Special Report By Cheryl L. Duncan@Cheryl Duncan & Company Inc.
Dr. Susan Moore, a black doctor, recently died of COVID-19 after charging racism in her treatment. Our client filmmaker Crystal R. Emery isn’t surprised. A quadriplegic battling two diseases and the director of Black Women in Medicine and The Deadliest Disease in America (about racism in healthcare), Emery has been sounding the alarm on the potentially fatal consequences of racism in medicine for years. And while, with her own physical challenges she would likely find COVID-19 a formidable adversary, the New Haven, Connecticut resident is not saying “Woe is me.”
Instead, she’s mobilized people across the state and around the country to take on the pandemic with an innovative national program called Our Humanity, a multimedia messaging movement she created to provide information and news on COVID-19 to BIPOC communities. “We need to save ourselves,” she charges.
As COVID-19 cases and deaths reach alarming new highs around the country, filmmaker, author, and health care advocate Crystal R. Emery is leveraging a vast network of partners ranging from policymakers to grassroots organizers in the fight against the deadly pandemic. Emery, the founder and CEO of URU The Right to Be, Inc. (URU) — a national nonprofit dedicated to creating a more equitable world through the use of media, technology, science, and the arts — has created Our Humanity, a multimedia messaging initiative delivering crucial information on the novel coronavirus pandemic to Black, Indigenous and Latinx communities. Participants in the movement include former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders; actor Keith David (Greenleaf; There’s Something About Mary); and former U.S. Surgeon General and President-elect Biden’s nominee to return to the position, Dr. Vivek Murthy. Recognizing that faith-based organizations have long served as trusted resources and social foundations in Black and Latinx communities, Our Humanity will launch its Faith-Based Collaborative in Connecticut on Thursday.
The Collaborative is designed to build the capacity of religious organizations in helping reduce the spread of COVID-19 through increased access to education on the virus and making community-wide risk reduction programs and community-based interventions such as COVID testing and flu shot distribution more readily accessible. Grounded in the public health sciences, the Collaborative is informed by a national advisory committee comprised of public health experts and faith leaders including Elders, along with Bishop Theodore Brooks, Meriden City Councilor Miguel Castro, the Reverend Kendrick Curry, Dr. Karen DuBois-Walton, New Haven Mayor Toni Harp, philanthropist William Graustein, the Reverend Abraham Hernandez, Dr. Camara Jones, the Reverend Dr. Boise Kimber, philanthropist Roslyn Milstein Meyer, President and CEO of the Connecticut Association for Community Action Amos Smith, State Representative Charlie Stallworth, Cornell Scott-Hill Health Center CEO Michael Taylor, and State Representative Toni Walker.
“The Black church is the foundation of its community, and as clergy, it is our duty to respond with leadership during this time of great crisis,” said Kimber, who serves as pastor of First Calvary Baptist Church, president of the Greater New Haven Clergy Association, and president of the Connecticut State Missionary Baptist Convention.
Established by Emery, a New Haven-area director and health care advocate triumphing over quadriplegia, Our Humanity strives to counter the paucity of COVID-19 information and messaging aimed specifically at BIPOC communities, which continue to be most severely affected by the virus.
“While the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed many longstanding historical injustices and inequities affecting BIPOC communities, it has also clearly brought to light the fact that if we within the BIPOC community don’t work to address our needs, issues such as lack of access to health care, income disparity and racism will continue to bring devastation during future crises,” said Emery. “With Our Humanity, it is my intention to bring BIPOC voices to the forefront in the battle to stop COVID, turning we who are often portrayed as inactive victims into the messengers of change.”
Prominent epidemiologist and advisory committee member Dr. Camara Jones said, “Bringing together this collective of faith-based organizations is critical in mobilizing communities to take action against COVID-19.”
Presenting information and news by experts from their own communities, Our Humanity and the Collaborative are dedicated to bringing information to Black, Indigenous, and Latinx populations from those who speak their language and understand their cultures and historical sensitivities. As such, training designed and led by URU’s team of public health experts and facilitators will reach members of congregations of participating churches, addressing topics such as preventing the spread of the virus; ways to combat misinformation that is rife within communities of color; and confronting vaccine distrust and the historic mistreatment of Indigenous, Black and Latinx communities by scientific and medical institutions. The initiative will also focus on providing Spanish language materials and open town hall conversations to serve the Latinx community, which is often not effectively reached with COVID-19 resources.
“It is very important that our people receive the information they can trust in a way they can understand it. So much of what we are seeing with this pandemic doesn’t include Spanish-speaking Americans. We are being left behind,” said Pastor Josué Rosado, leader of Oasis de Restauración in New London, Connecticut.
In addition to faith-based organizations, the effort will focus on providing resources and care within low-income public housing communities.