There was food, music, joy, and the space to come together and celebrate all the hard work the team has accomplished this season.
In April, TAIBU was the first clinic to be part of the Black Health Vaccine Initiative. Scarborough was one of the hotspots and the Malvern neighborhood, home to a large black population, experienced a disproportionate set of negative outcomes resulting from the pandemic.
While the clinic was aiming for an end goal of 10,000 vaccinations, by the day of celebration they had more than doubled their goal, vaccinating over 21,000 individuals since April.
“People have been so dedicated. They have been here every week, and we wanted to show our gratitude for all the hard work people have put in,” said Duate Adegbite, Family Physician and Co-lead for the Black Health Vaccine Initiative with BPAO.
Initially there were challenges getting the Scarborough Health Network (SHN) to see the need in supporting a targeted approach for Black folks with culturally safe vaccination clinics like Taibu. Until June, only people in the local area could go to Taibu for their vaccinations.
“When things first started you had to live in Scarborough to come here, so we spent time trying to fight that…the Taibu CHC is for Black, francophone and Indigenous people no matter where you live. It took some time but finally, SHN got on board with supporting us,” she said.
Black led health and community organizations have had to organize education efforts, not just for the community, but for the institutions tasked to serve them.
“Anytime you have more than one organization collaborating, especially when it’s between community and something that’s a little bit bigger than community, it’s hard to get everyone on the same page,” said Amna Iqbal, Kinesiolgist and Vaccine Clinic Coordinator at Taibu.
“We have to constantly be advocating for the community and say in a hospital setting this might work, but not for people…in the community, they’re not going to respond well to this,” she said.
The environment Taibu created was critical to the process of bringing Black and people of colour away from fear and skepticism, into a more comfortable, familiar environment in which to make their decision about vaccination.
“BPAO has been instrumental in making sure that our communities are coming to the clinic,” said Liban Gebremikael, Executive Director at Taibu.
“[patients] were seeing professionals that reflect themselves, and that made people feel comfortable to ask questions and raise concerns without feelings of judgement.”
Together the organizations were able to restore some of the trust in science that has been deeply ruptured by predominantly white medical and media systems in matters of relations with Black communities.
“There’s a lot out there so it gets confusing, You don’t know who to trust…there’s a lot of misinformation targeted directly at the Black community,” said Dr. Mojola Omole, Breast Surgical Oncologist, BPAO Member At Large, and Co-lead for the BHVI.
“It’s good to talk to a trusted source. We [Black Physicians of Onatrio] are a trusted source. If you have questions you can call the clinic and one of the physicians will call you and we’ll talk you through questions you have,” she said.
“It’s part of the work we’re doing…the slow work.”
This slow work is continuing to bring information and care to communities in ways only the community can. It’s a labour of love to which community institutions and professionals have committed. Community health centres like Taibu and health organizations like BPAO and Black Health Alliance, play a key role in ensuring our communities are informed and protected as we do our best to make our way to the other side of this pandemic.