Environment, vaccination take center stage on Southside

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook Staff Writer

Two concerning issues – the environment and a lingering presence of COVID-19 – were the focal point of awareness events held in the heart of Tallahassee’s Southside on Saturday.

The Stay Well Health Fair and Vaccine was held in the parking lot at Piggly Wiggly, while the Tallahassee Earth Day Festival was set up at The Hole. The events, which were less than a mile apart, overlapped by two hours.

The health fair was part of an on-going effort to reach communities where the number of vaccinated individuals has been low throughout the pandemic. Saturday’s event drew a mostly adult crowd that at one point had established a line for the vaccine.

“We haven’t seen people like this in a long time,” said  Claudette Harrell, Ph.D., project manager of the Bethel Mobile Medical Unit. “This is mind-blowing.

 “We cannot stop. We understand there are those who have not even had the first shot yet. We move in these communities in hope.”

Harrell said getting into Black communities is essential, considering that those areas are where the most vaccine resistance came from since the mobile unit has been making the rounds.

“I believe from meeting some of the people from the first time (last year); they were adamant like don’t talk to me about it,” she said. “Now I’m seeing a little bit more of a welcome spirit. They will let us in and let us talk to them.”

Several healthcare agencies and organizations used the event to promote their cause.  Sponsors included the Tallahassee Urban League, 100 Black Men and Piggly Wiggly.

Javis Rosier, who showed up with the Nobles of Armed Temple No. 57 Shriners, said the timing of the health fair gave families an opportunity to get free vaccinations. The Southside community, where he was a resident for 35 years, was an ideal location as well, he said.

“A lot of COVID vaccine things are going to be charged for now,” Rosier said, “but we have a situation where they can get a free COVID vaccine.”

Curtis Taylor, president of the local Urban League, applauded plans to continue offering vaccinations.

“People are still getting sick from COVID,” Taylor said. “I know a couple people were laid up for three weeks with COVID; some of our board members, some of our staff. COVID is still with us and it will be for awhile.”

During the six hours of the Earth Day Festival, law enforcement officers directed a steady flow foot traffic to The Hole near the intersection of Paul Russell Road and South Adams Street. The event attracted a cross-section of ethnicities and races.

Coordinator Camille Lewis said she was glad that the event had a broad appeal.

“When any organization puts on an event, the administrators or the organizers of that event needs to represent a multitude of ethnicities and races,” Lewis said. “Our planning committee did just that.

“Often time we (Black and Brown people) are left out of the environment justice movement. We are at the outskirts (the Southside) but we wanted to put together an event where we are at the center.”

Several groups and organizations collaborated to put on the event, including Lewis’s Earth Garden, Citizens for a Sustainable Future, FAMU and FSU.

Brothers Ticarey, Kamaeri and Camaar Jones were among the vendors doing fairly good business selling plants that they grew. The bothers took on gardening at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and hasn’t slowed down since.

The event featured entertainment throughout the afternoon, including a choir that represented the Brownville Preparatory Institute, Keith Rodgers and the saxophone duo of Conan Roumou and Josh Wright as Soulful Serenade.

Vendors had plenty to offer, including demonstrations on how to prepare meals from freshly grown foods.

Not far from the entrance and adjacent to the stage, artist Sharard X painted his vision of the world on a white sheet. A graphic artist, Sharard said he had to use the opportunity to express his concerns about the environment.

“Global warming is a common term now,” he said. “When I was growing up, it was a concerning problem but now it’s an actual thing. We are seeing the weather change, ecosystems being destroyed. Alligators, bears and raccoons are actually in people’s backyard now. It’s happening more and more.

“Days like this (Earth Day Festival) are needed so people see what they can do. It’s hard to recycle. It’s hard to have compost and decomposable things, but you know better (and) you do better.”

 


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