A community member is administered a J&J vaccination shot at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Mall (Courtesy Photo)

Mothers In Action in collaboration with the LA Urban League, Brotherhood Crusade, FEMA, Cal OES and others have been working tirelessly to bring the much-needed Johnson & Johnson Vaccine to the Crenshaw Community.  The site, which on March 11, ensured that the African American community would have access and equity to the vaccine and within their own community, has been operating a vaccination site at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Mall for the past four weeks. On Wednesday, March 31, the testing site, which has been considered a “pilot program” site, hit a milestone of 10,000 shots to community members. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a one dose vaccination, so all 10,000 participants are now fully vaccinated.  Tracy Mitchell, president of Mothers in Action, said “I want to thank the Mothers In Action’s village of volunteers that have staffed the site from day one, and who have committed to continue supporting this effort until April 10, when the site closes.”

On April 1, Governor Gavin Newsom, Supervisor Holly Mitchell, Mayor Eric Garcetti, and Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson visited the site to celebrate that the vaccine eligibility threshold had now moved to those 50 and up; they also gave an update on the COVID-19 progress. The overarching theme of every elected official who spoke regarding the progress and status of COVID-19 here in Los Angeles focused on the same message to remain resolute in their safe practices; this is not the time to let our guard down, it is not time to unmask, the elected officials urged the community.  And while more and more Californians are receiving the vaccination, there are still far too many amongst us who have not yet been vaccinated.”   Governor Newsom wanted to make sure that the message was clear that with so many new variants on the scene, Californians needed to remain committed to the principles of getting vaccinated, social distancing and wearing a mask.  He also seized upon the moment during his visit to the Crenshaw location to actually received his vaccination shot on April 1.

(L-R) Mothers In Action President Tracy Mitchell and Gov. Gavin Newsom (Courtesy Photo)

“This site was opened right here in the heart of the African American Community as part of Biden & Harris Administrations commitment to ensure that the community’s most in-need had access to the vaccine,” stated Latanga Hopes, Media Relations specialist with FEMA.

Mothers In Action and the Los Angeles Urban League were the community-based organizations that were part of this clinic opening from day one.  Brotherhood Crusade joined in the effort shortly after the clinic opened to assist in the community outreach efforts and to get the word out to more people that this was our community’s moment to secure a vaccination.

“The outpouring of support from the local residence has been overwhelming.  The opportunity for our community residence to walk out their door and have access to the vaccine has brought so much joy, and a sense of security to our people, has been wonderful,” stated Charisse Bremond-Weaver, president of the Los Angeles Brotherhood Crusade.

Mothers In Action has been instrumental in daily staffing of the site, as well as assisting in community outreach to get African Americans to the table to be vaccinated.   Bonnie Thomas-Jeter from the LA Urban League works night and day, seven days a week, managing the vaccine website/list. She is also onsite every day to register the public.   Michael Lawson, president of the LA Urban League said, “A large part of the clinic’s success and kudo’s, has to go to our staff and the many volunteers who have been working at the registration desk and throughout the clinic.  The opportunity for people to see faces they know or organizations they trust have been a big part of the clinic’s success and our outreach efforts.  We have been encouraging those who have come in to tell their neighbors and their family to come and get vaccinated as well.  The fact that people can come in and see people they know or people who look like them plays a major role in convincing people to trust the vaccine, and the Urban League is an institution within this community that the people know and know they can trust,” he said.

(l-r) Supervisor Holly Mitchell and Mothers In Action President Tracy Mitchell (Courtesy Photo)

One of the people most credited with bringing this clinic to Crenshaw is Ahmad Page, the site director for FEMA.  Page is in charge of the testing process.  “Being from the Leimert Park area, what inspired me to fight to bring a vaccination center to the Crenshaw Baldwin Hills Mall, was I knew that having a static operation right here in the heart of the community, that was accessible along a major transportation corridor with access routes and services from MTA and DASH, would play a major role in getting people open to the idea of coming to get vaccinated,” stated Page.  People in this community can’t always take off work to travel all the way across town to get access to the vaccine (the other major FEMA location is at Cal State Los Angeles in East Los Angeles).  Page said, “A lot of people in our community have to arrange a ride, they need time to coordinate transportation, so having [the vaccine] right outside of their door and within their neighborhood was a barrier we could easily overcome by putting the vaccination center right here at the mall, a location central and familiar to most of the people in our community.”

The amazing novelty about the success and number of people vaccinated at the Crenshaw clinic site is that many believed African Americans would not show up to take the vaccine.  While most of the organizers stated, “It has been quite a challenge to get African Americans to the table and finally take the vaccines due to it being such a new drug and for the historical tragedies like the Tuskegee experiment.” Many believe that the first-hand experiences that many have gone through with the loss of loved one’s due to COVID has played a major role in convincing people to get vaccinated.    History has shown that America has earned our distrust, but our people have been dying from COVID at such disproportionate levels that their minds have opened up to the idea of getting vaccinated.  The fact that the people organizing the clinic, promoting the safety of the clinic and even manning the clinic has also played a significant role in convincing so many to trust the process.

The confidence or rather willingness of the African American community to take the vaccine is growing tremendously. Reasons given are to protect their families, friends, co-workers and themselves, because they want to travel or spend time with people and do every and anything possible to help bring the world or at least Los Angeles back to some level of normalcy.

Mothers in Action, Urban League, Brotherhood Crusade clinic will remain open through Saturday, April 10, 2021.  To schedule an appointment please email your name, cell number, email address and zip code to [email protected]