‘Take the Mic’ contest taps community creativity to fight COVID-19

Funded through a nearly $1.4 million NIH grant, the contest is part of a larger effort to address misinformation and mistrust around COVID-19 and the vaccine

December 22, 2020
Written By:
Nardy Baeza Bickel

Have a catchy song you sing with your kids to make sure they wash their hands for 20 seconds? Is there a drawing that helps you remember to wear a mask while in public? Is there someone you would like to recognize with a simple “thank you” for protecting themselves or others from COVID-19?

If so, you can literally “take the mic” to share with your community, and can even win some money in doing so. Whether it’s rapping, singing or dancing, a diverse group of community, academic and public health partners are launching a contest to promote public health strategies to stop the spread of the virus and educate people on the benefits of getting vaccinated.

“We are tapping into the strength and creativity of our community partners to find new ways to deliver messages about the importance of COVID safety practices this winter,” said Lawrence An, associate professor of internal medicine and co-director of the Center for Health Communications Research. “These behaviors will be critical to limit COVID-19 cases and deaths in the upcoming months.”

The “Take the Mic” contest is part of a series of community-engaged efforts funded by a nearly $1.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to address misinformation and mistrust around COVID-19, vaccine trials and the vaccine.

The effort is led by Erica Marsh, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at U-M’s School of Medicine and director of community engagement for the Michigan Institute for Clinical and Health Research, and Barbara Israel, professor of health behavior and health education at U-M’s School of Public Health and director of the Detroit Community-Academic Urban Research Center, in collaboration with a dedicated team of researchers, community leaders and grassroots and faith-based organizations.

The group’s focus is zeroed in on the Michigan counties most affected by the pandemic: Wayne, Genesee, Kent and Washtenaw.

“Minority populations start at a significant disadvantage in receiving optimal health care for many reasons, and the COVID-19 pandemic has been no different in its significant impact on African American and Latino populations,” said Felix Valbuena Jr., chief executive officer of the Community Health and Social Services Center Inc., who serves alongside Marsh on NIH’s national steering committee for the initiative Community Engagement Alliance Against COVID-19 Disparities.

“Our collaborative efforts will work to bring science-based, culturally proficient resources to the communities we serve to improve the outcomes of this devastating pandemic,” Valbuena said.

Tape it, write it, share it

For the contest, community members are asked to submit ideas that recognize and positively reinforce COVID-19 safety practices (e.g., social distancing, mask wearing, hand washing, getting vaccinated). Participants can respond in a variety of artistic mediums—written word photographs, drawings or other art, or audio or video messages.

“Take the Mic” focuses on the actions of everyday people. While submissions are unlimited, participants will be compensated $10 for up to two submissions (one per category) and must live in Wayne, Genesee, Kent or Washtenaw counties. Finalists will be chosen by a panel of community leaders. Winners will be selected by the community and announced publicly. Prizes range from $100 to $500. Submissions close on Monday, Jan. 25.

The partner organizations are: Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS), Bethel AME Church, Bibleway Outreach Ministries, Bridges into the Future, Buenos Vecinos, Community Based Organization Partners, Community Health and Social Services Center Inc., Detroit Hispanic Development Corp., Eastside Community Network, Friends of Parkside, Health Net of West Michigan, Historic King Solomon Baptist Church, National Center for African American Consciousness, New West Willow Neighborhood Association and Spectrum Health.

For prompts or to enter the contest, visit: Take the Mic.