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[VIRTUAL] Our Community, Our Health: Staying Safe from COVID Misinformation

The spread of misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine is fed by a number of factors that—in Black and other communities of color—exploit existing distrust, inequitable vaccine access, classism, and racism. Because of this, disinformation campaigns use these opportunities to take advantage of existing threats to vaccine confidence and seed more and more doubt and division. But addressing the misinformation head-on can help restore trust and empower the community to make informed choices. Join the National Action Network and PEN America for a workshop and discussion with doctors and trusted community leaders to explore practical and realistic approaches to misinformation.

While we must acknowledge the role of historical traumas and institutional distrust in the proliferation of disinformation, it’s also important to investigate the other factors that fuel the spread of false information. For example, misleading narratives shared by Black influencers may have wider reach than messaging by government institutions in some communities, so it’s important that we work with trusted messengers to stop the spread.

In this 75-minute session, we’ll also discuss:

  • How misinformation targets and spreads within Black communities and less regulated social media platforms like Clubhouse
  • Effective, nonjudgmental messaging techniques to use with friends and family that avoids alienation
  • The importance of uplifting leaders and organizers as trusted messengers who understand their community members’ experiences

During the discussion portion of our session, participants will have an opportunity to ask PEN America media literacy experts and Black doctors any questions they might have about the vaccine, how to approach those who may be misinformed, or anything else.

National Action Network logoThanks to our co-sponsor the Black Coalition Against COVID.


This event is presented as part of PEN America’s 2021 Community Partnership Programs.

Follow-Up Resources

Check out this resource packet to dive deeper into strategies for spotting and stopping misinformation and more community resources for seeding media literacy skills.

Featured Speakers

Dr. Melissa Clarke headshot

Melissa E Clarke MD, a Harvard-educated Emergency Physician, is an innovative leader in population health, clinical quality and health equity for Fortune 500 companies and healthcare organizations. She authored the popular book to empower healthcare consumers, “Excuse Me, Doctor! I’ve got WHAT?” and has a weekly show of the same name, “Excuse Me, Doctor!” Streaming on multiple platforms including on YouTube and Facebook @DrMelissaClarke.

She is a leading voice in the fight against health inequity and COVID 19 in the Black community. Her company, the BHE Group, has trained over 120 health navigators from faith institutions across the country, in how to engage community members about health topics including the COVID vaccine. She serves as the Medical Adviser to the Leadership Council on Healthy Communities, a consortium of 70 faith institutions in DC and is an originator of their Virtual Health Ministry which has met the needs of over 50,000 individuals throughout the pandemic; is a principal on the DC Health Department’s committee for safe and equitable vaccine distribution; is a co-founder the Black Coalition against COVID; and a medical contributor on both CNN and the Russ Parr morning show. She served as former Board Chair of Unity Healthcare, DC’s largest Federally Qualified Healthcare Center, and is also former Assistant Dean of Medical Education at Howard University College of Medicine.

Damaso Reyes headshot

Damaso Reyes is a media literacy expert and consultant for PEN America and has been an independent journalist for more than 20 years. He has been published by The Associated Press, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the San Francisco Chronicle, New York Magazine, Der Spiegel, the Miami Herald, Forbes, and The Irish Times. Previous assignments and projects have taken him to countries, including Rwanda, Indonesia, Tanzania, and throughout the United States and Europe.

If you tweet about the event, be sure to tag our Twitter handles @NationalAction and @penamerica.

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