CVS Walks Away From ‘Revitalizing’ a Black Community

The chain’s flimsy commitment is a reminder that for many companies, it’s still business as usual

Rob Walker
Marker
Published in
5 min readJun 10, 2020

--

Photo: Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket/Getty Images

In early June, just as demonstrations across the country in the wake of George Floyd’s killing snowballed into a massive reset of the entire national discussion of racial equity in America and the deep and systematic socioeconomic roots of racial injustice, customers of the CVS pharmacy in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward received a text message: The location would be closing in less than two weeks.

At first I shrugged this off. There was a lot of bigger, more significant news going on. But as a New Orleanian, the more I thought about it, the more it struck me as a truly astounding, and profoundly cynical, corporate decision.

The Lower Ninth Ward — a mostly working-class Black area of the city — is best known to the world at large for being devastated when an adjacent flood wall failed after Hurricane Katrina, submerging block after block of the neighborhood in 12 feet or more of water, for weeks, wiping out hundreds of houses. Its 15-year recovery has been painfully slow (the neighborhood’s population even now is about a quarter what it was), particularly in comparison with other, whiter flood-hit sections of the city.

When that CVS location, newly constructed, opened a mere four years ago, the company was not shy about trumpeting its contribution to the beleaguered neighborhood’s redevelopment. “CVS Pharmacy’s new store will serve as a building block in the revitalization of the Lower Nine Ward, one of the hardest hit communities affected by Hurricane Katrina,” said a press release at the time. The company statement shared news of a ribbon-cutting opening with an appearance by then mayor Mitch Landrieu. “CVS Pharmacy is extremely proud to now be a part of this community,” a company executive said, “giving residents convenient access to best in class pharmacy services and high quality health, beauty and wellness products.” It was “the first major retailer to build in the neighborhood” since the storm and would bring 20 jobs to the neighborhood.

So, was CVS’ decision to walk away from all that community commitment from just a few…

--

--