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LA’s Black leaders don’t want community members to get left behind in pandemic

Local, state and federal elected officials are joining forces in Los Angeles to encourage Black people to get vaccinated in L
Local, state and federal elected officials are joining forces in Los Angeles to encourage Black people to get vaccinated in Los Angeles County. Credit: John W. Davis / Our Weekly LA

Black leaders are urging everyone in the African-American community to get vaccinated, so that the pandemic that is disproportionately affecting the Black community across Los Angeles County, can end once and for all.

“The simple and sad fact is that COVID cases are on the rise,” shared State Sen. Sydney Kamlager, who represents the 30th district, which spans from Mid-City, to Crenshaw, to Baldwin Hills, Ladera Heights, Windsor Hills, Culver City and parts of West LA. “We have the lowest rate of any ethnic group getting this shot.”

Kamlager said it is okay to have questions about the vaccine. She admits she had questions herself but in the end she said “getting the vaccine puts your health in your hands.”

Residents waiting in line to be vaccinated at Kedren Community Medical Center in South Los Angeles on August 12. (307639)

“I wanted to keep myself safe,” Kamlager continued.

Kamlager went on to present a stark reality.

“If we’re not vaccinated, African-Americans will be shut out of more and more services,” Kamalger explained. “We have a responsibility to our community to get this shot.”

A news conference was held on Aug. 12 at Kedren Community Medical Center in South Central Los Angeles, where nearly a dozen elected officials took turns making passionate pleas to encourage all Blacks 12 or older, to get vaccinated.

As of that date, only 48 percent of Black people had been vaccinated in LA County. That’s compared to 78 percent of Asians, 68 percent of Whites and 58 percent of the Latinx community, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

Elected officials are kicking off a two-month campaign to promote vaccines and COVID testing in the Black community because they believe vaccines are key to ending the pandemic.

“This is a public safety emergency… we need to make sure everyone is safe,” said Assemblymember Reggie Jones Sawyer, who represents parts of South LA, including the Florence-Graham neighborhood.

Meanwhile, Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-37), said it is time to recognize that there is a problem in the African-American community, especially with hindsight.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, we knew that our communities would be hit the hardest,” Bass said.

However, some parents have expressed concern about sending their children back to in-person classrooms during the pandemic.

Dr. George McKenna, who serves on the LAUSD Board has a direct message for parents.

“Your children will be safe at school. It will be better for them to come to school,” McKenna said. “Get vaccinated… Do not believe the vaccine is a plot from somewhere. Listen to medical science.”

Across the spectrum, Black elected officials with ties to South Los Angeles are in favor of the vaccine. They believe in science and they don’t want anyone to feel like they don’t have access to COVID-19 vaccines.

Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson, who represents LA’s 8th District wants community members to know vaccines are free and they are available across the city, including at various locations in South LA.

This is a moment we have to rise to,” added Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas, who represents LA’s 10th District. “Widespread vaccination is the key to beating this pandemic.”

Meanwhile, Ridley-Thomas supports vaccine mandates for all city workers and contractors who do business with Los Angeles.

“If you are in public service, you need to be vaccinated,” Ridley-Thomas said.

“The time is now to do the right thing,” added California State Senator Steve Bradford, who represents the 35th district in South Los Angeles County.

Bradford reiterated that although 70 percent of LA County residents are vaccinated, less than 50 percent of the county’s Black population are vaccinated.

“Black people, we’re always at the top of the list that no one wants to be on,” said Assemblymember Mike Gipson, who represents the 64th district, including Watts and the South Bay. “Our reality is hospitals and funerals… let’s break the cycle today.”

Gipson wants leery community members to push past whatever their particular hesitation is.

He along with countless others are committed to taking their vaccine campaign, door to door, offering mobile shots.

“This pandemic has exposed our most vulnerable,” said Councilmember Curren Price, who represents South LA’s 9th district. “We’re not going to stop until everyone gets their shot… so we can be free of this burden.”

Added second district Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell: “This (pandemic) is avoidable brothers and sisters.”