Donald R. Powell, Sr. Director of Programs & Development
As a new virus hit NYC in July, Exponents jumped into action. When it became apparent that lessons learned (again) during our response to COVID-19 related to health inequities, access and stigma thought to have been learned had been forgotten, Exponents DID what we always do: ADVOCATE!!
For two weeks, Exponents staff participated in webinars, town hall meetings, and panel discussions related to MPV (formerly known as MonkeyPox) ensuring that access for BIPOC (Black and Indigenous People of Color) queer and trans community members was provided in meaningful ways. On July 22nd, Amanda Phi and Patrick Padgen, from the New York Knows program of the NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene, reached out to ask if the agency would be willing to see if we could connect folks to appointments if they were provided direct access to the portal for scheduling those appointments.
An emphatic yes led to a selection of our Director of Special Projects, Yvonne Soto, our Testing Manager, Sade Ellis, and Service Navigator, Roger Adamson. We all started being trained along to participate in a series of trainings, and gained access to the city’s MPV Vaccination scheduling portal. Exponents was provided with 64 appointments for its first week of engagement. Those appointments had been exhausted in a little over 24 hours.
On Thursday, August 11th, Mr. Adamson and I attended a press conference organized by the LGBTQI Caucus of the City Council, where three pieces of proposed legislation were unveiled. The legislation requests that the City request vaccinations doses commensurate with our infection rates, and that the DOHMH create a comprehensive prevention plan and provide greater transparency on the breakdown of race, sexual orientation, gender identity and zip code of residence for those provided vaccinations. Crafted by the Caucus Co-Chair, Crystal Hudson, this legislation is the first of its kind to specifically address MPV in the country.
To date, Exponents has provided access to more than 300 BIPOC community members, provided recommendations to Speaker Adams and the NYCDOHMH on portal revisions, locations of pop-up clinics and the relationship to safety and many more issues. As a result of our work, Exponents received short-term funding to continue and expand on this support for the community.
We did not work alone. Eternal gratitude to Snookie Lanore, Icon & Commentator within the House/Ball community; Dominic Faison, NYC Chapter Father of the House of Ebony Tygier Morgan (Founder & Principle of Ty wit Da Live), Ballroom Legend & Videographer, and; Nicole Bowles, Transgender advocate and activist for their Herculean efforts and reaching into their own personal social networks. Special thanks also to Patrick Padgen and Amanda Phi at New York Knows for their guidance and support, and First Corinthian Baptist Church in Harlem for helping us get the word out. None of this would be possible without the support of our dedicated and passionate team working diligently to get folks the access they need to feel safe and protected!!