Community Partnership Focuses on Cultural Relevancy in COVID-19 Communications

Health system partners with Benton Harbor health advocate and music artists

February 8, 2021

Benton Harbor, Mich., February 8, 2021 – Community Grand Rounds, a program of Spectrum Health Lakeland, has teamed up with music artists and community health advocates in Benton Harbor to deliver messages they hope inspire communities across West Michigan and beyond.

As COVID-19 further illuminates health disparities, it also further heightens the importance of inclusion and representation in health communications.

“Simply put, communities need access to health services, PPE and information,” said Lynn Todman, PhD, vice president of health equity for Spectrum Health Lakeland. “Communities also need trusted sources to deliver information that is particularly meaningful and easily accessible.”

Through a grant from the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities, aimed at addressing the disparate impact of COVID-19 experienced by African Americans in Benton Harbor, Spectrum Health Lakeland mobilized free services including COVID-19 testing, health screenings, personal protective equipment, school kits for remote learning and assistance navigating mental health and legal services. The grant also funded a unique partnership with Benton Harbor community advocate, Traci Burton, who enlisted the talent of local music artists to develop COVID-19 safety and health awareness communications tailored toward youth and young adults.

“Music and the power of words resonate with communities of color,” said Burton. “That is true of our Benton Harbor community, particularly among young people. I love this community and want to encourage the people I care about to do their part in helping to control the spread of this virus. Music, fueled by young talent, is the perfect way to do it.”

The result is an awareness campaign called “Play Your Part,” which features two songs written and produced by regional artists.

West Michigan health and human services organizations, including Spectrum Health, Greater Grand Rapids NAACP and Grand Rapids African American Health Institute, have joined the effort. Community members and organizations also are invited to participate by sharing the songs via social media.

“We hope this music speaks to communities all over Michigan,” said Todman. “Ultimately, this collaboration is about helping individuals receive the information they need to make decisions about their health. Those messages can and should look different for every community.”

About the songs

“Play Your Part” is an anthem of hope and inspiration, encouraging people to actively participate in slowing the spread of COVID-19.

Corona Season” is a youthful approach to a message about staying safe during the pandemic.

About the artists

  • Casey Baker is from Gary Indiana. He was a lyricist and co-producer for “Play Your Part.”
  • Cornell Burton Jr. is a national recording artist. He was a sound engineer and producer for “Play Your Part.”
  • Traci Burton is a community influencer in Benton Harbor as well as an entrepreneur. She rallies local talent to positively impact the lives and health of those in her community. She co-produced “Corona Season.”
  • Jazariah Farmer, also known as “Zah Zah the Great,” is an 11-year-old writer and performer from Benton Harbor who attends Lake Michigan Catholic school. Jazariah wrote and performed “Corona Season.”
  • Byron Tate (El Zappo Foreign) is an Atlanta-based music artist and producer. A Benton Harbor native, Zapp continues to use his influence to uplift his hometown. He helped develop “Corona Season” and shares production acknowledgments with Traci Burton and Darrick Palmer.
  • Darrick Palmer is an 18-year-old Benton Harbor resident and beat producer on “Corona Season.”
  • Reginald Peoples is a Kalamazoo, Michigan native who served as sound producer for “Corona Season.”
  • Vanshelli Price is a Michigan native, social media publicist and digital content creator who provided the cover art design and social media promotion for “Corona Season.” She also provided visuals for “Play Your Part.”
  • D’Myron Guidry is a Benton Harbor native and creative film director who provided the creative visual for “Corona Season.”

“Corona Season” premiered during a Facebook Live community conversation on Friday, February 5. Moderated by Spectrum Health, the discussion focused on delivering culturally relevant content to African Americans and other minority communities. You may view the full conversation here.

Spectrum Health System, a not-for-profit, integrated health system, is committed to improving the health and wellness of our communities. We live our mission every day with 31,000 compassionate professionals, 4,600 medical staff experts, 3,300 committed volunteers and a health plan with more than 1 million members. Our talented physicians and caregivers are privileged to offer a full continuum of care and wellness services to our communities through 14 hospitals, including Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, 150 ambulatory sites and telehealth offerings. We pursue health care solutions for today and tomorrow that diversify our offerings. Locally-governed and based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, our health system provided $550 million in community benefit in calendar year 2019. Thanks to the generosity of our communities, we received $37 million in philanthropy to support research, academics, innovation and clinical care. Spectrum Health has been recognized as one of the nation’s 15 Top Health Systems by Truven Health Analytics®, part of IBM Watson HealthTM.

Beth Cranson
Media Relations
Office: 616.391.2603
Mobile: 616.540.0813

Jessica Springer
PR Specialist
Phone: (269) 927-5271