunteers. 
  • Ethos  supports family caregiving, fosters social interaction and respects cultural diversity  for elders and individuals with disabilities. They have many volunteer opportunities. 
  • Serve on a public board or commission and advocate for inclusive, trauma-informed policies and procedures throughout state government. 
  • Write and call your elected officials about issues that matter to you. A few organizations which share advocacy platforms related to health equity and social determinants of health include the  MACDC , the Mass League of Community Health CentersMetropolitan Area Planning Council, and Raise Up Massachusetts.  
Wealth, Wages and Economics  
  • Forbes has released a COVID-19 Giving Guide to reach populations disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. 
  • Apply for jobs at COVID-19 temporary care sites.   
  • A coalition of organizations committed to supporting Black and  Latinx  businesses in Massachusetts have launched Business Equity  COVID 19 Fund. Eligible businesses include Black or Latinx  majority-owned (51% or more) small business in Massachusetts with minimum annual revenue of at least $250,000 . 
Access and share these resources for continued learning 


About YW Boston

As the first YWCA in the nation, YW Boston has been at the forefront of advancing equity for over 150 years. Through our DE&I services—InclusionBoston and LeadBoston—as well as our advocacy work and youth programming, we help individuals and organizations change policies, practices, attitudes, and behaviors with a goal of creating more inclusive environments where women, people of color, and especially women of color can succeed.

During this time, YW Boston is working to provide organizations with digital workshops and resources to help them better understand the challenges faced by their employees. As part of that work, we are helping organizations become socially connected while staying physically distant. For more information, please contact Sheera Bornstein at