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‘You can’t miss this message.’ Roxbury hosts Boston Vaccine Day in an effort to promote shots against COVID-19

Shalana Barnes got her first dose of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine Saturday at Boston Vaccine Day in Roxbury's Malcolm X Park.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Seated near a “National Vaccine Day” banner, Shalana Barnes got her first dose of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine Saturday in Roxbury at an event promoting vaccines for Black and brown people and celebrating those who already got the shots.

Barnes, 38, who has asthma and contracted COVID-19 earlier this year, said the Delta variant convinced her it was time to get the shot.

“I am scared of the new Delta [variant],” she said. “I’m not going to lie. That’s why I got it.”

Her fiance and her aunt also got shots after they came across the event at Malcolm X Park.

Her aunt, Vickey Barnes, 60, got Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine. She said she had delayed getting inoculated because vaccinated people can still develop COVID-19.


“People who got the shot still got sick and some of them died,” she said.

Barnes said seeing her niece get vaccinated persuaded her to do the same.

“I said, ‘Why not?,’” she said.

Keona Wynne, lead organizer for Boston Vaccine Day, said the event was designed to highlight the “positivity of vaccination.”

“It’s really a day about community and coming together,” said Wynne, a PhD student in population health sciences at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The event included basketball, musical performers, games, and vendors. Curative Inc.and Cataldo Ambulance administered vaccines and representatives from Mass General Brigham distributed masks and hand sanitizer and answered questions.

As of Aug. 31, 62 percent of residents in the ZIP code where the event took place had been fully vaccinated, according to city figures. The latest citywide figures released on Sept. 6 show 63 percent of Bostonians are fully vaccinated.

Cameron Teleau said it was important to hold the event at Malcolm X Park because it’s a prominent landmark in Roxbury.

“With this happening today at this park, you can’t miss this message,” said Teleau, a visual artist and graphic designer. “You have to be vaccinated.”


Deandre Avant, 20 secured a large “National Vaccine Day” banner to a fence with Teleau. He said he hasn’t received the vaccine, but a friend asked him to assist at the event and he agreed.

Avant said he has declined to get inoculated because the vaccines are “fairly new.”

“Even though I don’t believe in the vaccination myself, I just think it’s important that we still help each other out for those who do want to get the vaccination,” he said.

Damien Leach, who was staffing Mass General Brigham’s tent, said his job is to build vaccine confidence in communities with large populations of Black and brown people. He had information sheets about the Delta variant and vaccine safety for women who are pregnant or breast-feeding.

“We’re giving people the answers that they need in order to make the decision to get vaccinated and stay safe,” Leach said.

A ceremony honored people who have died of COVID-19. The virus has killed more than 668,000 Americans, including more than 18,000 Massachusetts residents.

The Rev. Erica Williams of the Poor People’s Campaign told the gathering she initially had reservations about vaccination. Then her uncle, Robert Veasley, of Saginaw, Mich., died of COVID-19 in December.

“Today I’m encouraging everybody, if you haven’t been vaccinated to please get vaccinated, to please encourage someone else to get vaccinated because we don’t want no more of our people leaving here,” she said.


Williams said racism has made the Black community more vulnerable during the pandemic.

“Our people in particular have been dying not just at the hands of COVID-19, but we’ve been living in a pandemic of white supremacy, of colonialism, of racism, and this country ain’t never been what it said it would be to us,” she said. “It’s time for us, the people, to rise up together and to change this nation.”

The ceremony ended with a “meditation in remembrance” honoring victims of COVID-19 and police violence. Alejandra Salemi, an event organizer, read the meditation.

“The death of those we have lost due to COVID-19, due to police brutality, and systemic racism in this country will not be in vain,” she said, reading from the meditation. “May their memory be a blessing and an energy that fuels our fight for justice, equity, and safety.”

Laura Crimaldi can be reached at laura.crimaldi@globe.com. Follow her @lauracrimaldi.