Cancer Awareness Color Me Fun Run/Walk held

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This time of year is typically flooded with shades of pink as people come together to raise awareness about the impact of breast cancer. United Purpose, Incorporated Girl Scout  Troop 408,  Greene County Human Rights Commission, Greene County Community Health Advisors co-sponsor  their 1st Annual Color  Run/Walk to promote Cancer Awareness. The event was held Saturday, October  9, 2021 at the  The Eutaw City Park.  The event kicked off at 10:00 am  with lot of family fun activities throughout the program. The Color Run/Walk a multipurpose event to promote healthiness and happiness by bringing the community together and to raise Cancer Awareness. Participants dusted with an array of color powder as they passed specific mile markers.  Darlene Robinson, Human Rights Commissions  and Greene County /Hale Co. CHAs delivered greeting; Eutaw Mayor Latasha Johnson  presented words of welcome; Marilyn Sanford rendered an inspirational reading,  Miriam Leftwich United Purpose & Girl Scout 408 Coordinator  also presented greetings.  Mollie Rowe the memorial, a celebratory walk by the survivors; D.J. Birdman rendered the music,  dancing, photo opportunities and a massive color throw.  Sponsorships helped defay the cost of organizing the event to benefit Ora Lee Smith Cancer Research Foundation for 2021, for patients in the Greene County area.  Early Detection is the Best Protection!

SOS opposes Alabama State Board of Education resolution on teaching history in Alabama schools

Attorney Faya Rose Toure shown making statement at State Board

The SaveOurselves Movement for Justice and Democracy (SOS) joined many other groups in opposing the adoption of a resolution by the State Board of Education “preserving intellectual freedom and non-discrimination in Alabama’s public schools”. The Board held a hearing on the resolution on last Thursday and then on a 7 to 2 vote adopted the resolution and administrative rule to implement the proposal. The two Black members of the Board cast the dissenting votes on the resolution and administrative rule.

The State Board of Education made a vague statement in response to the teaching of “critical race theory” in Alabama public schools which sets unclear guidelines on the teaching of history in the state, which will limit a truthful consideration of slavery, the Jim Crow period and the Civil Rights Movement, in a state that played a major role in these historical developments.

SOS held a press conference in front of the State Board of Education building to explain its position on the State Board’s resolution and then participated with other groups presenting its position to the Board at the hearing. Attorney Faya Rose Toure, veteran civil rights activist presented SOS’s statement to the State Board.

In its statement, SOS states, “On first reading, this resolution appears to promote the humanity of all people. It states that white supremacy should not be taught and encouraged in Alabama’s public schools. But it insidiously allows teacher to disregard and even sanitize Alabama’s three-hundred-year history of slavery and segregation that instill white supremacy and black inferiority in nearly every child and institution in the state. Who will decide what is the respectable and responsible teaching of Alabama’s history of racial violence and injustice? That is the question and our concern.”

The SOS statement continues, “We are an interracial statewide organization committed to the ideals for the Declaration of Independence. For centuries, African American youth and Indigenous youth were legally denied basic civil and human rights. The denial of these rights was often secured with state sanctioned violence. After the Civil War, the promise of democracy for African American children was cruelly broken. Instead, those who committed treason to maintain the economic benefits of slavery were resurrected as heroes. Today, there are statues honoring the Confederate soldiers but nothing recognizing the two hundred thousand African American soldiers who fought to end the most demeaning barbaric slavery in human history.

“Unfortunately, African American youth continue to be adversely impacted from slavery and segregation. African American men are only 12% of the population, but nearly 50% of the prison population. In nearly every area of life, African American people are at the bottom. Coronavirus is more deadly in the school to prison pipeline as a consequence of Alabama’s racial policies and practices that still fail to recognize the genius and talents of African American youth and children.

“The stories of resistance to Alabama’s draconian laws and policies are also critical to the attainment of truth and reconciliation. Three major movements for Civil Rights took place in Alabama to challenge the wheels of injustice and segregation, yet most students know nothing about the movements in Montgomery, Birmingham, and Selma. These stories are not critical race theories, they are based on factual events and proof of the ability of African American youth to resist racial oppression, but also drugs, gang violence and nonracial forces of injustice.

“To deny students of all races these stories is a grave injustice that keeps Alabama from being democratic and just. There can be no racial healing in the State until Alabama confronts its racial past and its clinging to monuments and policies that reveals its lack of will to recognize the humanity of all of its citizens.”

The SOS full statement can be read on its website.

Greene County Emergency Medical Services issues report showing need for new ambulances, equipment, staffing and better facilities

Mayor Hattie Samuels of Boligee (center) presents $5,000 donation to the members of the Greene County Emergency Medical Services Board. L to R, Rodney Wesley, Ardelia Colvin, Samuels, Joe L. Powell and Dr. Marcia Pugh.

By John Zippert, Co-Publisher
Zac Bolding, Acting Director of the Greene County Emergency Medical Services (GEMS Inc.), presented a detailed written report to the Board of Directors on the status of ambulance and other emergency medical services in the county, at their most recent meeting last week. The Greene County Democrat was provided with a copy of the report.

The GEMS Board consists of seven members, two appointed by the County Commission (Joe L. Powell, Chairperson and Dr. Marcia Pugh, Vice Chair); two appointed by the City of Eutaw (Rodney Wesley, John Hahn) and one each from the three municipalities in the county: Town of Boligee (Walter Staples), Town of Union (Ardelia Colvin) and Town of Forkland (David Craig – appointment pending Commission approval).

The current GEMS Board, which was appointed last year, came into a situation where the staffing was in turmoil and the equipment outdated. Two long term employees, Bennie Abrams and Stanley Lucious retired in 2020. Nick Wilson, was selected by the prior board, on the recommendation of Abrams, to be the director.

When the new board appointed by the Commission and municipal officials, took office in 2021, they were unable to find clear records of past operations, financial statements and board minutes. The new director was not cooperative with the new board and soon left after a family leave of absence. The new GEMS Board designated Zac Bolding, ranking staff member, as Acting Director and began a search for a new director.

In his report, Bolding explains that GEMS first priority is to provide a paramedic staffed ambulance 24/7 for the people in Greene County. The second priority is to provide pre-scheduled repetitive EMS transports for qualified persons to dialysis, wound care, cancer care and other medical services. This also includes hospital – to – hospital transfers for Greene County Hospital patients needing additional specialized care. When staffing and equipment allows, the service can also respond to emergencies in neighboring counties.

The report indicates that the GEMS possess five ambulance vehicles and a car, all but one of which are over ten years old and have significant mileage beyond their expected safe and reliable service life. At the time of the report, the one late model (2018) ambulance was out of service due to repairs. This vehicle has since been repaired and is functioning with over 140,000 service miles.

The Greene County Commission in its most recent meeting approved an allocation of $150,000 to remount and refurbish the ambulance box from one of GEMS old models on a new Ford F-450 Diesel Chassis. This new ambulance remount is back ordered and will not be delivered until July 2022.
The company is considering providing a loaner model until the new remounted ambulance is delivered.

The GEMS Acting Director in his report indicates a need for at least one more new ambulance and equipment costing in the range of $150,000 to $200,000 to have a fully operational ambulance service. There is also a need for a better facility with bathroom, kitchen and shower facilities for staff, who work 24-hour shifts. The system also needs to update its billing practices and qualify for higher reimbursement rates.

The GEMS Board invited the four mayors of participating Greene County municipalities to its most recent meeting to ask for their financial support toward a second ambulance and medical/communications equipment to upgrade the emergency service for all Greene County residents. The Board asked municipalities to make a contribution from their American Rescue Act funding allocations.

Mayor Hattie Samuels of Boligee presented the Board with a $5,000 check towards its goal and said more was coming. Mayor Latasha Johnson of Eutaw said that the city had already contributed $70,000 of CARES Act funds for major life saving equipment and would consider additional support for the ambulance. Mayor James Gaines of Union said we would consult with his city council about the request. Mayor Charlie McAlpine of Forkland encouraged the GEMS Board to look for government grant funding and said that his city would help with matching funds.

The report also includes a financial section showing that for the first nine months of 2021, the GEMS received $473,173 in operating income and spent $464,484 in operating expenses. The operating account had a balance forwarded of $93,195 at the end of September 2021. No list of outstanding accounts payable or actual audited statements were provided.

The operating bank account in Merchants and Farmers Bank, is one that the new Board does not yet directly control. The Board is working through some details with the bank to claim control of this account and designate appropriate signatories from the new board to replace the old check signers. The new GEMS Board has a separate bank account for funds that they have received for grants and donations since the beginning of the year.

The Democrat will continue to follow development of the Greene County EMS and report on the status and improvements. While Greene County has the smallest population in the state, it covers a large rural area of 660 square miles of area. The people of Greene County need and deserve a state-of-the-art ambulance service that can transport them to the hospital when they have an emergency.

Eutaw City Council adopts $4.8 million budget for fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, 2021

The Eutaw City Council met on October 12 and again on October 19, 2021, with the main purpose of approving a budget for city operations for the fiscal year October 1, 2021 to September 30, 2022. At the October 12 meeting the budget was tabled but at the October 19 meeting it was approved by a 4 to 1 vote.

Several council members said they did not completely understand the entire budget and the concept that the budget could be amended and changed as new financial issues came up. Mayor Johnson said, “This budget is not written in stone, it can be changed as new things occur. We have a surplus in all o our main accounts, so funds are available to cover unexpected or new expenses.”

Mayor Johnson almost begged some council members to approve the budget, “I have been on the council under the last two mayors and we did not have a budget, so we never knew if we could afford to make a decision that involved spending money. The people of Eutaw deserve to know how much money is coming in to the city and what we are spending it on. The council and the people need to know that we have a budget, with a spending plan and that we are following our plan. If something changes or needs to be adjusted then we can always amend the budget.”

The Mayor also assured the council, that with new accounting software that is now in place, bills and expenses will be charged to the appropriate budget and category within the budget, so the council will be able to measure expenses against the budget as they are paid.

The budget is compiled from seven major funds the city has: General Fund, Water Fund, Sewer Fund, 4 Cent Gas Fund, 7Cent Gas Fund, Capital Improvements Fund and Special Street Fund. The revenues coming into each fund are based on experience during the past year and expenses are projected based on actual personnel and costs that are in place for the coming year. The budget projects total revenues of $4,807,716, with expenses of $4,526,200, leaving a surplus of $281,516, with a surplus in each of the seven funds.

The Democrat plans a more detailed review and analysis of the city’s budget in future issues. “I am pleased to see that the City government of Eutaw has a budget, after many years of operating without a budget. This will give the Mayor, Council and the public a better handle on the finances,” said Danny Cooper, Chair of the Greene County Industrial Development Authority and a frequent observer at council meetings.

In other actions, The Eutaw City Council:

• Approved a resolution for a $25,000 contingency fund for the $500,000 grant to repair the roof at the Robert H. Young Community Center, formerly Carver School.

• Declared an old swing set at Clarence Thomas Park as surplus.

• Agreed to close City Hall at Noon on October 21st to prepare for National Night Out at 4:00 to 6:00 PM at the City Park.

• Approved Sever Weather Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday for February 25-27, 2022.

• Approved the Mayor’s appointments to the City Industrial Board – Faye Tyree; Eutaw Planning Board – Joe L. Powell and Noha Alnaham; and the reappointment of Isaac N. Atkins to the Eutaw Housing Authority Board.

• Approved Girl Scout Troop for use of City Park on October 22 and 23, for a Trunk or Treat event.

* Approved rental agreement for Clifford McPeek for music classes and drum repair at R. H. Young Community Center.

• Approved payment of bills.

Newswire: Oil drilling begins in the ‘complex and beautiful ecosystem’ of the Okavango Delta in southern Africa

Okavango elephants

Oct. 25, 2021 (GIN) – Drilling companies are on the run – or at least they should be.
A worldwide movement to reduce global warming and protect endangered supplies of water has turned its firepower on the growth of oil well drilling, particularly in areas of precious wildlife preserves in southern Africa.
The movement has captured grassroots environmentalists, church groups and land protectors in Namibia and Botswana who are demanding a halt to drilling in the Okavango Delta – a World Heritage site and a vast inland river delta known for its sprawling grassy plains that flood seasonally, becoming a lush animal habitat. 
Anglican bishops in Namibia and three archbishops from around the world have expressed their opposition to oil drilling by the Canadian company ReconAfrica, saying it would disrupt the culture and ancestral heritage of the San people.
“It will also negatively affect low-impact eco-tourism, which provides a sustainable income to guides, crafters and artists,” the petition in the online EcoTourism Expert read. “We call it a sin. To destroy life and God’s creation is simply wicked.”
The Okavango Delta is one of Africa’s most biodiverse habitats, home to a myriad of birds and megafauna species including the largest African elephant population left on the planet. 
“The rejuvenating waters of this complex and beautiful ecosystem are so vast it’s visible from space” wrote Prince Harry and Reinhold Mangundu, a Namibian environmental activist, in a Washington Post editorial that appeared this week.
“The Okavango watershed is a natural beating heart that has nourished humans and wildlife in Southern Africa for generations – and it’s at risk,” the authors warned.
Drilling of boreholes for oil exploration can threaten the ecosystem through potential oil spillage, noise pollution and water contamination, said Jan Arkert, a South African-based engineering geologist with the firm Africa Exposed Consulting Engineering Geologists.
“Even during this first phase, we don’t know how they are going to dispose of their wastewater,” Arkert told Al Jazeera.
ReconAfrica insists there will be no damage to the ecosystem and denies that its wells are located in the area of national parks, conservancies or World Heritage sites. 
Still, a campaign called #SavetheOkavangoDelta has been started by Fridays for Future Windhoek and Frack Free Namibia and Botswana, two local green groups. An online petition appealing to the governments of Namibia and Botswana reportedly gathered more than 150,000 signatures.
“Who gave the government the right to determine the destiny of Indigenous communities? This is just another case of environmental racism,” Ina-Maria Shikongo, the founder of Fridays for Future Windhoek, told Al Jazeera.

“My worst fear is that it could turn into a new Niger Delta,” she added, referencing the ongoing fight to clean up areas polluted by oil companies there.
Meanwhile, Scot Evans, CEO of Reconnaissance Energy Africa (ReconAfrica), has confirmed his participation at African Energy Week taking place in Cape Town from Nov. 9-12. Evans and senior VP Diana McQueen lead a discussion on Namibia’s hydrocarbon potential and host a Women in Leadership Brunch at Africa’s premier energy event. w/pix of Okavango elephants

Newswire: Social Security cost-of-living adjustment will be 5.9% in 2022, biggest annual hike in 40 years

By: Lorie Konish, CNBC

The Social Security cost-of-living adjustment will be 5.9% in 2022, the Social Security Administration announced Wednesday.
The 5.9% COLA will be the biggest boost to Social Security beneficiaries’ checks in about 40 years.
In 2021, the Social Security COLA was 1.3%. The last time the annual adjustment came close to the 2022 figure was in 2009, when beneficiaries saw a 5.8% increase.
More than 64 million Social Security beneficiaries will see the boosts in their monthly checks starting in January. Meanwhile, about 8 million Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, beneficiaries will see the increase starting Dec. 30.
The estimated average monthly benefit for all retired workers will rise to $1,657, up from $1,565.
″Today’s announcement of a 5.9% COLA increase, the largest increase in four decades, is crucial for Social Security beneficiaries and their families as they try to keep up with rising costs,” said Jo Ann Jenkins, CEO of AARP, in a statement.
Social Security’s benefits are adjusted annually using a specific set of consumer price index data, the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers, or CPI-W.
New consumer price index data released Wednesday showed that consumer prices for September rose slightly more than expected.
The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare said Wednesday that while the COLA increase for 2022 is “welcome news for seniors,” it also points to the need to change the ways the annual adjustments are calculated.
While Social Security beneficiaries confront rising costs of living, the average COLA in the past decade was just 1.65%, the group said. Moreover, in three of the past 12 years, the adjustment was zero.
In addition, the Social Security Administration also announced that the maximum earnings subject to Social Security taxes will be $147,000 in 2022, up from $142,800 in 2021.
Notably, the rate for Medicare Part B premiums for 2022 has not yet been announced. Payments toward those premiums are often deducted directly from Social Security benefit checks.

Newswire: Poor Peoples Campaign Study finds poor, low-income voters comprised over one-third of those casting ballots in 2020 Presidential Election

Voting Rights protest

NNPA Newswire

Poor and low-income people accounted for more than a third of all voters overall in the 2020 presidential election, and their turnout was especially strong in tight battleground states, according to a study that the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival (PPC:NCMR) released Friday, Oct. 15.
The study, titled “Waking the Sleeping Giant: Low-Income Voters and the 2020 Elections” also shows that of the 168 million people who voted in 2020, 59 million — 35% — were poor or low-income, meaning they have an estimated annual income of less than $50,000. The 2020 presidential elections saw the highest voter turnout in U.S. election history, including among low-income voters.
“This cuts against common misperceptions that poor and low-income people are apathetic about politics or inconsequential to electoral outcomes,” the executive summary of the study reads.
Ahead of the 2020 vote, the PPC:NCMR launched a nonpartisan voter outreach drive across 16 states, targeting urban and rural areas. The action reached over 2.1 million voters, the vast majority of whom were eligible low-income voters.
Low-income voters who were contacted by PPC:NCMR had a higher turnout rate than similarly positioned voters who were not contacted in those same states.
“The drive had a statistically significant impact in drawing eligible low-income voters into the active voting electorate, showing that intentional efforts to engage low-income voters  — around an agenda that includes living wages, health care, strong anti-poverty programs, voting rights and policies that fully address injustices of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation and the war economy — can be effective across state borders and racial lines,” the report says.
There’s no proven link that that outreach decided the election, but it does show the potential impact of low-income voters, the study says. “To turn the opportunity to vote into a reality for low-income voters will require expanded efforts to increase both their registration and turnout on election day, such as automatic voter registration, same day registration, no-excuse mail-in voting, early voting, more polling stations and extended and longer voting hours.” the study says.
Speakers at the news conference releasing the study include the co-chairs of the PPC:NCMR, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis; Penda Hair, senior counsel for Forward Justice and impacted people.
The study also shows the importance of low-income white voters and of building a fusion coalition of voters of various races and ethnicities.
“While the narrative that white low-income voters are voting not only against their own interests, but also the interests of other racial segments of low-income voters, persisted through the 2020 elections, our analysis suggests something significantly different,” the report says.
“The findings suggest that, rather than writing white low-income voters off, it is possible to build coalitions of low-income voters across race around a political agenda that centers the issues they have in common.”
Key findings of the report on the 2020 elections:
In the 2020 elections, low-income voters exceeded 20% of the total voting population in 45 states and Washington D.C. In tight battleground states, low-income voters accounted for 34% to 45% of the voting population, including in states that flipped party outcomes from 2016 to 2020.
In battleground states where the margin of victory was near or less than 3%, low-income voters accounted for an even greater share of the total votes: Arizona (39.96%), Georgia (37.74%), Michigan (37.81%), Nevada (35.78%), North Carolina (43.67%), Pennsylvania (34.12%), and Wisconsin (39.80%).
A closer look at the racial demographics of low-income voters in nine battleground states shows that white low-income voters accounted for a higher vote share than all other racial groupings of low-income voters combined.
Those states are the seven listed above along with Florida and Texas.
Shailly Gupta Barnes, policy director for the PPC:NCMR, is the author of the study, which was written with analysis and data from TargetSmart.

Newswire: Colin Powell, first Black US secretary of state, dies of Covid-19 complications amid cancer battle

Colin Powell

By Devan Cole, CNN


Colin Powell, the first Black US secretary of state whose leadership in several Republican administrations helped shape American foreign policy in the last years of the 20th century and the early years of the 21st, has died from complications from Covid-19, his family said on Facebook. He was 84.
“General Colin L. Powell, former U.S. Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, passed away this morning due to complications from Covid 19,” the Powell family wrote on Facebook, noting he was fully vaccinated. 

Powell had multiple myeloma, a cancer of plasma cells that suppresses the body’s immune response, as well as Parkinson’s, Peggy Cifrino, Powell’s longtime chief of staff, confirmed to CNN. Even if fully vaccinated against Covid-19, those who are immunocompromised are at greater risk from the virus.

“We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American,” the family said.

Powell was a distinguished and trailblazing professional soldier whose career took him from combat duty in Vietnam to becoming the first Black national security adviser during the end of Ronald Reagan’s presidency and the youngest and first African American chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President George H.W. Bush.

Colin Luther Powell was born April 5, 1937, in Harlem, New York, to Jamaican immigrants. After growing up in the South Bronx and attending public schools, Powell attended the City College of New York, when it was tuition-free. In college, he participated in ROTC, leading the precision drill team and attaining the top rank offered by the corps, cadet colonel. 

His national popularity soared in the aftermath of the US-led coalition victory during the Gulf War, and for a time in the mid-90s, he was considered a leading contender to become the first Black President of the United States. But his reputation would be forever stained when, as George W. Bush’s first secretary of state in 2003, he pushed faulty intelligence before the United Nations to advocate for the Iraq War, which he would later call a “blot” on his record. 

Bush said in a statement Monday that Powell was “a great public servant” who was “such a favorite of Presidents that he earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom — twice. He was highly respected at home and abroad. And most important, Colin was a family man and a friend.”

Though Powell never mounted a White House bid, when he was sworn in as Bush’s secretary of state in 2001, he became the highest-ranking Black public official to date in the country, standing fourth in the presidential line of succession. 

“I think it shows to the world what is possible in this country,” Powell said of his history-making nomination during his Senate confirmation hearing. “It shows to the world that: Follow our model, and over a period of time from our beginning, if you believe in the values that espouse, you can see things as miraculous as me sitting before you to receive your approval.” 

Later in his public life, Powell would grow disillusioned with the Republican Party’s rightward lurch and would use his political capital to help elect Democrats to the White House, most notably Barack Obama, the first Black president whom Powell endorsed in the final weeks of the 2008 campaign. 

The announcement was seen as a significant boost for Obama’s candidacy due to Powell’s widespread popular appeal and stature as one of the most prominent and successful Black Americans in public life. 

Cifrino told CNN Powell was vaccinated early on and received his second shot in February. He was scheduled to get his booster shot this past week but that was when he fell ill so he wasn’t able to receive it. Covid-19 vaccines are a highly effective tool in preventing severe disease and death, but no vaccine is 100% effective. 

More than 7,000 breakthrough cases of Covid-19 that have resulted in death have been reported to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through October 12. By that time, more than 187 million people in the US were fully vaccinated. That’s one out of every 26,000 fully vaccinated people who has died of Covid-19, or 0.004%.
Of those breakthrough cases resulting in death, 85% were among people age 65 and older and 57% were among men, according to the CDC.

CDC data also show that the risk of dying from Covid-19 is more than 11 times higher for unvaccinated adults than it is for vaccinated adults throughout August. Among seniors, who are more susceptible to severe Covid-19, that gap is smaller. Among those 80 and older, the risk of dying from Covid-19 in August was about five times higher among unvaccinated people than among fully vaccinated people. 

Powell is survived by his wife, Alma Vivian (Johnson) Powell, whom he married in 1962, as well as three children.


As of October 20, 2021 at 10:00 AM
(according to Alabama Political Reporter)

Alabama had 815,989 confirmed cases of coronavirus,
(6,504) more than last week with 15,311 deaths (442) more
than last week)

Greene County had 1,262 confirmed cases, (19 more cases than last week), with 44 deaths

Sumter Co. had 1,320 cases with 38 deaths

Hale Co. had 3,106 cases with 88 deaths

Note: Greene County Physicians Clinic has testing and vaccination for COVID-19; Call for appointments at 205/372-3388, Ext. 142; ages 18 and up.

Grandparents may hold key to overcoming COVID vaccine hesitancy in Black community

Black grandparents

By Sunita Sohrabji
Special to the Trice Edney News Wire from Ethnic Media Services

( – Black seniors who themselves are vaccinated could be the trusted messengers the community needs to get the Covid vaccination, said public health experts at a news briefing Sept. 21.
“In the black community, grandparents hold a place of high respect,” said pediatrician Michael Lenoir, board chair of the African American Wellness Project. “The grandmothers, in my opinion, hold the black community together.”
“So if the grandparent is telling the young: ‘you need to go get vaccinated. I got vaccinated, you need to go get vaccinated,’ there’s not a lot of discussion, it’s pretty straightforward,” he said at the news briefing, jointly organized by Ethnic Media Services and California Black Media.
Older African Americans are much more open to the discussion of vaccines than younger African Americans are, said Lenoir. He noted that Black parents are holding themselves and their children back from getting vaccinated because of fears of possible negative side effects from the shot.
An estimated 48 percent of Black Californians are fully vaccinated, compared to 58 percent of the state’s population at large. In California, Black people comprise 5 percent of the population, but make up 7 percent of the state’s deaths from Covid, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Dr. Oliver Brooks, Chief Medical Officer for the Watts Healthcare Corporation in Los Angeles, said Blacks are less likely to get vaccinated because of a lack of access to vaccination sites, missing a day of work to get a shot, and possibly more days if there are side effects. Few are actually anti-vaxxers, he said.
Black Americans have also been mistreated by the healthcare system and thus rightly have a distrust of it, said Brooks. “Blacks have been mistreated by the medical system for as long as we have been in this country, going back to the enslaved.” he said. noting that medical schools would use Black bodies as cadavers for college anatomy classes.
Sterilizations were forced upon Black women in the South. And the Tuskegee experiment — also known the US Public Health Service experiment in Alabama — denied treatment for syphilis to Black males for four decades, to assess the impact of the disease when it goes untreated.
In the present day, African Americans are less likely to get cardiac studies and procedures, or treatment for pain. “This is all documented. So I want it to be clear that the mistrust with the medical system is valid,” said Brooks.
Former California state Legislator Cheryl Brown, co-founder of Black Voice News, discussed the necessity of trusted messengers as she introduced Rev. Steven Shepard, pastor of the AME Church in San Bernardino, California.
“He didn’t really want to get a vaccination at first. But he would always talk about how tired he was. He would always talk about he couldn’t keep his eyes open, how he had lost his sense of taste.”
Brown’s husband called the county hospital. A doctor spoke to Shepard and told him to go to the hospital right away. “Five days later, the doctor looked at him and said: ‘You know, people come in your condition, they don’t generally walk out.’”
“The pastor is convinced now that this is something that’s very important for us as African Americans, and he has gone all out. His leadership is what’s changing the trajectory of this vaccine in our community,” said Brown.
“I was on the Covid doorstep of death,” said Shepard. “I did not want to get the vaccine because of some of the issues that both doctors had discussed, and how we’re treated every day when we go into doctors’ offices or to ER rooms.”
But historically, the Black church has served as the epicenter for bringing about positive change in the community, said Shepard. “When I was released from the hospital, I felt it was my job to make sure that our community had the right information. The Bible tells us that our people perish for lack of knowledge.”
“I was so into dealing with what happened in the past, that I did not take the time to realize the science behind the vaccine,” he said.
Alva Brannon, who recently became fully vaccinated, said that she has a distrust of the healthcare system because her father was part of the Tuskegee experiment and did not get treated for his syphilis. Brannon contracted syphilis in utero and lost her vision in childhood. Her mother had to get a court order so that she could receive a corneal transplant.
When her doctor asked her to get vaccinated, the elderly woman initially said no, believing the vaccine would harm her. But a few days later, she got a call from her church, which had set up a vaccination site to administer the single dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine. “I accepted that as a symbol of God, and that it was time,” she said, adding that she then encouraged her children and relatives to get vaccinated as well.
The briefing also featured the premiere of a video-rap created by Christopher Hargrove-Thompson and his roommate Nicholas Buckwalter. The video shows Chris going to CVS to get his shot while rapping about wanting to be safe so he can see his grandmother.
Said Hargrove-Thompson, “A lot of our information is filtered through social media; there’s so much misinformation. Even if you don’t fully believe it, a lot of young people already are so busy and just procrastinate on a variety of things, not just vaccinations. And misinformation allows people to just delay the entire process as a whole.”