Coronavirus and Columbia’s Black Community: ‘I Feel Like A Flood is Coming for the Vulnerable’
Verna Laboy is a health educator for Columbia/Boone County Public Health & Human Services, and runs the Live Well by Faith program, a community-based health program that targets chronic health conditions through black churches.
The program supports health ministries at 17 black churches in the area by providing health programming, training and resources for people in the congregation, and leaders within each church help run programming and do data collection.
She spoke with Dee Campbell-Carter, a lifestyle coach for the program, about just a few of the ways the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is impacting the black community here in Columbia – and how they’re supporting one another.
Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words. You can view more conversations at missourihealthtalks.org.
Dee Campbell-Carter: It's really a matter of finding that internal peace through Jesus Christ. I'm a Christian, you know, I believe in that higher power and God and Jesus, and sometimes the only method of calming myself down is to pray and meditate and, you know, getting in the spirit.
I'm in the spirit when I'm gardening. I'm in the spirit when I'm praying. And I love to sing, but sometimes, you know, just putting that music on and joining the choir gives peace.
So, as we're trying to help other people adapt to this uncertain future, you just teach what you most need to learn. You do what works for you. What do you think, Verna? How do you find peace in all of this?
Verna Laboy: I'm an activist by design. I think I was created to give voice to the voiceless, and I engage in work. I'm engaged in the community. I talk to people. I listen to people, and right now, we're meeting virtually.
One of my programs where I reach out to my Live Well by Faith community met last night, and there were about 20 or 25 of us on the Zoom, and it is just wonderful to see everybody and how we're all encouraging one another, in this pandemic, to stay healthy and to take care of ourselves.
So, we're really hyper alert during this - the elders are very conscientious of taking care of ourselves because we know that we can easily be a target for the virus. I have some friends who have gone through the sickness, the illness, and they came out on the other side.
So, it's alarming. I feel like we've been shaken at the core. I feel like a flood of everything is coming for the vulnerable. It wasn’t enough to just be dealing with the pandemic and the isolation, when really church is where a lot of us get our fix.
Campbell-Carter: Our very support has been pulled out from under us, yes.
Laboy: So, it's a struggle for a lot of us. In fact, I've lost some friends to COVID.
Campbell- Carter: Me too. Several…
Laboy: … and there was, he was 92 years young, and he passed away a few days ago, and his children told me that, “The virus didn't kill him. It was the loneliness.”