The Atlanta University Center is the Start Of Vaccine Awareness for Black Communities across the Country.

After being kicked off campus in the middle of my sophomore year, I will now be returning to campus for in-person classes, along with the rest of my classmates, as a senior at Morehouse College. On April 19th, 2021 the Atlanta University Center decided to open its doors for completely in person classes for the 2021–22 school year. This decision came with one exception; all teachers and staff must be fully vaccinated unless religious and health reasons prevent them from doing so.

The Atlanta University Center consists of three of the most well known HBCUs in the country: Morehouse College, Spelman College, and Clark Atlanta University. As the most well known, the AUC has become a staple in black communities all across the country. The AUC brings black students from every region, and every walk of life, together in one spot.

Due to this reality, the AUC has a mission to fulfill in Black communities all across the country, and the requirement for students to get the vaccine is the start of vaccine awareness in Black communities.

The popular SNL skit featuring Daniel Kaluuya, titled “Vaccine Game Show,” shows the level of mistrust of the COVID-19 vaccine in black communities. Daniel Kaluuya, acting as the game show host, asked his Aunt played by Ego Nwodim if she would take the vaccine. She responded by claiming Facebook told her that she couldn’t.

Although this was in a fictional skit, many people believe that the vaccine is a risk to them simply from posts they see on social media from people who aren’t experts. Then, there are those who distrust the vaccine due to what happened in 1932 in the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. African American men who had syphilis thought they were getting help from white doctors. As the doctors just monitored their symptoms, they only got worse.

Incidents like this have created a distrust in the medical field throughout the black community. A poll done by The Undefeated shows that 56% of Black people mostly trusted their local hospitals compared to other doctors outside of their hospitals. Showing that Black people are more likely to trust Black doctors that live in their communities.

Having a fully or partially vaccinated AUC will help to demonstrate the truth about the COVID vaccine. The US National Science Foundation report showed that from 2002–11, 24% of all Black PhDs in STEM earned their bachelors from a HBCU.

As future Black leaders begin to get the vaccine, the rest of the community will as well. One because those students can go back home to tell their friends and family members the importance of the vaccine. Also, what happens in the AUC is broadcasted all over “black social media”, and those same people who see posts about why not to trust the vaccine will see posts about future Black leaders getting the vaccine.

The Shade Room, a black owned blog site with over 23 million Instagram followers, made a post the same day this information was released stating “Spelman, Morehouse, & Clark Atlanta Will Now Require Students & Staff To Be Vaccinated Before Returning To Campus”. This post received 108,689 likes on Instagram along with 15,508 comments.

These numbers were taken 3 days after this post was made, and it proves how what happens in the AUC is broadcasted all throughout the Black community. Not everybody in the comments were very excited about this news being told many adults and people unrelated to the colleges began to get overworked and angry about the news. It also gave the opportunity for those that understood the vaccine to explain to those that disagreed.

“You already need vaccines to go to colleges so I don’t know why y’all love tryna sound fake smart talking about “it violates my rights,” Instagram account @dorothyk_ said.

This comment received 1,151 likes, and we may not know if this changed anybody’s perception of the vaccine. The AUC being recognized allowed both those in the black community who disagree with the vaccine, and those who trust the vaccine, to dialogue with one another about why they believe their stance to be the best one.

The AUC is the first of HBCUs to come out with this requirement, with Hampton College doing the same immediately after. Over 50 colleges have already made this a requirement including Yale, Columbia, and Cornell. Also Catholic college Notre Dame has done the same as well. Requiring vaccines is nothing new to this country. Vaccines were made to keep yourself, and others around you safe. The very concept of the vaccine came from a black man, as an African slave Onesimus introduced the concept of a vaccine to America in 1721.

With so much confusion about the COVID-19 vaccine, and many Black people having a reason to not trust this country. The AUC will be the start to eliminating this confusion about the vaccine. Although all questions may not be answered, the conversation has now begun.

Edited by Kennedy London

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Ron Simon III

I am a recent graduate of Morehouse College with a degree in Sociology now studying Investigative Journalism at American University in Washington D.C.