Jermoh Kamara, School Commitee
What are the first 3 steps you would take to address the disparate impacts COVID-19 has had on women, people of color, and especially women of color in the City of Worcester?
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, I have been instrumental to ensure that communities of color and women have access to COVID education, PPE, face masks, gloves, and when vaccination became available, worked to bring vaccination clinics (11) into the African/ Black community. Working with UMASS and DPH, and along with leaders of the African/African-America community, BIPOC female nurses, I brought Health Equity Vaccination clinics that have vaccinated more than 3,000 individuals, mostly women.
As food insecurity became a prevalent issue in many communities of color, my public health research focused on understanding how COVID impacts Food Insecurity in the African/African American community. Working with students from Clark and WPI, we held focus groups, attended mostly by women of color, and the data helped to glean about the barriers and how to connect services into communities that are always forgotten. From that project, I worked with the Worcester Public Schools Meal Van and a route was established in an accessible area, that served over 67-100 school-aged children and families daily. More work is being done to address food insecurity in the African/African-America community.
Three steps I have taken,
- Understanding the barriers of how women and their households are impacted by COVID
- Working with women to target programs that they have identified as being significant
- Advocating/ using established community-based resources by partnering with organizations that women of color could benefit from. As a Wellness and Health Equity Director at the YWCA, this also reminds me of our Women’s Health program that specifically targets women breast and cervical cancer survivors. Such a program that aims to provide wraparound support to meet the needs of BIPOC women cancer survivors.
The past 15 months has been especially hard on students in Worcester. How do you plan to improve and increase access to mental and social emotional supports for Black and brown girls in Worcester? What is your plan to prioritize their voices in the City’s recovery?
I am running on my Five Point Plan and one of my points tackles providing more support to “Modernize Health, Nutrition, Social and Emotional Education and programming” for WPS students. The covid pandemic has exacerbated the prevalence of social, emotional, and mental health support for WPS students and all staff. I support the use of ARPHA dollars to hire more School Adjustment Counselors and social workers to work with our students who may be experiencing or may need social, mental, and emotional support. I also support the use of a space or spaces within the Worcester Public Schools that can serve as a stress-free environment where students can go to take a break, destress, relax, take a nap, and feel like the space is there for them.
Provide an example of when you have organized a diverse and inclusive group of people in your work. How do you plan to build an intersectional leadership team if elected?
A few examples can be taken from my line of work here at the YWCA and in the community. I work with three coordinators, Fitness, Aquatics, and Women’s Health Specialist directly with my job at the YWCA. As the Director, my team is diverse in gender and ethnicity. We work together every day to ensure people are happy with our fitness and Aquatics programming at the YWCA. For our Women’s Health programs, we ensure that our members have the information that they need to advocate for themselves. As an adjunct professor at WPI and previously at Clark and in the community, I serve on many diverse boards that has allowed me to work with different people to provide services to diverse students and those in need. Working on an intersectional team helps when goals are communicated and aligned. The need to allow people to feel comfortable to express their goals, to agree and disagree, and the ability to work with people even when things do not fall into place, rather than expressing power by shutting down their ideas and work, is immense.
I plan to be open to different ideas, to understand people’s goals and to keep the focus on the main goal, which is, to improve outcomes for all children attending Worcester Public Schools so that they can pursue a healthy and prosperous future
How have the events of last summer’s racial reckoning impacted your policy decisions? What work is still left to be done?
This past summer’s reckoning has always been a fabric of the American democracy. Black and brown people have always been treated brutally in this country, and for such, policy decisions of any public servant or candidate should have not only been impacted as the result of last summer’s racial reckoning. As a young woman who proudly identifies with my African/ Liberian roots, I obtained my US citizenship in 2016 (after fighting 2 years with USCIS on their mistake). The history of this country and all the racial reckonings has allowed me to strengthen my voice and stance on what I believe and will stand for, and what I do not stand for. I do not stand for any level and form of suppression and racial injustice or any form of injustice that seeks to cause harm to the human race.
The fight against racial injustice starts inside of us and around us. Every human being has inherited the blessing of fighting and standing up against injustice in every sector and living environment. It does not start on a big platform. How we speak and treat people (anyone) every minute and daily, is as important as marching on capitol hill or marching on the Main Streets in Worcester, against racial injustice.