Photos by Sol Captions Photography

Drew Nate | 

On Sunday, December 19 at St. Paul AME Church in San Bernardino, California, Pastor Steven Shepard  announced the winners of a unique competition aimed at helping raise awareness about the importance of COVID-19 vaccines. 

The competition was the brainchild of former state assemblymember and California Commission on Aging Commissioner Cheryl Brown as a way to encourage dialogue between generations by focusing on the most critical health issue of this moment that is spanning generations-–COVID-19, its vaccines and the issue of vaccine hesistancy.    

“I am concerned about intergenerational connections between youth and seniors and was speaking to Sandy Close, head of Ethnic Media Services who was working on a project with the State Department of Aging,” shared Brown commenting on the origins of the contest.  “The idea came up and I was excited we could do something different because so many people, young and old, have not been vaccinated in our community.” 

From this conversation, the idea of a rap competition took root. The California Department on Aging (CDA) agreed to sponsor  the contest as part of an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) “Caregivers Across the Generations” initiative.

Brown reached out to other local leaders to help bring the idea to fruition. “When I spoke with Rev. Steven Shepard he approved,” shared Brown further noting, “The Inland Empire Health Plan loved the idea and permitted us to use grant funds to put the contest in place.”

“I am concerned about intergenerational connections between youth and seniors and was speaking to Sandy Close, head of Ethnic Media Services who was working on a project with the State Department of Aging.”

Fmr. Assemblymember cheryl brown

Shepard was instrumental in helping to promote the campaign, several young creatives submitted raps, and three winners were selected from among them. 

“The contest was open to the entire community,” confirmed Bown. “I am so proud of the youth who met the challenge and came up with some interesting raps, poetry and spoken word. I hope to do more work with young people and seniors.”

Awards were presented to the winners and all participants were honored at St. Paul’s AME Church Sunday, December 19 during the 9:30 am service.

The rap competition will be followed with a one hour community conversation among caregivers hosted via Zoom on Thursday, January 13. The contest winners will participate in the discussion.  

Officials at the national, state, and local levels advise that with the rise of the highly contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus, continued efforts to overcome vaccine hesitancy is essential as San Bernardino County continues to lag behind the state in this regard. By Christmas Day, only 53.94% of the county’s population was fully vaccinated compared to a statewide average of 66.34%.

Drew Nate

Drew Nate, a resident of Corona, California, reports for Black Voice News and the IE Voice where he focuses on stories within the Inland Empire and throughout California. An advocate for equity and social justice, he emphasizes civil rights for African Americans. Drew previously served as a staff reporter for The Criterion, a student-run newspaper publication at La Sierra University where he received his bachelor’s degree in Communications. Drew’s areas of interest include international climate change, fashion, and criminal justice reform. Contact Drew with tips, comments, and/or concerns at drew@blackvoicenews.com.