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Opa-locka Commissioner Joseph L. Kelley to host “Souls Take Control” Free COVID-19 Testing Event

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City of Opa-locka’s Commissioner Joseph L. Kelley and the City Commission will host Souls Take Control: Our Fight Against COVID-19 for free COVID-19 testing Sunday, June 7, 2020, at 1 p.m. at Sherbondy Park located at 380 Bahman Avenue, Opa-locka. All pastors and clergy in the surrounding communities are asked to encourage their congregation to come together to fight against COVID-19. The first step is to get tested.

“It is crucial that all people, church leaders, and their parishioners attend our event this Sunday in order to ramp up testing in the region so we can get a more accurate idea of the spread of COVID-19 in our community,” said City of Opa-locka Mayor Matthew Pigatt. “It is also crucial for everyone in the community to have access to testing, to better protect themselves and their families. Our goal is to ensure that anyone living in Opa-locka has access to testing, particularly those with COVID-19 symptoms, as well as those who work in a setting where they may have frequent exposure.”

The free COVID-19 testing during Souls Take Control could help save lives and prevent further spread of the novel virus, which has taken a staggeringly lopsided and deadly toll on people of color across the City of Opa-locka. Commissioner Kelley created the Souls Take Control event based on the success of Souls to the Polls. Annually, Souls to the Polls is promoted by a coalition of local, predominantly African-American churches to organize a get-out-the-vote push and take church parishioners from Sunday services to the voting booth. Commissioner Kelley’s goal is to have the same energy for voting and Souls to the Polls as getting tested for COVID-19 at Souls Take Control. 

In light of the alarming reports of the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on the African-American community, Souls Take Control is the City of Opa-locka’s effort to encourage COVID-19 testing among people of color throughout the City of Opa-locka. Specifically, recent research and polling have detailed the impacts of the Coronavirus on African-American communities. The research took a deep dive into how African-Americans have responded to the novel Coronavirus pandemic thus far. The data supports concern regarding how effective educational and public health messaging is within the City of Opa-locka and throughout other African-American communities around the United States.

“If we don’t step in and encourage African-Americans to get tested for COVID-19, the impact of the virus will only further harm the City of Opa-locka and other African-American communities around the nation while increasing racial disparities and structural bias across the board,” said City of Opa-locka’s Commissioner Joseph L. Kelley. “The COVID-19 pandemic has been devasting both economically and personally on African-American communities and families. However, the pandemic has, in turn, pulled the curtain back on many racial issues that the United States is currently facing. I strongly urge people of color – those with or without symptoms – to take advantage of this free COVID-19 testing at the Souls Take Control event. We look forward to leaders from churches and their parishioners attending the event.”   

The African American Research Collaborative (AARC) and the Equity Research and Innovation Center (ERIC) at Yale School of Medicine presented polling findings including: 

  • 80% of those polled preferred to hold off on ending the shutdown to assure their safety ahead of boosting the economy;
  • 64% of African Americans agree they are less likely than Whites to be offered Coronavirus/COVID-19 testing and 60% agree they are less likely than Whites to have everything done to save their lives in the hospital;
  • 80% of African Americans think that President Trump has done a poor job of responding to the Coronavirus pandemic, with 59% saying the same about the federal government;
  • 75% of African Americans think that Donald Trump is the single most dangerous threat to African American people;
  • 66% believe that race is a factor in police treatment in regards to re-open protestors, and that 58% do not trust police to fairly and equally enforce rules about social distancing.

During the Souls Take Control event, COVID-19 testing at the Community Based Testing Site (CBTS) located at Sherbondy Park will be open to the public and free of charge. The testing criteria for this site will be for all symptomatic and asymptomatic patients who are at least 12 years of age. A doctor’s note or prescription is not needed to be eligible. 

Commissioner Kelley is asking that all church leaders and their parishioners throughout the City of Opa-locka attend the Souls Take Control event. 

For more information on COVID-19 and the City of Opa-locka’s response, visit

This article written by Janey Tate. Follow Hy-Lo News Editor-in-Chief on Twitter @Janey_TateFacebook and Instagram.  

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