PARSIPPANY, NJ – Black community leaders participated in a virtual roundtable discussion hosted by Representative Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11) of Feb 17 that focused on the disparate impacts of COVID-19 on communities of color. The group proposed solutions to address the barriers that exist in terms of access to healthcare, support and opportunities for COVID-19 relief.

“Communities of color continue to be disproportionately impacted by the pandemic in every way imaginable. And these effects will, unfortunately, outlast the pandemic unless we work together to address systemic issues that have long existed and have now been amplified by COVID,” said Rep. Sherrill.

Panelists acknowledged there is a persistent distrust of vaccines within communities of color stemming from maleficent practices within the science and medical professions.

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“[T]here is a lot of earned mistrust between the African American, Hispanic and Indian communities due to a longstanding history of issues with research and harm from the medical community,” stated Dr. Christina Johnson, a family medicine practitioner with the Atlantic Medical Group.

Panelists also agreed that there is an urgent need to disseminate to communities of color information about the safety and benefits of the available vaccines.

While Ayo Sanderson Wilson, founder of Empower The Village, agreed with the general sentiments about lingering distrust and the need for vaccine education, she further advocated for leadership by example.

“[T]here are [many] Black people who…want the vaccine,” Sanderson Wilson shared. “What we need is to lead by example. If all of those who want the vaccine could get the vaccine, they could be the example.” According to Sanderson Wilson, once those who are reluctant to get vaccinated see family members, friends and neighbors receive it without any major complications, more Black people will likely sign up for the vaccine.

The community leaders assured Sherrill their willingness to do whatever was needed to get Black people educated and ready to take the vaccine if, as and when they became eligible.

“I appreciate these community leaders gathering…to share their insight and to discuss actions that communities are taking to address issues like access to vaccines, educational achievement gaps, increased incidence of mental health conditions and economic well-being,” said Rep. Sherrill.

In addition to Sherrill, Johnson and Sanderson Wilson, the roundtable participants included:

Reverend Dr. Bernadette Glover, St. Paul Baptist Church, Montclair
Reverend Dr. Jerry Carter, Calvary Baptist Church, Morristown
Reverend Dr. Sidney Williams, Bethel Church of Morristown
Dr. Marcheta Evans, president, Bloomfield College, Bloomfield
Dr. Bette Simmons, vice president of student development and enrollment management, County College of Morris, Randolph
Dr. Charlene Gungil, director, Passaic County Department of Health, Paterson
Genaya Palmer, Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris, Montclair
Al Pelham, president, Montclair NAACP, Montclair
Rev. Herman Scott, chaplain, Morris County Correctional Facility, Morristown

A link to the roundtable discussion can be found here.


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