Dr. Kiran C. Patel College of Osteopathic Medicine Student Creates Mask Initiative for Overtown Community

With Miami, Florida being a hot spot for COVID-19, areas with large populations of BIPOC in the city lack the funds to keep up with sanitation and protective equipment for its residents. This was witnessed by second-year student Yara Khalifa as she assessed the historic Overtown community while working on a project in her NSU Master of Public Health degree program.

“What I found was that the government, on all levels, conspired to destroy this vibrant community,” Khalifa explained. “Due to prevailing racism, the government systematically persecuted and ruined Overtown by running a bunch of highways through it. President Dwight D. Eisenhower had purposely done that to African American homes and businesses in an attempt to disenfranchise and resegregate.”

As Khalifa learned more about the community along with her grocery drive volunteering at the Masjid Al-Ansar’s mosque—a pillar in the African American Muslim community in Overtown—she learned about the mask shortage and wanted to help. Resistance was met with many of the South Florida mosques due to colorism, which led Khalifa to follow her own life mantra of, “Well, I’m just going to do it myself.”

Through raising awareness in various channels, Khalifa surpassed her initial goal of 1,000 masks, and the mosque’s request of 200, by purchasing around 1,200 masks through monetary and shipped efforts. The masks are to be distributed on the second and fourth Saturday of each month at Masjid Al-Ansar’s grocery food drive in Overtown, with a second mask initiative to follow when the community runs out.