Published on The Weekly Challenger on 19th February 2021
“Over 50 years ago, my followers and I at the Center for a United Black Community made a solemn pledge to develop our minds and bodies to the greatest extent possible, and to keep ourselves healthy and fit in order that we might best protect our people, our community, our neighborhoods, and institutions, our families and ourselves whenever we were called upon,” said Imam Askia Muhammad Aquil, a respected community activist and faith leader and the Chair of the Board of Directors for the Collective Empowerment Group of the Tampa Bay Area, Inc. (CEGTBA).
“COVID-19 is a deadly threat to people around the globe and especially so to African Americans because of the well-documented health disparities that affect so many of us,” he continued.
CEGTBA is a non-profit designed as a “Big Tent” collaborative for the primary purpose of building community wealth by engendering a common vision throughout the faith-based and community development sectors leveraging the immeasurable resources, skills and talents indigenous to African American communities.
In addition to health consequences and death, the COVID-19 virus has caused furloughs, layoffs, shutdown of places of worship and businesses, as well as ongoing incalculable personal and economic hardships.
Consequently, with the support of the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg and many community partners, CEGTBA has strategically shifted its focus and energies toward halting the spread of COVID-19 and defeating it long term by mobilizing its resources and encouraging maximum adherence to CDC Guidelines, Florida and Pinellas County mandates, and creative strategies that are consistent with science and research-proven best practices.
The “I TOOK THE SHOT Campaign” is one such strategy led by the CEGTBA.
“Defeating the COVID-19 pandemic and its disparate impact on vulnerable populations and communities thoughtfully, comprehensively, sustainably and equitably is a prerequisite to rebuilding our local and national economies while building community wealth,” said Aquil.
According to the Center for Disease Control, there are now over 24.3 million cases of Covid-19 cases in the U. S. There are over 1.6 million cases in the state of Florida and over 55,000 cases in Pinellas County. Of those in Pinellas County, it is estimated that black residents are 2.5 times more likely to contract COVID-19. This is indisputably the most prominent health equity issue of our times. According to a report issued by the Florida Department of Health, as of Jan. 20, 2021, 53,525 doses of the COVID-19 Vaccine have been administered in Pinellas County. Of that number, 2,536 (less than five percent) have been administered to black or African American residents. Blacks or African Americans comprise 11.1 percent of the county’s population
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