By DIANE XAVIER
The Dallas Examiner
After hearing news reports of the coronavirus spreading the disproportionately affecting the African American community, Pastor Clarence Glover Jr., pastor of The First African Freedom Church, knew he had to take action.
A recent study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention suggested that African Americans – making up 18% of the population – might be disproportionately affected by COVID-19, accounting for 33% of COVID-19 hospitalizations.
“First being an African American pastor and an African American person coming from Louisiana – where 70% of the COVID-19 cases were from African American people and make up only 30% of the state’s population, during that time I could not go home. I was restricted to staying here in Dallas – I wanted to do something,” Glover said, who came to Dallas in 1979. “I was raised from the Gospel tradition that others take action during critical times and in moments of critical times that people must act. So I had to do something, and in the Gospels of Jesus Christ, to act and so that the church makes a statement during these times.”
After Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins stated that citizens need to wear masks to prevent spreading the virus further, Glover wanted to help residents in South Dallas, which has some of the highest the number of COVID-19 cases.
“If we were able to have access to public accommodations then we needed those masks,” he said. “So many people didn’t have financial means to buy masks, so we at our church took flat sheets and created them into bandanas. [We] proceeded to pass them out so that people who could not afford masks, have masks that were washable, that could be used again and that they would have those masks in attempt to help to level the current – if you will – epidemic in South Dallas.”
Initially, Glover passed the masks out from his vehicle throughout the community and where ever he went to minister. Friends and family concerned about his well being urged him to consider a more careful way of distributing the masks.
Glover then thought working with the Dallas Police Department to distribute them.
“Having worked for the Dallas Police Department years ago, I thought of the community relations office and contacted Chief Renee Hall and Joli Robinson and people in community relations and they agreed to help distribute the masks in the community,” he said.
So far, Glover has said over 300 masks have been distributed throughout the community with the help of the police department.
“I delivered over 200 masks to them in packets of 20 so that officers would have them in their cars as they would go around in the community,” Glover said.
Joli Robinson, manager for The Office of Community Affairs and the Youth Outreach Unit at the Dallas Police Department, said working with Glover to help the community has been critical.
“As officers are out and about on patrol or any of our neighborhood police officers are out engaged in the community, they could hand deliver the masks,” Robinson said. “I think being engaged is the focus and the partnership with Pastor Clarence Glover and being community partners and all that they do to support the community that we both serve is absolutely pivotal and is just another opportunity and moment to engage the community.”
Glover said being involved and helping the less fortunate is a calling.
“It’s a calling of the church,” he said. “As a pastor, we are not only called to be preachers but to be pastors and to be concerned about the people. We are concerned about them because of the number of African Americans who suffered this disproportionately. We must do something to help curb the tide to flatten the curve.”
Along with the campaign, Glover and his church are involved in a ministry called Hope in Da Hood.
“We have been putting up posters in the community where people can be reminded of wearing the masks and keep their social distance,” he said. “Hope in Da Hood has been our ministry for 20-25 years and we recall that for many years there is hope in the hood. And it implies that we care about what is going on in the place where we call the hood that we live in, that there is hope there, that Jesus brings hope to people who have lost hope. So the goal is to bring hope to the hopeless.
“So therefore we want to provide people through our actions and our deeds that during this time of COVID-19 that there is indeed hope in the hood and that there are those who do care.”
Glover said people have been appreciative in receiving the masks.
“They will take them and want them for their family and some of them are wearing these disposable masks. But they would need one that they could keep and wash and use over and over again. The goal is to try to reduce the level of infections in our community. And as we know one of the best ways is to wear a mask and maintain six feet social distance. Hopefully we can make some type of contribution that we can help to reduce the level of infection in our community.”
Glover has been in ministry for 45 years and has made it his mission to do what he can to help bring a positive change the community, especially those in need.
“Scripture teaches us that when we take care of the less fortunate, it is a responsibility as a church to reach out and do this. We teach truth and power so we can change conditions that we see – a disproportionate number of people of color and a number of African Americans and the disparage of racial difference in terms of food and health access to proper food health and nutrition.
“All of these things impact our community. So we want to change these things to have health care that builds their immune system and have education that builds their employment. This is a serious time for the remaking of America so that we can work together to rebuild, to improve our communities and our nation as a whole.”