MR. CAPEHART: Good morning again. I’m Jonathan Capehart, opinion writer for The Washington Post. Welcome to another in our series of conversations on the coronavirus. Today we’re tackling vaccine hesitancy and distribution with two of the six Black CEOs who just announced an initiative to combat misinformation about vaccines and provide equitable access to them. Kevin Washington is president and CEO of YMCA of the USA, and Clarence Anthony is CEO and executive director of the National League of Cities. Gentlemen, welcome to Washington Post Live.

MR. WASHINGTON: Thank you for having me.

MR. ANTHONY: Yeah, thank you. Appreciate the opportunity.

MR. CAPEHART: All right, Clarence, and I see you have the clear frames memo.

MR. ANTHONY: Yes, I do. I told you earlier, I needed to step up my game if I'm going to be on with you today. And what an honor. I really, really appreciate what you've been doing.

MR. CAPEHART: Oh, well, thank you. And this is not about me. This is about the work that you two are doing. And I'm going to start with Kevin on this. Tell us about the initiative that's been launched and what specific things do you hope to accomplish?

MR. WASHINGTON: Well, first of all, thank you for having us. Me and Clarence have been having a great time together talking about the opportunity to really inform our communities about this vaccine. We want to make sure they get specific information, correct information so they can make a decision, an informed decision about the vaccine. We hope that they take it, because we know that this COVID-19 is a very, very--a very dangerous disease, and the vaccine will prevent folks from having encompass [phonetic] that. So that's our plan. Inform as many people as possible, use our trusted names in our communities to ensure that we inform our peoples, particularly those Black and brown folks and folks who have been on the other side of this inequitable situation to ensure that they get the right information to make the right decision for themselves and for their families.

MR. CAPEHART: All right. Let's--I want to go there and talk about vaccine hesitancy. I did an interview with Congresswoman Karen Bass of California, the former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, and she was talking about her concern about this focus on vaccine hesitancy in the Black community. And her big concern was that that focus on vaccine hesitancy in the community will somehow be used as an excuse to not provide equitable access to the vaccine in the Black community. And I'm wondering about this, that the focus on hesitancy within our community, especially when there are polls out there that show that Republicans, and particularly Republican men, are more hesitant than anybody in the country when it comes to the vaccine. Clarence, you take this.

MR. ANTHONY: Yeah, I think, first of all, acknowledging that there is hesitancy in the Black community and other communities is important. I think that our hesitancy is based upon history, the history of the medical and health community and the testing that we've experienced in terms of our women as well as our other folks in our community. All people of color had hesitance based upon facts.

I think it's important, as you indicated, that we need to go beyond that, and we need to just say, look, we're dying more than double the rate of Whites. We're being hospitalized three times the rate of Whites. And yet we're not getting access, and we have lower numbers. So, this campaign is about the facts and motivating people to--our residents, our citizens to learn, first of all, and to make your own decision. But the bottom line is, our country has to do better. We have to do better to get this information out.

MR. CAPEHART: Kevin, then, so is access part of the problem when it comes to lower vaccination rates among some communities of color?

MR. WASHINGTON: I think access is one of the issues, Jonathan. But I also think hesitancy is one of the issues, you know? I've been around a few years. I can remember going to school to take the sugar cubes for polio quite a few years ago. But we know that there has been a history in this country that has targeted minorities. And so, there is a real sense of hesitancy about their ability to take vaccinations and any medical issues. So, whether or not it's true in some instances, it's been fabricated, but, you know, what they say, perception is reality. And that perception is strong and deep in communities of color.

So, yes, hesitancy is an issue. And I think the campaign that not only us but others have engaged in has really opened up the opportunities for people of color to recognize that they need to step forward and take this vaccine. But getting the information first and foremost, I can tell you, from a personal perspective, it is important that we as a people of color--because this COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on our community. So, we need to continue to educate so folks will take this opportunity to take the vaccine.

MR. CAPEHART: Mm-hmm. And, Clarence, I want to pick up on a word that Kevin just used, "fabricated," in terms of information. Fabricated information. I'm wondering, has misinformation online contributed to the hesitancy or lack of urgency within the Black community to get the vaccine?

MR. ANTHONY: Yes, it has. And I have a lot of family members and friends who called me and asked my opinion, and they say what they have seen on social media and the stories that they've heard about the impact after taking the vaccine. And I'll just say that a trusted voice is important. And all of us have had our journey. You know, I've had my journey. When it first came out, because of the voice and the conflicting information, I said, no, I think I'm going to wait. But as trusted voices started to happen in the Black medical community, the Black scientists, the Black CEOs, who themselves are human and had the same journey of getting comfortable beyond hesitation, makes a difference. So as Kevin and I work together on this with the other CEOs, our number-one goal here is to encourage people to have their own journey to find out the information on your own so that you will make that decision. And we hope that it'd be one that you would get this vaccine for your long-term health.

MS. CAPEHART: And actually, my mother is--was just like you, Clarence. When the vaccine first came out, she said I'm going to wait, I'm going to wait and see. And then I talked to her later about it, and she said, well, when Dr. Fauci gets it, I'll get it.

MR. ANTHONY: No, it's funny. I have friends, Jonathan, that will say I want to go in the Northwest area of D.C. I don't want to get it in Southeast. I was like, why. It's not going to make a difference. Yes, it is. It's just that level of mistrust and hesitancy. And we have to acknowledge it. The fact that we are talking about it is the fact that we are acknowledging that it's real. And I'm not going to talk down to someone and say that's not true. To them it's true. And that's where we want to meet them where they are.

MR. CAPEHART: And we have an audience question actually on this very point. I just want to point out that my mom is fully vaccinated. She got her second shot last week. This is a--this is a question from Free Clarke in Florida. How do we engage those who say the vaccine is riskier than the chances of mortality with the coronavirus? Kevin, do you want to take that?

MR. WASHINGTON: I will take that. And you know what, Jonathan, I can talk from a personal experience. I've had two people--my brother and my best friend's wife--have lost their life to COVID-19. That to me is a sure example of how important it is for us to take this vaccine. I know that how difficult the experiences have been for people who said that the vaccine is not going to prevent them from getting COVID. I'm telling you, I'm here to say that's not true, from a real-life experience. You know, my brother was 70 years old. He thought he had a sinus infection, and two days later he was dead. So, I say to you, I say to you this is serious. This is serious. It's nothing--and I recognize you've got to get the information, which is important--but the reality is, COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on our communities, more importantly, Black and brown communities. So, while I understand your hesitancy, it's pretty clear that we've lost, what, 550,000 people across this country. That's not enough to say, please, please, move forward and take this vaccine when you get the opportunity.

MR. CAPEHART: And, Kevin, I want to express to you my condolences. I don't know when your brother passed away, but clearly it doesn't matter when because the emotion is and the loss is coming through the screen for everyone to see. Being at the YMCA, Kevin, you serve 10,000 communities across America. What are you specifically doing on the vaccine front, and how are the young people the Y encounters responding?

MR. WASHINGTON: Great question. We have been actively engaged with partners across this country to ensure that people are getting the right information. As you said, we're in 10,000 communities. And I can give you some examples of some the things that's happening in our YMCAs across the country. Our Jackie Robinson YMCA in San Diego recently held a vaccine opportunity, and they had over a thousand people take Johnson & Johnson vaccines at our YMCA in the Jackie Robinson YMCA. Our YMCAs in New York City, they're serving, they're partnering with the city and the mayor's office to have opportunities that the YMCAs in the Bronx and Brooklyn, four YMCAs, two in the Bronx and two in Brooklyn, to ensure that folks have access to that. Our YMCA in Chicago has set up a hotline so that they can interpret, particularly for people of Spanish descent, to be able to have conversations and answer their questions about the vaccine. And we've partnered with the--CVS and Lyft, Lyft to take people to and from locations to get their vaccines. And with CVS, in six cities, those six cities are Baltimore, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles, and Miami as places where they can come and get shots. So, we really believe, as a trusted voice and as a vital community asset in many communities, the opportunity to engage, to educate and provide access to folks is one of the things we do in order to do what we do as an organization, which is around youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility. As it comes to young people, we haven't engaged as many of them yet. But I suspect as the vaccine becomes a place--or the opportunity to start vacating young people, we will be still there to ensure that we're providing access and opportunity for the young folks in those communities that we serve.

MR. CAPEHART: Clarence, your turn. The National League of Cities represents 19,000 municipalities, but every municipality is unique. How do you tailor your pitch to the specific needs of each community?

MR. ANTHONY: Well, I think it's important first of all to recognize that mayors and councilmembers all over America are the ones that are home going to the Post Office, going to any other facility, and folks see them and they expect them to lead and to deal with the tough issues. So, we're encouraging our leaders to form partnerships with YMCAs, the 10,000 YMCAs, the health departments, non-profits and community-based organizations. We have cities all over America that are providing free rides to vaccination sites, because 45 percent of Americans, especially in the African American community, don't have the access. They're using public transportation, and so you're already putting yourself at risk. So, we're challenging them to think about it.

The other piece that's important in cities and addressing this is that we've got to be able to know the data and know the gaps and know where the folks who have not gotten the vaccine, where they are, what race they are. So, we're encouraging our city leaders to be able to work to get that kind of data so that they can address it. Now one of the most important things that I think I'm sharing in our message is that this is not just the Black elected officials, this is just not the Black community's issue to help motivate all citizens. It's all of our municipal leaders, no matter where you're from or your background. If you're elected, you're elected to lead. And this is an issue that you need to lead on and get comfortable doing it.

MR. CAPEHART: Well, Clarence, I'm going to stick with you here because you're a representative of the public sector. You're a former mayor in Florida for South Bay, I believe?

MR. ANTHONY: Yes.

MR. CAPEHART: And you were elected mayor when you were 24, but I'm just going to leave that--leave that to the side. What do you think--what do you think government has done well and has done poorly during this pandemic?

MR. ANTHONY: Yeah, I think that's a good question. I believe if I had to share my thoughts on it, I--first of all, we have to--I don't think we acknowledged that we had an issue early enough, and then we didn't provide the information about access and impact. And now what I've seen through working more positively and more coordinated with the mayors and councilmembers, we're recognizing that technology is important to get access, but also a lot of our aged community, older communities are not, you know, using technology. And that's why we partnered with AARP. The locations--and you talk about Florida, and you've read the articles and seen some of the stories about my hometown, Belle Glade, South Bay, was where I was mayor, the governor in our state had the sites in the wealthiest community. And we were on 60 Minutes showing that it took us two and a half hours, majority-Black community, two and a half hours on public transportation back and forth to get that vaccine. So, I think we've got a lot of work to do, and we've got to be real. We've got to have real solutions and think about how do we implement initiatives and vaccine distributions that's tailored and can be effective. And our city leaders are really committed to doing that in an equitable way.

MR. CAPEHART: I'm going to give both of you this question. I'm going to start with Kevin, and this is the Biden administration. The Biden administration recently unveiled its first television ads encouraging Americans to get vaccinated. What more would you like to see from the administration to improve trust and equity around vaccines?

MR. WASHINGTON: Well, I think, first of all, they started off on a good foot with being aware of the fact that equity and looking through how distribution of the vaccine has to be looked through an equitable lens. So, I will give them great credit for that. They need to continue to do more in terms of investment, in terms of positioning. And I've seen some great ads that some of the other--like I saw the NBA ad, where they've done some things. So, continuing to engage trusted voices to talk about the importance of everybody getting engaged in this process, particularly our Black and brown community.

You know, I'm in Philadelphia right now, Jonathan. And I will say to you that the Black doctors here in Philadelphia have done an exceptional job of being on the ground, in churches all across the city. Those are the kinds of things that the Biden administration can hold up to show that it's possible to do this in an--from an equitable perspective and engage as many people as possible. I will say to you that work, continuing to do that, to highlight that, will encourage more folks who have that sense of hesitancy now to get to step forward and take the vaccine. So continuing look through an equitable lens, continuing to use their resources to highlight great examples where it's working effectively, and continuing to show trusted voices that folks know and believe in and can help us continue to get all of our folks engaged and vaccinated. I think that's what the Biden administration have done.

They've also--we have to give them credit for their ability to get the vaccine on the streets. I mean, they have really, really upturned production to the point where I think the most recent statement the president said was, everyone who wants a vaccination can have it by April 19th or after April 19th, and it was May 1st at one point. So, they've done an exceptional job of getting the product there. Now the question is making sure we get the folks there, particularly those folks who are less inclined to do so. So, continuing to up their game in that arena, is what I think they need to continue to do.

MR. CAPEHART: Your view, Clarence?

MR. ANTHONY: Yeah, I agree with Kevin. And the only thing I'd add is, get it as closest to the people as possible. Our mayors and councilmembers go to church with folks. They know them at the grocery store, and they're the ones that need to be a part of this. I mean, you know, the mayor of Baltimore, for example, launched a mobile vaccine to homebound seniors. And that's a population too that really concerns me as we move forward as a nation, because that health of that population is going to be very difficult to reach the homebound seniors, especially those that are of color. So, I think we've got to be really strategic and use the closest level of government to make sure that they know that you are in fact okay with learning about this--but again, taking this vaccine is essential to a quality life. That's the point that's important to me.

MR. CAPEHART: How concerned are you both by the rise in cases? I think I saw a new data point early this morning. It was early, so I might have it a bit wrong, but it was like 80,000 new cases yesterday. The curve--the curve is starting to inch back up. And you've got the vaccines. You've got the warmer weather. You've got folks after more than a year of social isolation itching to get out. Are you concerned that we are about to go into I think it's a fourth wave?

MR. WASHINGTON: Go ahead, Clarence.

MR. ANTHONY: No, I was going to say I am--I am very--I work in Washington, D.C., but I'm in Florida right now. I'm very concerned about folks and how they are responding at this time because they've been stuck in the house and they want to get out. But what we're trying to really encourage people to do is just be patient with us. We're going to make sure that your communities are safe. We're going to get you the data. We're going to get you the information. We're going to base it on science. And if we keep that mantra going on for I hope another six months, I believe that we can make significant impact. But we only have 20 million folks that are vaccinated in our nation. And with that, we have a lot more work to do.

So just please be patient with us, especially our African American community. I want to get back to playing golf. I want to get back to being able to hug Kevin when I see him. I really do. But I'm going to wait--first of all, because he's a lot bigger than I am--but I'm going to wait before I do that.

MR. CAPEHART: Kevin.

MR. WASHINGTON: Well, I like the idea that you want to play golf, Clarence. I think we can do that--we can do that in a while. But I agree with Clarence. I think that clearly people have been boarded up for quite a while, and there's this high level of anxiety to get out. I'm really concerned that what you see in those numbers, Jonathan, is young people. Those folks 18 to 25 who we all know--I mean, I think I can remember that far back; it was quite a while for me--we think we are invincible. We think--they think they are invincible, and they're actually not. So, as I've understood it recently, a number of the cases involve those young folks who really, really want to get out and do their thing. We need to just hold on. We've come a long way. We've made significant progress. I do not want us to go back into where we were last April and May in those significant lockdowns. We're so close to the finish line.

And I know there's a lot of pent up anxiety in people. The weather's great, as you say, Jonathan, and people are ready to explode. Clarence is ready to play golf with me, and I can take a few dollars from him. But we just have to wait. We just have to wait. We're so close to this--to beating this pandemic.

And I'm hopeful that as the messages that will keep coming out from the president and others--hold on. He said--he said July 4th we can have some barbecue and picnics at that time, with some good potato salad and some other things. I'm hopeful that that message sticks and that people recognize that we're too close and that we've come too far to turn back now. We've come too far to turn back now.

MR. ANTHONY: Agreed, agreed.

MR. CAPEHART: Folks are--folks are itching to get those invitations out for the barbecue this summer.

MR. WASHINGTON: Amen.

MR. CAPEHART: Can I switch gears? I know we're--I know we're talking about vaccine hesitancy in the Black community. We've got less than 5 minutes left. I want you to take off your official hats, no National League of Cities, no YMCA of the USA. We're three Black men sitting here talking while the Derek Chauvin trial is happening. And I would love it, in the time that we have left, just to get your impressions of the trial. Even if you haven't been paying attention to the trial, just talk about why not. Clarence, I'll start with you. Just we've got about five minutes, so have at it.

MR. ANTHONY: Yeah. Well, I have been watching the trial. Not every part of it, but I've been watching it. And you know, I'm--as a Black man, it really hurts me and it resonates with me, because I am one of those Black Americans that believe in democracy. I believe in governance. I believe in our mayors and councilmembers. And to see what occurred on that video, over nine minutes, just took so much personally out of me. And I had to actually just think about it and not go angry and not think about how I can help in that situation. And I hold my breath--and I think you've said that too, Jonathan--that, yes, we can see all of that play out on this video, but still that hesitancy around whether we can get a fair shake in the criminal justice system still provides me with pause. And I am so scared that what I see will not be seen the same way by others.

Now back on my hat, you know, if this gets a not guilty verdict, I go into CEO of the National League of Cities. I have to help my members to be able to manage this in their communities, give them the tools to be able to lead a diverse community and have conversations and transparency, or we're going to have a lot of disruption and protests in our cities. And that concerns me. But as a Black man, I watch it, and I can tell you, as successful and blessed as I am, on the weekend, if you saw me, I'm with a hoodie and a pair of sweats with a pair of tennis shoes. You would not know I'm the CEO of the National League of Cities. And so, I still have that hesitancy around being safe myself.

MR. CAPEHART: Kevin.

MR. WASHINGTON: Well, Jonathan, thank you. First of all, putting my YMCA CEO hat on, I concur with my good friend Clarence, that if there's a not guilty verdict, we've got some work to do to ensure that our communities stay safe, and we're part of that process to make that happen. Being a Black man in America and watching this happen for quite a few years, what I've said is there's a level of frustration, anger, but there's also hopefulness that this time--this time we may get it right. We may get it right. I'm hopeful.

I've watched the trial, and I cannot quite frankly, Jonathan, watch the tape anymore. I can't. Because it is so heart wrenching, and it brings about some different kinds of emotions. So, when the tape is played--and it's played often during the course of the trial--I turn away because I can't watch it anymore.

I'm hopeful that as this trial proceeds, that it will show clearly that what happened to George Floyd should not have happened in any way, shape, or form in our society. And I'm hopeful that the jury will make that I would--what I believe to be the right decision. But if it doesn't, I have to put my YMCA of the USA hat on and help our communities heal. Because I do believe that that healing process will have to happen quickly, and we have to be ready and prepared to ensure that that does--that peaceful process happens. Because there is pent-up demand, and we have to be prepared to address that as organizations that are committed to strengthening community. But as a Black man, I've seen this play out before.

MR. ANTHONY: Jonathan, 30 seconds for me?

MR. CAPEHART: No, go ahead.

MR. ANTHONY: I don't want to leave this on a negative, because I am excited to be a Black man in America. Every day I get up and say I'm thankful to be who I am. And I want America to know that this concern that we have is not about us feeling sorry for ourselves, because let me tell you, I love who I am, my authentic Black CEO self every morning. But what I want is like what everybody else wants, to acknowledge me. I don't need your validation. I just need you to acknowledge that I am who I am, and I love being who I am. And when we can get to a place where people don't like me because of my confidence and my success, then I think we won't have to worry about and be concerned about some of the things we're concerned about in our country. But let me leave y'all with one thing. I am so proud to be who I am and celebrate the authenticity of me every day, every day.

MR. WASHINGTON: We know that, Clarence. Listen.

MR. ANTHONY: Yes, sir, Kevin.

MR. WASHINGTON: What I say is I'm comfortable in my own skin. I'm very comfortable in my own skin. And I'll also say what Doc Rivers said. Black folks have always loved America. We just want--we want them to love us back.

MR. ANTHONY: That's true. Hey, and I love you guys. I love you guys. You all know that.

MR. WASHINGTON: Clarence--[audio interference].

MR. ANTHONY: Jonathan, we have a good time with each other, as you can tell.

MR. CAPEHART: No, I know. I'm saying--I feel like I've been inducted into this fantastic club. Now we are way overtime. I'm so glad, Clarence, that you said what you said to end on a positive note. I also was going to end on a positive note by saying as horrifying as the death of George Floyd was, as horrifying as the trial has been to see the video over and over again, I take comfort in the fact that immediately after the killing of George Floyd, America took to the streets and demanded justice for him and demanded that the country live up to its ideals. And as this trial goes forward, I think we're all sitting and hoping that the jury will see the same. Kevin Washington, President and CEO of YMCA of the USA. Clarence Anthony, CEO and Executive Director of the National League of Cities. We are way overtime. I am so thrilled to have gotten to meet you and to have this conversation. Thank you very much for coming to Washington Post Live.

MR. ANTHONY: Thank you. Welcome to the family, Jonathan. You're part of us now. All right, guys, have a good day.

MR. CAPEHART: Great. I don't play golf, but I'll watch you two. Thanks again. Have a good weekend.

MR. ANTHONY: Okay, thank you. Bye.

MR. WASHINGTON: Take care. Bye.

MR. CAPEHART: And as always, thank you for tuning in. Come back at 1:00 p.m. Eastern when my colleague Jackie Alemany interviews Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform about President Biden’s infrastructure plan and the Republican Party. You can always head to WashingtonPostLive.com to register and find out more information about upcoming programs. I’m Jonathan Capehart, opinion writer for The Washington Post. Thank you for watching Washington Post Live.

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