Quadriplegic Filmmaker-Advocate Brings ‘Our Humanity’ In Battle Against COVID-19

November 9, 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, filmmaker-author-educator Crystal R. Emery is taking the lead with her Connecticut-based nonprofit, URU The Right to Be, Inc. (URU),

in bringing accurate information to communities of color with Our Humanity.

An innovative new public health media movement, Our Humanity sees URU working in partnership with nearly 30 organizations across the nation to provide Black, Latinx and Indigenous communities with key messaging on the novel coronavirus and related topics from people who look like them in an era when mistruths and misinformation are running rampant, costing lives.

Through infographics, video messages, community organizing and partnership building as well as Instagram Live conversations with experts and leaders from diverse BIPOC communities — including actor Keith David, tech innovator Irving Wladawsky-Berger, former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jocelyn Elders and a host of other scientists, artists, educators and students — the initiative aims to bring the COVID infection and mortality rates down for these communities while increasing prevention awareness.

Drawing inspiration from the Civil Rights Era, Our Humanity places a focus on helping individuals and groups build strong communal networks through which they can unite to inform and care for one another in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

A key component of the initiative’s effort to foster a spirit of productive dependency involves the founding of learning hubs, or centers, that provide students with a safe environment in which they have access to computers, Wi-Fi and other tools and staff needed to remotely attend school while adhering to safety protocols. Working with First Calvary Baptist Church —the first church to successfully house a learning hub in New Haven — the effort is committed to scaling the learning hub model to BIPOC populations nationwide using churches, long a bedrock of Black and Latinx communities.

Emery, a longtime healthcare and STEM advocate, founded Our Humanity because she knows first-hand the urgent need for outreach to BIPOC communities, among the hardest hit by the COVID pandemic. An acclaimed director behind such films as Black Women in Medicine and The Deadliest Disease in America, Emery is an African American who is also a quadriplegic living with two chronic diseases.

The coronavirus’s assault on communities of color, whose members often make up the bulk of essential, but low-pay workers, and on those with pre-existing conditions — where Indigenous, Black and Latinx people have a mortality rate from COVID-19 that is more than three times greater than their white counterparts— has made the need for her work all the more pressing.

“I created Our Humanity because so much of the response to COVID-19 has proven that if we don’t save ourselves, nobody else will,” said Emery. “It is imperative that our communities, which have been devastated by the pandemic yet remain ignored, join forces to create solutions and increase knowledge about the disease.”

Recognizing the reliance on and effectiveness of person-to-person communication within many BIPOC communities, Our Humanity has BIPOC experts and advocates from within disability communities speak directly to their peers, in their own languages and on their own terms about pandemic-related issues. Topics include how the virus spreads and how it affects the body; healthcare needs in BIPOC neighborhoods; longstanding distrust of medical/scientific advice due to historic mistreatment of these communities; physical fitness and stress management in the time of COVID; navigating doctor’s visits during the pandemic, and more.

Video messages from individuals including actor Keith David, on the need to remain vigilant in prevention; deaf advocate Brandon Ruiz-Williams addressing the direct link between systemic racism and the disproportionate rate of infection in Black and Brown populations; physician Monique Gary discussing small but vital steps in the fight against COVID; engineer Sandra Begay addressing how each community member is vital to curb the spread of the disease in the Navajo Nation; and more, as well as PDFs with prevention information developed by healthcare professionals, can be viewed at urutherighttobe.org/our-humanity-video-and-files.

Follow URU on Instagram at @urutherighttobe for conversations between Emery and BIPOC experts on COVID-19 as part of the Our Humanity Discussion series held weekly on Wednesdays on IG Live at 12 p.m. EST.

Our Humanity is made possible through support from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Roslyn Milstein Meyer and Jerome Meyer Foundation, and the California Endowment. Partner organizations include A Kidd from New Haven, Black Public Media, the Divas with Disabilities Project, the Yale School of Medicine Minority Organization for Retention and Expansion (MORE), the National Urban League, New York Women’s Foundation, Medical Organization for Latino Advancement (MOLA), and the National Minority Quality Forum (NMQF).

A 501 (c)(3), the mission of URU is to foster communication and understanding among diverse people by utilizing, discovering and applying tangible multimedia solutions at the intersection of the arts, humanities, science and technology. URU’s goal is to move all stakeholders toward a more equitable and humane world. Because the human condition is complex, and people are multidimensional, it understandably takes a multimedia approach to engage them, especially given their constant bombardment with information.

Through a unique approach that involves lowering peoples’ defense mechanisms and meeting them where they are, URU continues to be successful in its mission to help people find their commonalities and work together.

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