By Najee Ali
As South Los Angeles and the entire nation continues to battle COVID-19, the greatest health crisis of our lifetime, several community leaders have stepped up to confront the challenge.
Cheryl Branch of Los Angeles Metropolitan Churches is one such leader. She has partnered with Community Build and the Los Angeles Urban League and for the last several weeks have worked to raise awareness of COVID-19 in South Los Angeles and how to stay safe during the holidays.
The program has been vital in helping save lives as Black and brown residents of South L.A. continue to be hit the hardest. Los Angeles has one of the highest COVID-19 infection rates in the nation. The issues of poverty, crime, poor access to health care, and other socio-economic factors make it more difficult for minority communities in general, to combat chronic diseases and other health conditions.
African-American populations in Los Angeles are disproportionately affected by a number of health conditions, such as colon cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, alcohol and drug abuse, HIV, sexually transmitted infections, and obesity. Religious congregations and community organizations play important roles in African-American communities, and broad and sustainable partnerships between faith communities, community health workers and community clinics are needed to address health inequalities in COVID-19.
A team of 67 community health workers joined together to conduct a series of outreach, engagement and system navigation services to raise awareness and understanding of what COVID-19 is.
Los Angeles Metropolitan Churches led this group of dedicated peer-to-peer intervention, peace workers and local influencers into a trusted team of health messengers armed with reliable information, messages, materials and resources for all things COVID-19.
Los Angeles Metropolitan Churches is an association of small and mid-sized African-American churches that work together to address issues impacting the Black community. Its mission is “to train and develop the capacity of clergy, lay and community leaders to revitalize communities.”
It focuses on ending the prison industrial complex, homelessness and raising Black student achievement and its efforts are directed by a small team of dedicated faith leaders, professionals and subject matter experts.
Like the growing social movement referred to as “community building”, Los Angeles Metropolitan Churches’ overarching goal is to use neighborhood-based resources — in this case small black churches — to effectively marshal community members’ abilities to identify common needs and work together to find and implement solutions.
Strategies include training, advocacy and capacity building. The organization conducts monthly leadership training, advocacy and capacity building activities to support the development of black people and their organizational capacity.
I have worked with Cheryl Branch for over 25 years. She works quietly and effectively behind the scenes and is the brains, heart, and soul of Los Angeles Metropolitan Churches. The work she has done for our community is invaluable. We appreciate her leadership.