Jenifer Lewis is a name that is synonymous with Black excellence in theater, film and television. The Essence Magazine Black Women in Hollywood honoree has been giving our social media platforms life with her dazzling, engaging and informative posts. In addition to Lewis’ passionate and comedic performances on television, most recently as Ruby, the matriarch of the Johnson clan on ABC’s juggernaut sitcom Black-ish, Lewis is also known for her activism around issues of social justice. Whether supporting Colin Kaepernick at the Emmys, using Facebook Live to tell people to get their “a#*” out to vote or the importance of Juneteenth, the woman known as “The Mother of Black Hollywood” makes her celebrity count by lending her voice to important causes that impact the African American community.
Lewis has recently teamed up with The Center for Black Health & Equity (The Center), which launched TheTruthCheck.org in January, an online training resource to provide African Americans with social media literacy and fact-checking skills to avoid the influence of COVID-19 vaccine misinformation. Lewis joined the TruthCheck campaign to encourage the African American community to check the facts when it comes to health decisions.
“I believe it is critical to collectively lend our voices to share the truth about COVID-19 and vaccines to empower our people to make sound, informed decisions about what is best to save lives,” said Lewis. “We should all be social media savvy and give it the side eye before we believe it and share it.”
Delmonte Jefferson, executive director for The Center agrees with Lewis. “As Omicron and other variants continue the spread of COVID-19, we are finding that the main sources African Americans rely on for information about the vaccines are also the sources not trusted, with social media being the main culprit,” said Jefferson. “Yet, people repeat what they hear from social media without checking for accuracy first. This practice of receiving and sharing misinformation amplifies health disparities and harms the Black community. Truth Check aims to correct this contagious spread of inaccurate and false narratives.”
Misinformation around Covid-19 has had negative consequences for African-American populations. Nearly 900,000 people have died from Covid-19, the majority of whom have been Black and Indigenous. When adjusting for age, Pacific Islander, Latino, Indigenous and Black Americans all have a COVID-19 death rate of double or more than that of White and Asian Americans, who experience the lowest age-adjusted rates. Misinformation about COVID-19 and the vaccines have certainly played a role in these disparities.
TheTruthCheck.org endeavors to end the spread of misinformation and to tackle disinformation, the intentional spread of misinformation to intentionally deceive specific populations by helping African Americans learn to be more discerning in the information about Covid-19 found on social media. With a history of activism and a robust social media presence, the “Mother of Black Hollywood,” is the perfect person to help make that happen.
The Truth Check has been funded by the CDC Foundation to support The Center and effective community outreach initiatives centered on communities of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) to share accurate, culturally appropriate information about the COVID-19 and influenza vaccines and to link adults to vaccine services.
To learn more about the campaign and how to spot misinformation on social media, visit TheTruthCheck.org.
This article was written by Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., founder & editor-in-chief of The Burton Wire. Follow Nsenga on Twitter @Ntellectual or @TheBurtonWire. Dr. Burton serves as a subject matter expert for this campaign.