Fred Hammond is being honored at the 2020 Black Music Honors. (299235)
Fred Hammond is being honored at the 2020 Black Music Honors. Credit: Black Music Honors

Grammy-Award-winning gospel artist Fred Hammond has a testimony to share about contracting COVID-19 in November 2020 and later being vaccinated against the coronavirus.

“Had I had the diagnosis of COVID (when I was ill recently in 2021), I would not be here today,” Hammond said. Hammond said his recent illness was not related to the coronavirus.

Through trials and tribulations, Hammond said his faith led him to trust and take the vaccine.

“My faith was towards, I need whatever help I can get,” said Hammond. “If you’re diabetic (or have high blood pressure), [COVID] affects you more.”

Fellow Grammy-Award-winning gospel artist VaShawn Mitchell has a similar story.

“I probably had COVID when I was traveling last summer,” Mitchell said before sharing that doctors told him he had COVID antibodies.

Mitchell said he took the vaccine so he would not put his 88-year-old grandmother at risk.

Hammond and Mitchell participated in a national town hall on Zoom entitled “Faith and Facts Fireside Chats: Men of Gospel” that was held on June 23. The event was organized by the AARP as a way for faith and community leaders from around the country to discuss Black Men’s Health and key facts on COVID-19 vaccines.

“We must keep trying to put the facts out there,” said Rev. Dr. Charles E. Goodman Jr. of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Augusta, Georgia.

Sharing resources has also been key in the Black community in South Los Angeles. Local churches have stepped up as trusted places to administer and receive COVID-19 vaccines.

“There was no question that we wanted to be a vaccine site,” said Rev. Joyce Kitchen, the pastor at Emmanuel H.M. Turner A.M.E. Church on Compton Avenue in South Los Angeles.

“I started to collaborate with other pastors to bring the resources that we needed,” said Rev. Kitchen. “It gave us a sense of unity in our community.”

However, as the rate of vaccination has slowed, community advocates said now is the time to speak up and speak out.

“Each one, reach one,” Rev. Kitchen added. “This is real… we have to keep the message going.”

Overall, COVID-19 has disproportionately affected the Black community, specifically younger Black men.

“Your zip code is going to determine your health. However, it shouldn’t be that way,” said Dr. Ernest J. Grant, President of the American Nurses Association. “We need Black men to be around to raise their children… that is a huge economic impact on the community.”

“We have to step up and get past this and do the things necessary to save our own lives,“ shared Dr. Reed Tuckson, the founding member and CEO of the Black Coalition Against COVID, which is composed of HBCU universities and national medical organizations. “We are now partnering with the barbershops.”

Meanwhile, Hammond’s parting advice is to seek knowledge and truth.

“Have a heart-to-heart talk (with a medical professional that you trust),” Hammond concluded.