In less than two weeks, One LA - IAF leaders launched a pilot effort to vaccinate close to 900 senior citizens and essential workers in the hard-hit South LA community around St. Brigid Catholic Church. Originally planning to vaccinate 600 people, the two-day event accommodated hundreds more who were eligible as word spread in the community.
"The issue is vaccine access," said Jim Mangia, President and CEO of St. John's Well Child and Family Center in an interview with ABC National News. "Most people in South LA have not had access to the vaccine. There's not hesitancy- people have questions of course, but people want to get vaccinated. The issue is that there was nowhere for them to go."
Nowhere to go, that is, until One LA leaders began organizing. After months of advocating for a more equitable vaccination campaign targeting hard-hit neighborhoods, One LA leaders secured a partnership with Supervisor Holly Mitchell and medical partner St. John's Well Child & Family Center to bring the vaccines to the neighborhood around St. Brigid Catholic Church.
"Unfortunately, it is one of the least vaccinated areas in Los Angeles," said Fr. Kenneth Keke, Pastor of St. Brigid Catholic Church. "One in five residents have had Covid-19, and only 1 in 18 have been vaccinated. We are going to change that. We don't want anybody left behind."
Over the course of four days, One LA leaders went door to door, passed out flyers and called 4,000 households. The targeted approach shielded the vaccine supply from out-of-the-area "vaccine chasers," but more importantly reached people who otherwise wouldn't be able to access the vaccine at all.
Meaghan Myrtle, a 90 year old resident of the neighborhood, had been trying for months to secure an appointment. Ms. Myrtle had no access to transportation or the internet. "This church called me back. Nobody else called me back."
One LA leaders are now working to duplicate the pilot in other hard hit communities, and to work with LA County to add these neighborhood-based pop-ups to the many methods needed to vaccinate the whole county.
"A year into this pandemic, we refuse to stay at home anymore," said Phaebra Croft, a One LA leader with St. Brigid and teacher with LAUSD. "Don't let anyone try to convince you that our communities don't want this vaccine. Demand is high and will only get higher."
[Photo Credit: Rafael Paz]
Group Gives Help to Vaccine Candidates, NBC 4 Los Angeles [video]
Fight for Vaccine Equity, ABC News National [video]
A Los Angeles Pilot Program Will Vaccinate Hundreds Within 2-Mile Radius of a Catholic Church, Religion News Service [pdf]
Churches in LA's Working-Class Neighborhoods Urge: 'Bring the Vaccine to the People', Religion News Service [pdf]
After Amanda Gorman Reads at the Inauguration, One LA & St. Brigid Catholic's Community Engagement is Recognized
At St. Brigid Catholic Church, the Rev. Kenneth Keke preaches that the gospel of Jesus Christ is not only about eternity, but about “having a human face, loving one another.” Keke’s message stresses unity and that a “common humanity is what we need for us to live in peace.”
“That is liberation theology and that is what we preach here,” said Keke, the St. Brigid priest from Nigeria.
This is the South Los Angeles church where 22-year-old Amanda Gorman, the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history, grew up singing in the youth choir, taking her sacraments and reciting her poetry....“We need to liberate our people more,” Keke said they tell him.
“It’s like everybody here is a freedom fighter.”
St. Brigid has become known as a pillar in the community. It’s a member of OneLA, an organization made up of Jewish temples, schools and other nonprofit groups that work to improve housing insecurity, public transportation and criminal justice reform.
The church also turns into a voting center during elections and during the coronavirus pandemic has served as a COVID-19 testing site. St. Brigid also has a food distribution ministry....
Reflecting back on Gorman’s inaugural poem, “The Hill We Climb,” Keke said it was about “democracy and unity,” and the importance of “living in the country as one people, recognizing one another and respecting one another.”
“That is the spirit of St. Brigid,” Keke said.
[Photo Credit: (left) Carolyn Kaster, AP News; (right) Alejandra Molina/RNS Photo]
At Poet Amanda Gorman's Black Catholic LA Parish, 'It's Like Everybody Here is a Freedom Fighter', Religion News Service [pdf]
In South LA, eight institutions gathered at St. Brigid Catholic Church to launch their 'Breaking Barriers' to employment strategy. Proposition 47, which permits individuals to clear their records of non-serious offenses, has the potential to make individuals more marketable as employees if proper paperwork is submitted. To prepare for the day, 30 leaders learned how to guide applicants through the process, while another group of leaders created a resume workshop and panel discussions on restorative justice in the schools and interview best practices.Read more