S.E. Williams | Contributor
Moreno Valley, CA – In the tradition of Black Church leaders who have served as beacons for the Black community for generations, Bishop L. Kirk Sykes of CrossWord Christian Church in Moreno Valley is spearheading an outreach effort to ensure citizens of the City of Moreno Valley—especially people of color—have access to free testing in their home community.
“Moreno Valley is 57 percent Latino and 18 percent African-American,’ Sykes explained. “So, I felt it was necessary to provide this service since Black and Brown people are being impacted by this pandemic more than any other group.”
Working closely with other community leaders including Reverend George Lamb, President of the American Evangelical Christian Churches, Riverside County Board Supervisor Jeff Hewitt, Moreno Valley Mayor Yxstian Gutierrez and Moreno Valley City Councilmember—District 2—Dr. Carla J. Thornton, CrossWord will open the “free” test site at the church beginning Monday, May 18, 2020.
Bishop Sykes is well known in the Moreno Valley community and works to empower those he serves. In an exclusive interview with the IE Voice/Black Voice News he was open regarding his concerns about the amount of disinformation related to testing and the fear among many in minority communities, the testing may be used for the wrong reason(s).
“People trust me,” Sykes explained regarding the role he is now playing on this issue for the community. The trust Sykes has built in the City of Moreno Valley extends far beyond his congregation and he is hopeful having a testing site at the church may encourage more people of color and others, to participate in the testing process. There is the added advantage of the convenience of having a COVID-19 test site within the community itself.
When the numbers started rolling in with demographic details shining a light on the disparate impact of COVID-19 in underserved communities, the Bishop was moved to question the lack of a COVID-19 test site in his truly diverse city.
“There was no explanation regarding why this was,” Sykes shared. “Maybe because no one asked?’ In either case, he took the initiative and reached out to City Councilmember Thornton who joined with him right away to move the initiative forward.
To date, according to Sykes, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported among members of his congregation and stressed again, “People are not being tested because there was no place to go in Moreno Valley.”
CrossWord Christian Church is also the largest Black church in Moreno Valley, another reason Sykes felt compelled to act. In addition to Councilmember Thornton, Sykes reached out to Riverside County Supervisor Hewitt to express his concern about the lack of COVID-19 test sites in the city. Like Thornton, Hewitt also recognized the immediate need and stepped in to assist, as did Mayor Guiterrez, with establishing a test site at the church.
Sykes wants to hearten all members of the community—especially people of color in the city—to avail themselves to the test site. “Don’t be fearful,” he encouraged. “It is good to be tested, for you and your family.” He especially emphasized the role those who may be “asymptomatic” have as it relates to spreading the virus. “You may not feel sick,” the Bishop emphasized, “but you can still [possibly] be carrying the virus. “For the sake of your family, friends and coworkers, it is good to be tested.”
The “free” COVID-19 testing at CrossWord Church in Moreno Valley began May 18, 2020. The church is located at 21401 Box Springs Road, Moreno Valley, CA 92557. Beginning Monday and going forward the site will be open for testing between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. There is plenty of parking on site. Although an appointment is not required for testing, according to Sykes, it is desired. You can schedule an appointment by calling (800) 945-6171.
The Bishop expressed his appreciation to those who came together to make this testing opportunity a reality. “Thank you, Rev. George Lamb, Supervisor Hewitt, Mayor Gutierrez and Councilperson Thornton for your assistance,” he offered in conclusion.
Moreno Valley residents are encouraged to share this information broadly with family and friends.