Dr. Gerry White, an associate professor at Clark Atlanta University, believes Black men have the opportunity to play a pivotal role in helping Black communities mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and is using Black fraternities to get that message across.
“We are the protectors of the Black family, and we need to be armed with all the information about this new threat to assure we are knowledgeable and our households are safe,” White told NBC News. “We know that communication, resources, and strength-based approaches to protecting the community are critical in this fight.”
With that in mind, he created “Chat With the Frat,” an online series made up of members of the Atlanta-area Omicron Phi Lambda chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha — the first Greek-letter fraternity for Black men, founded in 1906.
“Black men talking to other Black men has the ability to alter our thinking and subsequently our behavior,” explained forensic psychologist Christopher Bass. “Despite what society suggests, humans are still more conforming than rebellious.”
White, a sociologist who often lectures on the importance of the Black family believes the sessions can be transformative because they directly address the deep-seated trust issues that permeate the Black community.
He says this is to be expected considering this nation’s history of abusing African Americans in clinical trials, like the infamous 40-year Tuskegee syphilis study the federal government conducted on Black men without their consent.
The rampant misinformation currently being disseminated about the coronavirus, exacerbated by the lack of access to treatment in underserved areas of the country has caused that distrust to reach an all-time high.
“If you trust the source, you embrace vital information—not innuendo, rumors and guesses—and share among your family and community,” chapter president Marshall Taggart said. “That’s what we are doing. We have a vast reach and we are sharing what we learn family-by-family, and on our YouTube channel on a larger scale.
“The number of COVID-19 cases in Black communities is staggering, and the entire point of what we are doing is to suppress those numbers by empowering Black men, who, in turn, empower communities. We hope other organizations will follow our lead.”