Speak UP Reaches Single Moms, Addresses Vaccine Hesitancy
By Dianne Anderson
Robbie Butler finds that the hardest fight against COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in the Black community is getting past all the misinformation that’s floating around.
As part of the city’s Black Health Equity collaborative, her organization is reaching out, educating and encouraging the community to get tested and vaccinated. She’s working health fairs, distributing COVID prevention kits with masks, wipes and other essential protective items and resources.
Coming up August 20-21, they will also participate in the 10th Annual Uptown Jazz Festival at Houghton Park featuring Sheila E.
Butler, a substitute teacher in Long Beach, said that helping Black parents through the COVID-19 crisis has been daunting, but they refuse to be defeated in the rise of the Delta variant.
It’s a matter of making sure that parents understand how and where to get help. Their main concern is getting the community in the right mindset to start taking care of themselves and their loved ones.
“We’re dying in large numbers, and a lot of it can be prevented,” she said.
Last month, the Surgeon General Vivek Murthy announced that 99.5% of deaths from COVID are those that have not received the vaccine.
Her annual Single Mom Empowerment Forum supports reaching Black and Brown moms. Based on community response, she feels they are making headway in their message of testing, vaccines and site locations.
Personally, she feels that getting the vaccine in January was a no-brainer for her. She posted it all over social media.
“Once you go through it, you realize how easy it was. Other than a little bit of discomfort, a little swelling a little pain, it goes away. When it was done, I was like – that was it?” she said.
Concerned parents are invited to contact her organization for information on getting connected with the Long Beach Health Department, and make appointments for longbeach.gov/vaxLB, as well as help with numerous other resources.
Through her Speak UP Empowerment Foundation, she said they are dedicated to the single mom community because so many are doing double duty without support services.
“She is often overlooked and brushed aside. I’m a single mother myself. I know what it’s like to walk in those shoes,” she said. “Just because she’s in a bad situation doesn’t make her a bad person.”
At their forums, they host panels of expert speakers covering things like financial literacy, how to create and stay in business, and how to qualify to buy a home. They have a family law attorney on the panel, helping women understand processes like how to file for child support, or a restraining order.
Their foundation serves about 250 mom each year through the empowerment forum, and help for moms year-round that reach out to them. She said it’s completely free, and 100% sponsor-driven.
Launched in 2018, their mentoring program also serves about 50 mentees. Of the volunteers, several are from her Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.
“We have 25 seasoned businesswomen who volunteer their time to provide personal and professional direction for the women. We have some good numbers. These are women in the community who understand what it means to give back,” she said.
Whether working to get single moms informed about the vaccine and services, or just out in the general community, she said knocking down the myths and stigma is a hurdle.
She is constantly sounding the alarm that the Black population is the most impacted, and the least vaccinated, but then there is a generational challenge.
It’s hard to get past the historical trauma, especially in dealing with older Black men who remember Tuskegee experiments like it was yesterday.
“What people have to understand is that one of the lead scientists is a Black woman [Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett]. We are actively involved in this effort, we’re not just used as guinea pigs anymore. We’re at the forefront of development of the cure for this disease,” she said.
For more information, see http://www.speakupempowermentfoundation.org/