Umoja Health | KALW

It’s a blustery Saturday morning at the Pop-up Clinic in the parking lot of Paradise Baptist Church in Oakland. It’s a simple setup: a few tents, audio speakers for music, and plastic chairs. People line up on the sidewalk and volunteers in black hoodies buzz under the tents.

Minnie, who is 57, has just received her second dose of the vaccine. “I just found out that my cousin is a hairdresser, so I think they know the first lady of the church, Jackie. I think that’s her name, “she said.” So when she called me and said, I said ‘I’m going!’ Because I am a foster parent and have two boys with disabilities. “

Kevin epps

People line up outside a Umoja Health pop-up vaccination site at Paradise Baptist Church in Oakland.

Minnie lives in a neighborhood in Oakland that she calls the Dag, and she is thrilled with the event. “They did it perfectly. I don’t know what the young man’s name is over there, the guy with the great baseball cap standing in front of his desk. Very helpful.”

This is a pop-up clinic, but it feels more like a neighborhood bribe. There’s even a DJ, a big volunteer typing on a laptop. His name is Ghila Andemeskel. He is a researcher and health educator at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF), as well as a native of North Oakland.

“I’m shooting a mix of doo wop soul, a little bit of blues,” says Andemeskel. “I’m trying to throw it back a bit, because for vaccinations we have an older population. [I] make sure they feel safe, [and have music] that they can recognize and move around. Keeps him optimistic. “

People usually stay long after their 15-minute post-vaccination observation period has ended. Demar, who lives in Oakland, basks in the Saturday sun, wearing a lion-headed cane and Louis Vuitton mask.

“I’m going to hang out, you know, listen to great music. You know, you can’t go wrong when people play great music,” he laughs.

And that’s by design. The organizers – including DJ Ghila Andemeskel – are part of a coalition called Umoja Health. It is a network of about 30 local groups serving the COVID-related needs of the black community. Andemeskel says it starts with understanding the neighborhood.

“Come to the Tuesday community meetings,” he says. “This is where the community gives us feedback.

“We actually use the words ‘culturally congruent’ or ‘culture of humility.’ Because, if you think about it, you can’t be proficient in someone’s culture, can you? can sympathize with it. You can have sympathy. “

Ghila Andemeskel

Much of their approach focuses on what the medical world calls “cultural competence” – the ability to understand and interact with cultures different from your own.

“We actually use the words ‘culturally congruent’ or ‘culture of humility’,” Andemeskel said. “Because if you think about it, you can’t be proficient in someone’s culture, can you? But you can sympathize with it. You can have sympathy.”

Umoja health line

Kevin epps

The registration line at the Umoja Health pop-up clinic.

“And if you’re not us, if you don’t understand the culture, then create space,” he continues. “Don’t come here and tell us what we need. Ask us what we need and see who could facilitate this from our own community. “

Dr Kim Rhoads is the Director of Umoja Health and the brains behind this initiative. She is an associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at UCSF, where she also works in community engagement.

“I keep saying: we’re still unabashedly black-focused,” she says. “We will serve those who come forward, whether they are African American or not. But our goal is to get these resources for African Americans.”

Dr Rhoads points out that reaching these people does not come from people in lab coats. It comes from people who know them. She extended this concept from the Bayview neighborhood of San Francisco across the bay to Oakland.

“UCSF was asked to come and talk to Fruitvale because at the time they had the highest positivity rate in the country,” she says.

“I remember calling my boss. I said, ‘I feel like I’m bothering some people by saying that’s what I want to do – the pop-up method. Because that’s the only one. how we’re really going to make sure. ‘”

Dr Rhoads continues, “and I said to the group, ‘I want 80% of what we do to go to African Americans.’ Nobody says that, and nobody does that. “

Local residents like Minnie are happy that this pop-up clinic is in their neighborhood.

“We are still resolutely focused on black people.”

Dr Kim Rhoads

“You have to bring it here. And there’s no way around that, because we’re not going anywhere, ”says Minnie. “And believe it or not, I was surprised at the turnout. Nobody knows.

Pastor Leon McDaniels, Sr. says Paradise Baptist Church is the place everyone in The Dag trusts.

“People feel a lot safer knowing that my church, or at least a church in [their] the community hosts it, ”he says. “They can come here, feel safe and even have a little something that reminds them of [them of their] culture. Notice the kind of music we play. It’s intentional. “

And foreigners often don’t realize this isn’t a space for them.

Dr Rhoads says, “They come to areas where they would never have died otherwise to get the vaccine, and are ready to take it out of the hands of the poor, if you will.

She adds, “[people say] “Oh, it’s reluctance to vaccinate! That’s why the prices are low! ‘ No. That’s because the people who live in Marin are willing to go to 94621. To stay in their cars, windows up, to get the shot that was put there to serve the African American community.

This significantly affects the chances of residents getting medical attention in the neighborhood where they grew up.

Demar, an Oakland resident, says, “I’ll tell you, we don’t have them in black minority communities anymore. You don’t have the health center. You don’t have a recreation center. You have nowhere to go for the children to receive medical treatment or just recreation.

“[People say] “Oh, it’s reluctance to vaccinate! That’s why the prices are low! ‘ No. That’s because the people who live in Marin are willing to go to 94621. To stay in their cars, windows up, to get the shot that was put there to serve the African American community.

Dr Kim Rhoads

Dr Rhoads says health workers need to understand the realities of the communities they serve. She tells this story:

“One of our Sunnydale partners – whom I loved so much, just for his behavior and the love he has for his community – came to our Bayview site. But it would not be tested there. He didn’t want his picture taken there. “

And he followed us on our way to Oakland, because he’s got people in East Oakland. It went through our first pop-up in East Oakland. And I said, ‘Hey, do you want a T-shirt?’

And he looks at it, then he says, ‘No.’

I’m like ‘That’s because it says the city, doesn’t it?’

And he said ‘Yeah.’ “

Umoja volunteers, like Zach Smith, practice what Dr. Rhoads preaches.

“We always encourage the ‘For Us By Us’ model. The people in this neighborhood have a sense of community and empathy that I think you can’t have if you don’t feel like, “Oh, he’s my cousin. It’s my friend. He’s my partner. This is who I love.

Zach smith

Smith sits down with people and listens to them. And they trust him. A conversation once actually helped bring in a whole capsule for the vaccination.

He recalls, “One of my roles that day was to help with the exit investigation. And I was talking to him there – a black person. [He was] like … ‘Should I tell other people?’ And we had a conversation for probably about five or ten minutes. “

Smith continues, “This gentleman called the person he was living with, because they were eligible, and they came to the vaccination site. And they were a little hesitant, but because they went with him, they got over it. are felt more comfortable So I think a lot of word of mouth and these interactions between people are not as valued as they should be.

Umoja table.jpg

David Exumé

Volunteers and doctors at the Umoja Health pop-up vaccination site.

Dr Rhoads will maintain this beyond the pandemic, on an even larger scale.

She says, “What I can see is that this model is working to engage the African American community. And by ‘this model’ I mean turning the whole delivery system upside down. We’re not doing anything. indoors. We do everything outside, rain or shine. We bring information to people rather than asking people to come and get information from us. “

Just talk to someone like Demar, who says, “You have people talking to you. Just, you know, down to earth. And that’s what you need: down to earth.”

Support for this series comes from Renaissance journalism Equity and Health Reporting Initiative, with funding from the California Endowment. Thanks also to the Association for Continuing Education (ACE).

About Elaine Morales

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