Interviewed and Written by Tocarra Eldridge
Dr. Debra Fraser-Howze has been widely recognized for decades regarding her global leadership to communities of color. She originally founded the National Black Leadership Commission in 1987. According to Fraser-Howard, “It came from a concept that I had because I knew that it was going to be necessary to bring the best and the brightest of the community together to respond to a disease and an actual pandemic that took place at that time”. During this time frame most individuals in society were frightened. Fraser-Howard realized actions needed to be taken to help combat those current circumstances. She explained, “The Commission called out to Reverend Bunch and Reverend Sharpton and they took action. We wanted to ensure that their churches had the resources they needed and the workforce they needed to administer vaccines. We vaccinated over 50,000 people”.
Recently, Fraser-Howze created the phenomenal program, Choose Healthy Life. This effective and impactful initiative is a response to the disproportionate impacts of the pandemic on the Black community. Choose Healthy Life fortifies community’s infrastructure in order to address the pandemic in the Black community, strengthen local networks, increase long-term community resilience, and save lives. This being said, it is vital that the correct information regarding the pandemic and vaccinations are communicated to individuals from relevant sources. To ensure that this information was communicated properly to the public, on November 19, 2021, the nation’s most esteemed Black pastors, led by Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Calvin O. Butts, III, gathered during the Choose Healthy Life Black Clergy Conclave. The event brought together more than 100 influential Black clergy as well as public health officials and nonprofit and corporate leaders. The Conclave focused on the notable progress that has been achieved in the fight to educate the public and the Black community concerning what must be done to sustain the successful effort.
Due to the pandemic, in-door gatherings became virtual online events. Fraser-Howze explained that much of Choose Healthy Life’s messages concerning healthcare and vaccinations were communicated by word of mouth via church gatherings. “Word of mouth reached 7.2 million people,” she exclaimed. Although churches have been closed, Fraser-Howze has been fortunate to still work with Ministers. “The way the Ministers craft their messages to talk to the community has been very effective. Full-time staff works with the neighboring hospitals and health businesses.” For Fraser-Howze, it is imperative that she utilizes the array of her capabilities to assure as many individuals are as healthy as possible. “We are bringing all of these people together and we were pushing back. It works; it’s going to take that kind of pushback for the community to fight to stay alive,” articulates Fraser-Howze.
When speaking of the future, Fraser-Howze would like to create a never ending coalition consisting of multiple entities. “I would love to form a coalition of the medical community and for our community based organizations to come together and formulate, what I believe will be a master plan. This will ensure that we are never put in a position in any pandemic,” she states. In regards to the phrase going back to normal Frazer-Howze feels as if the world today has become the new normal. “Many desire to go back to normal and I said from the very beginning that we are not going back to normal. We have no idea what is coming next, but something is coming,” she emphasizes. Frazer-Howze speaks on preparedness for what is to come. When the pandemic began, had a coalition already been in place, individuals would have already been educated and prepared. “We have to be prepared. We have to have a Black pandemic preparedness team on the ground workforce where people are giving out correct information and refuting false information.”
Last modified: July 2, 2023