MFEE Launches Covid Vaccine Awareness Project; Dr. Renee Baskerville to Advise

Montclair, N.J. – The Montclair Fund for Educational Excellence (MFEE) has been awarded funding by the Partnership for Maternal and Child Health of Northern New Jersey, a regional grantee of the NJ Department of Health, to execute a broad COVID Vaccine Awareness Campaign shaped by and designed for Black and Brown community members. MFEE will serve as the connector for trusted groups, leaders and messengers to develop engaging materials and to creatively design a multi-pronged communication strategy.

Dr. Renee Baskerville

MFEE is working across a range of organizations to shape and share information, including the Township, faith leaders, the NAACP, and Montclair State University. MFEE has also engaged Dr. Renee Baskerville to serve as a community outreach and medical advisor. MFEE believes that Dr. Baskerville’s long record of advocacy in Montclair and her innovative ways for connecting to Montclairians will be instrumental in this work.

“People may wonder why MFEE, an education foundation for our public schools, is beginning this work. The health and safety of all of our students, teachers, and families is fundamental to a thriving educational system,” says Masiel Rodriquez-Vars, Executive Director of MFEE. “And through initiatives like the America to Me Real Talk program to deepen racial literacy, our conferences for families, and our partnerships with local nonprofits to support students, we have developed strong ties with local partners who will be critical to carrying out this work.”

Communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. It is vital to ensure that Black and Brown folk in Montclair have access to information that will help them make informed decisions about the COVID vaccines. But the long legacy of American racism, manifested in the 20th century’s eugenics programs and the Tuskegee experiment, undoubtedly influences the fact that, according to a September 2020 study from UnidosUS, the NAACP, and COVID Collaborative*, just 14 percent of Black Americans say they trust the safety of a new COVID-19 vaccine. Many of our Latinx neighbors experience similar distrust as well as language barriers that complicate access to the vaccine.

The core component of the initiative is hiring three part-time Community Health Workers (CHWs) who will take the lead on the project and build a foundation for ongoing support to Montclairians.

Over the next four months, these CHWs will:

  • Create a Health Equity Street Team composed of diverse group of residents with broad connections to Black and Brown Montclairians;
  • Craft an engaging online and print media campaign that provides culturally-sensitive and clear information about COVID safety and the COVID vaccine;
  • Host a series of interactive virtual town halls with Black and Brown health professionals and community members;
  • Host an outdoor community event that highlights COVID safety/vaccine awareness and connects attendees to health and other resources to support our most vulnerable populations; and
  • Work with local partners to provide assistance with registration and transportation for those who want to get vaccinated.

MFEE welcomes the collaboration of all community members. To volunteer, email masiel@mfee.org.

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