By Dena Vang
For Lashonda Diouf, a long-time member of Mount Canaan Baptist Church, the recent Stay Well Harry Blake Empowerment Health Fair & Vaccination Event held a special place in her heart.
“This event is important for a lot of reasons, but most importantly because of Dr. Harry Blake, who was a long-time pastor at Mount Canaan,” she said. “I’ve been a member of Mount Canaan since I was nine and I’m 53 now. Dr. Blake stood for so much. We affectionately called him ‘Daddy.’ And one thing he was big on is community involvement and health awareness. I know if he was still living today, he would be on the front line fighting for a cure for this COVID-19 virus because that’s who he was.”
Dr. Harry Blake served as a leader during the civil rights movement alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and as a pastor in Shreveport, Louisiana. For more than 52 years, Dr. Blake was also the beloved Pastor for Mount Canaan Baptist Church and lived a life striving for justice and racial equality. In April of 2020, Dr. Blake passed away after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
“We were very blessed to be a part of health fairs growing across the nation. We feel it was God-given because it’s on the same weekend that we are honoring the life and legacy of our former pastor, Dr. Harry Blake, who was an icon not only in our community but across the nation,” said Burnadine Moss Anderson, event coordinator for the health fair. “Pastor Blake was first a preacher and a teacher, but he was also a civil rights icon. He worked as a field secretary for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Who would have believed that he would be the tenth person in Shreveport to die from COVID-19?”
The Stay Well Harry Blake Empowerment Health Fair and Vaccination Event brought together several local organizations in support of vaccinations in the Black community including W. Montague Cobb/NMA Health Institute, LSU Health Shreveport Area Health Education Centers, The Links Incorporated Shreveport Chapter, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated®, Delta Lambda Omega Chapter, Sigma Rho Omega Chapter, Martin Luther King Community Development Corporation, City of Shreveport Louisiana, Caddo Parish, National Medical Association, LSU Health Shreveport, Southern University Shreveport Louisiana, Pearls of Humanity Foundation, and National Pan-Hellenic Council Shreveport Chapter.
Medical professionals, elected officials, and the community gathered outside at Mount Canaan Baptist Church for an afternoon of panel discussions, COVID-19 vaccinations, health screenings, and a tribute to Dr. Harry Blake.
“This event is a phenomenal event,” said Dr. Leonard Weather, obstetrician-gynecologist and past president of the National Medical Association. “One, it’s giving love. And, two, it’s providing the truth and facts, which is what people need. They need to make sure that they are in the best position possible to be able to make a meaningful decision about whether or not to get vaccinated.”
Dr. Weather was one of many medical professionals on site who addressed misinformation and answered questions about the COVID-19 vaccines. The program also included testimonials from COVID-19 survivors who shared their experience and journey to recovery. As the panel discussions ended, a family of five among the audience made the decision to get vaccinated.
“An entire family of five came – a mother and her four adult children. When you think about a whole family getting vaccinated, then it’s a rippling effect because we hope that now they go and call another family,” said Moss Anderson.
45 COVID-19 vaccines were administered at the event.
“If I can give encouragement to those who are hesitant [to get vaccinated], I can say that my husband is a survivor of COVID-19 and even though he was stricken with a stroke, he still chose to be vaccinated. And I know without a shadow of a doubt that he’s going to have the quality of life that we pray for,” said Diouf. “If you don’t do it for you, do it for your children. Do it for your grandparents. Do it for those who fought for us to have the right to be able to be vaccinated. Just do what you can to save everybody’s community. COVID is not just about you, it’s about everyone that you come in contact with.” To find a vaccine site, search vaccines.gov, text your ZIP code to 438829, or call 1-800-232-0233 to find locations near you. For resources and toolkits to help you build vaccine confidence in your community, visit the We Can Do This website.
Dena Vang is the Public Relations Manager at Creative Marketing Resources, a strategic marketing agency in Milwaukee and a partner of the United States Department of Health and Human Services and the COBB Institute.