A statewide task force and I are dedicated to getting people of color vaccinated

Rev. RB Holmes, Jr.

We must work together as African Americans and other minorities to combat this deadly coronavirus crisis. We are appalled that over 400,000 Americans have died from this virus. Additionally, Black and brown Americans have died at a disproportionately alarming rate. Moreover, thousands are sick in hospitals.

In Florida, it was incumbent upon our faith-based leaders, the Black press, our Historically Black Colleges and Universities leadership and community leaders to join forces to develop an innovative plan of action to encourage people of color to strongly consider taking the vaccines. We couldn’t just sit back and let our people die without fighting back.

We are fully aware why many Black and brown people are reluctant about taking the vaccines to conquer this pandemic. Therefore, we organized the Statewide Vaccination Community Education and Engagement Task Force. We were determined to get the information out to our people to trust the science, talk with their doctors and pray.

Furthermore, we knew we needed trusted voices and community ambassadors to roll up their sleeves and take the shot. Joining other leaders across Florida, I went before the camera to take the vaccination and lead by example. Why? We want to save lives; it is our moral calling to help our people to live. This virus has destroyed lives, wounded families, and damaged the economy.

The task force lifted up a vision to have 60-70 percent of Black and brown people get vaccinated. We will designate 40 to 50 vaccination sites, using our churches and the four HBCUs in the state. The Black press, Black radio and Black newspapers are significant treasures that are well-respected in the Black community.  

Because of the lack of quality health clinics in marginalized communities prior to this pandemic, we will build 25 health clinics in targeted cities across Florida. We will work with the leaders of the designated cities to foster a partnership with their local hospitals to build these needed clinics.

Bethel Missionary Baptist Church is partnering with one of our local hospitals to build an urgent care clinic in the Black community. This is the moral and medical challenge before us in order to prevent the next pandemic from disproportionately killing people of color.   

It is important that the local, state and federal governments partner with the task force. The government can’t do this by itself. We are encouraged by the robust and ambitious recovery plan proposed by the Biden-Harris administration.

We will help President Biden achieve his goal in his first 100 days to get 100 million shots in Americans’ arms. Together, yes, we can. The president will ask Congress for $50 billion to cure this coronavirus pandemic.  

Our task force is strategically prepared to help the president ensure the vaccines will be available and accessible to communities that have been historically left behind.

Rev. Dr. RB Holmes is pastor of Bethel Missionary Baptist Church. He is the chair and organizer of the Statewide Vaccination Community Education and Engagement Task Force and the president of the Tallahassee chapter of the National Action Network.

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