In North Texas, faith leaders are working to bridge the gap between the Black community and the very real and valid distrust of medical treatment.
Pastor Frederick Haynes of Friendship West Baptist Church says his faith informs his sense of justice and activism. A global pandemic is no different.
“It’s our responsibility to step up and speak up and lift people up with enlightened information,” said Haynes. “My statement is I’m listening to the science and the Savior. I’m listening to medicine and the Messiah.”
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It’s why Haynes had a near hour-long conversation with Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, lead scientist for the COVID-19 vaccine. The two covered a wide range of concerns about the deadly virus and treatment. The Q & A style discussion can still be viewed on the church website and Youtube channel.
As pastor of a multigenerational Black church in Oak Cliff, Haynes understands the significance of having a critical discussion with a Black scientist who is also a self-professed Christian. He understands what this means for Black communities. He said Dr. Corbett was able to get through to some of his elder church members in a way that no one else has.
“Many of them were honest enough to say, ‘well now I still have questions about this, but I trust her. I trust her knowledge. I trust her wisdom,’” said Haynes.
Pastor Bryan Carter, like Haynes, says we can’t ignore why there’s distrust among Black people in the first place. Still, as Senior Pastor of Concord Church, he too wants to ensure his congregation is armed with facts.
“I think it starts with us acknowledging how racism has impacted medical science for African Americans,” said Carter. “Once we acknowledge it, we then have to say ok where do we go from here? How do we begin to build forward? How do we begin to trust some of those voices that say this time it’s going to be different?”
Carter understands people of color are disproportionately impacted by the virus. His goal has been to both encourage and educate his congregation. Those efforts have been ongoing since switching over from in-person services to virtual services months ago. He said his decisions are led by faith and science.
“The decision we made to not meet was based on the health of our congregation and our community,” Said Carter. “But the same thing begins to apply when you consider the vaccine. This time has to be different because too many of us are losing our lives.”
Both pastors aim to bridge the gap between the Black faith community and the medical community. A recent Pew Research report shows 60% of Americans say they would “probably or definitely” get the vaccine. Among Black Americans, the study showed 42% said they would get the vaccine.
“There was a hesitancy and a fear that I had to fight because of the ugly history in this country as well as the contemporary medical apartheid that continues to exist,” said Haynes. “I have a responsibility not only to teach about the vaccine. But I have a responsibility to lead in taking the vaccine, so I’m going to take the vaccine.”