An African-American singer and social activist is using music to send a message to New Americans: vaccinate. Irene Kerubo Webster (aka KeruBo) created “Chanjo” to help promote acceptance of Covid-19 vaccination among new immigrants. Chanjo is the Swahili word for vaccine.
Using Music to Fight Fear and Misinformation Among Immigrants and Refugees
As Vermont’s Covid-19 vaccination program continues to roll out, state health officials have stepped up outreach to New American, refugees, and immigrant communities, who are at increased risk for serious complications of Covid. Webster is a social worker with AALV, a Burlington-based nonprofit serving New Americans in Vermont. She witnessed hesitancy in her communities around vaccine acceptance, fueled by misinformation and fear.
“When I had been working with these groups of people, I realized that there were so many barriers that kept them from engaging fully and knowing what was going on around them if nobody helped them,” Webster said in a recent Seven Days article.
‘Unite to Eradicate:’ Lyrics Emphasize Vaccine Safety and Communal Responsibility
The message of “Chanjo” is that vaccination is key to eradicating Covid. Lyrics like “Let’s unite and help eradicate” and “we ought to be mindful of everyone’s safety” promote a unified front. Other lines emphasize that “experts have declared it safe” and “there are people out there spreading misinformation.”
The upbeat dance-friendly music video is performed in Swahili with English subtitles. It features young dancers from the Vermont refugee and immigrant community, as well as Webster’s coworkers at AALV.
It’s not the first time Webster has used her musical talent to send a public health message. Last spring, the African folk/jazz artist released “Hakuna Lolote,” which focused on coronavirus safety protocols. In a Vermont Arts Council interview, Webster says she sees herself as “a musical ambassador for social issues.”
“Not until I came to America, did I question things. As a result, my song messaging changed from personal experiences to social issues. I also feel a need to compose music that draws from my Afro-centricity, seeking to act as a musical ambassador to break down barriers between people of different backgrounds.”~KeruBo, in a Vermont Arts Council article
Find Multilingual Resources for New Americans at COVIDSupportVT.
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