We Must Prioritize COVID Vaccination for our City’s Communities of Color

An Important Message on COVID-19 in Communities of Color, from GOSO President & CEO, Dr. Jocelynne Rainey


We have all seen that the impact of COVID-19 has been devastating. What’s perhaps been most alarming to me is that this year has once again highlighted the disproportionate harm Black and brown communities face through disparities in healthcare and systemically under-resourced communities. We must prioritize timely vaccination for these communities.

At GOSO, over 95% of the young men we work with identify as Black or Latinx. They live in the NYC communities that have been hardest hit by the coronavirus and its impacts — unemployment, food insecurity, loss of housing, gaps in technology, lack of healthcare, and the list goes on. As a Black woman and a resident of the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn, I have seen and felt these impacts firsthand. Communities of color are facing these detrimental circumstances because of a history of systemic racism and the lack of investment into these communities.

This is why I have been proud to be leading an organization like GOSO during this painful time. Places like GOSO have been part of an essential support network for people struggling during this past year, and specifically one of our city’s most vulnerable groups — people with justice involvement. We are grateful that our participants have been able to rely on GOSO’s staff of frontline workers — social workers, employment specialists, and resource providers — to be there.

Our services have never stopped, and we have taken every precaution to ensure our staff can provide these services safely, not risking the health of our participants and community. As of this month, our frontline staff members have begun the vaccination process so that we can feel confident that all of our interactions are as safe as possible.

GOSO participant, Dejon

GOSO participant Dejon working at Great Performances earlier this year to provide warm meals to New Yorkers in need.

We have seen firsthand how our participants and surrounding community have been affected by COVID-19 more harshly than other communities. Like many in the communities where the majority of our participants live, GOSO participants — overwhelmingly young men of color — have been more likely to work in essential jobs like grocery stores, delivering food or mail, working at COVID test centers and many other frontline occupations that keep our City going.

These types of essential jobs must be done in person — leading to decreased chances for effective social distancing. It’s become apparent that certain groups of people are able to remain healthy and COVID-free simply because their jobs, lifestyles, and wealth allow them to follow social distancing regulations. Whereas many others, who were already vulnerable in many ways prior to the pandemic, are the ones continually put at greater risk for infection. The conditions of the places where people are living and working largely determine their health outcomes. People who are working essential jobs like our participants deserve to be protected at work by accessing the vaccine, and soon.

The work we do at GOSO is critical. With the six largest COVID clusters in the U.S. residing in prisons, and the majority of GOSO participants working essential jobs putting them at risk daily, we must prioritize access to vaccinations.

Throughout the pandemic, I have seen that far too many people have had to sacrifice the health and safety of themselves and their loved ones. At GOSO, we strongly believe that no one should be vulnerable to poor health outcomes because of their race, ethnicity, or zip code. Each and every one of us is deserving of the opportunity to have a healthy quality of life, access to affordable healthcare, and to truly thrive.

GOSO’s doors are open and we will continue to serve our participants and community. We will also advocate for vaccines in the communities we serve. Thank you for your continued support of our work.

In Strength and Solidarity,
Jocelynne Rainey
President & CEO, GOSO