ROBESON COUNTY, N.C. (WBTW) — The Community Organized Relief Effort, the Lumbee Tribe, UNC Pembroke and several other organizations teamed up Sunday for a memorial recognizing those who have died from COVID-19.
Wyvis Oxendine, Jr. started the ceremony with a song and spoke about his father, a victim of the virus.
“It was similar to a lot of your stories,” Oxendine said. “Ventilator, couldn’t breathe on his own. “I’m thankful that one day I’ll get to be with him again in a city not built by earthly hands.”
According to CORE, more than 400 people have died from COVID-19 in Robeson County. Many families in the tight-knit community have felt the impact of these deaths.
“As native people, we don’t necessarily think of ourselves as individuals but as family members, community members,” Dr. Cherry Beasley, dean of UNC Pembroke’s health sciences college, said.
With only 38 percent of Robeson County’s population fully vaccinated, Beasley said one goal of the event was to encourage people to get the vaccine so the community can once again gather in person.
Reggie Brewer of the Lumbee Tribe Boys and Girls Club performed songs and burned sage at the ceremony. He cited distrust as one reason for the area’s low vaccination rate.
“Introducing smallpox in blankets as a type of warfare, so that creates mistrust with the federal government,” Brewer said.
Local vendors and resources for both mental and physical health were on site, along with a mobile vaccination clinic. It included a motorcycle ride to the Lumbee Cultural Center where the event continued.
“If there is any message that we can give today, it would be to encourage our people to please take advantage of all the shields that are available to you,” Linda Maynor Oxendine, CORE’s area director, said.