Stately and deliberate, with a distinctive white streak in his black hair, the Rev. Wallace Charles Smith started his Valentine’s Day sermon at Shiloh Baptist Church by talking about love and vaccinations.
“That’s what love’s all about. When you get a vaccination, you are saying to everyone around you that you love them enough that you don’t want any hurt, harm or danger to befall them,” he said. “In the spirit of love, keep at it until you get your vaccination. That’s the only thing that’s going to erase this terrible scourge.”
The church was empty except for a camera crew and a tiny choir. Thanks to COVID-19, Smith’s Sunday sermons are now virtual affairs.
Still, health officials in the nation’s capital are hoping that Smith and other Black religious leaders will serve as community influencers to overcome what officials say is a persistent vaccine reluctance in the Black community. Smith and several other local ministers recently received their first vaccine shots.
Black residents make up a little under half of Washington’s population, but constitute nearly three-fourths of the city’s COVID-19 deaths. The District of Columbia is n
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