Soledad O’Brien Documentary Focuses On Homeless In First Days Of COVID-19

In the Bible, Cain lobs a sarcastic, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” in response to God’s query about Abel’s whereabouts and indirectly, his well-being. Before the appearance of COVID-19, many Americans, in the face of homelessness, lack of health care, and other public policy issues effectively had the same attitude. In her new documentary, renowned journalist and producer, Soledad O’Brien’s illustrates the pandemic has, if not changed hearts, certainly changed some minds.

“Pandemic In Seattle,” airing and streaming on WORLD Channel platforms September 7, 2020 at 9 p.m. EST, provides a glimpse at the shift in attitudes wrought by one of the most consequential events the modern world has ever experienced; and it happened quite by accident she tells The Baltimore Times.

Film subject Stevie Habedank in a screen grab from Local USA Pandemic in Seattle.

Image Courtesy of WORLD Channel

Film subject Stevie Habedank in a screen grab from Local USA Pandemic in Seattle.

O’Brien was shooting in Seattle in early 2020 as the nature and scope of COVID-19 unfolded, but the story wasn’t about COVID-19. “We were shooting a story on homelessness,” O’Brien explains.”Then it became very clear early on, that Seattle was going to be the tip of the spear and we were going to have to shift dramatically the way we were telling the story.”

The story, says O’Brien went from, what do you do about a community in crisis to, “What do you do for a community already in crisis when a crisis hits?” Compounding the issue for Seattle was the fact that there was no map showing in which direction to go. The Obama administration had erected an office to deal with pandemics, but that was scrapped by the trump administration.

“A lot of the people who we talked to on the ground in Seattle,” said O’Brien, “were very sympathetic to people who are homeless and really struggling, but until there was a crisis they never thought about, where do you wash your hands? How do you have sanitary conditions when you are living in your vehicle, when sanitary conditions become essential?”

A screen grab from Local USA Pandemic in Seattle.

Image Courtesy of WORLD Channel

A screen grab from Local USA Pandemic in Seattle.

Pandemic in Seattle follows the lives of three Seattle area women dealing with a crisis unprecedented in its magnitude in the modern era: Patty Hayes, the Seattle and King County public health director, Stevie Habedank, a homeless woman living in a car with her family. Then there is Katherine Kempf, whose elderly father resides in the Kirkland Life Care Center, a nursing home that was considered the “epicenter of the coronavirus.”

Without a doubt, coronavirus has brought many lessons. One of those is, we are in fact our brother’s keeper if only to ensure our own health and safety. “With the pandemic people understood,” explained O’Brien, “that your neighbor’s sanitation and your neighbor’s health is related to your own health.”

Many homeless learned that they had been effectively gaslighted by public officials. They were told of the exceedingly limited abilities of local government to provide basic shelter for the least among us. COVID-19 exposed the lie. Pandemic In Seattle graphically illustrates how quickly housing went up for Seattle’s homeless after coronavirus arrived. So-called “tiny houses” which often took months to go up, went up in days. Hotel rooms and other contingency housing was speedily made available. “We heard from a lot of homeless people, saying where was this like two months ago?” explained O’Brien.

O’Brien hopes viewers will come away, “Understanding exactly how much of a struggle coronavirus has been for people who are homeless wherever they are, not just in Seattle.”

She also hopes it will spur viewers into coming up with solutions, “that protect the homeless and protect the greater community as well.” O’Brien sees this as an opportunity for all of us to be more compassionate. “How do we make these changes for homeless people when we’re not in a pandemic?” asks O’Brien.

Though O’Brien admits that there have been failures in red states as well as blue states, she insists, “The bigger takeaway is not that everybody should be thinking about public health individually. It doesn’t work that way. Public health should be an American priority. Our priority is to make sure we don’t kill the economy, and we don’t kill 180,000 people.”

O’Brien sees public health response as a litmus test for the decency and health of a society as a whole. “Communities, cities, countries are judged by how they care for the needs of their citizens, and I think it’s really clear that when it comes to dealing with people who are struggling, we really haven’t done a very good job as a country.”

World Channel show page for Pandemic in Seattle:

Beyond the Lens interview with Soledad O’Brien and Rose Arce

Take The Wheel

Do you feel like you’re going through the motions in life with no destination? Now, may be your time to assume control of your situation. Take the wheel today and start moving with intention to create a plan to order the steps for your future— deciding what you’re going to do and who you’re going to be.

A wise friend once told me, “Everyday you have a decision to make.” It’s important to take that statement literally and move with intent and purpose in every aspect of your life. As a result, you will find yourself in places destined to achieve the greatness ordained over your life.

R&B singer, Bryson Tiller, struck a chord when he said, “Sometimes my life is moving so fast that I forget what’s going on.” Too often we move at such a quick pace that we forget about what we actually achieved and fail to set a definitive plan. While it’s important to live in the moment, it’s twice as important to take a second and set the pace for your future.

Be specific across the board making sure your desires are clear and understood. Whether it’s through prayer, jotting down a plan in your journal, or asking people who can help you achieve a goal, it’s important to always be specific about your needs. When you are not explicit about what you expect, you can leave room for the unknown. However, when you know what you want and what you deserve, ask for it and the door will be opened to you.

Comparison creates discouragement, which is the thief of joy. Don’t miss out on your destiny because you’re afraid your vision will be compared to someone else’s. You will also be doing a disservice to your future by holding on to your past— comparing the person you are today with the person you used to be. When you compare yourself with who you were yesterday, you attempt to go back to who you were instead of embracing who you are called to be.

Take control by making peace with your past and letting go of anything that may be stifling your growth, so you can move on daring to live boldly. Being intentional with effective communication is key when it comes to building healthy relationships, learning more, and improving your life at work and at home. When you practice active listening, you will open your mind to ideas, new perspectives and new possibilities. This is not the only key to genuine and empathetic engagement; it also has the potential to increase positive emotions. Communicating clearly is one of the most effective skills you can cultivate as a leader.

If you look at a map you may be confused as to exactly how to get to your destination but once you turn on the GPS the step-by-step directions will give you a clearer guide. Life is the same way. When you step back and look at what you desire you know that it’s possible to get there you just have to be intentional about taking the necessary steps to order your life on the road to success. It’s also okay if you take a wrong turn, as long as you get back on the road to the path designed for you. Start today by putting your life in drive and taking control over your destiny.

Positively Caviar, Inc. is a nonprofit organization focused on a message of positivity and optimism. Once a month, our Nucleus Team writes a column focused on mental and physical health tips, scientific studies, nutrition facts and stories that are positive in nature to support a purposeful and positive lifestyle. To learn more about our organization, the nucleus team or how you join our positive movement, visit:

Vaile Leonard Chosen As 2020 New Thought Walden Awards Honoree

The Rev. Vaile Leonard’s life is the one that read’s like a story book. For years, she battled a heroin addiction. After decades of addiction, she overcame her habit to found what many consider one of the most successful recovery centers in the country –Light of Truth Center, Inc. (LTC). The residential therapeutic treatment program has been credited with helping dozens of women overcome drug addiction. Her story now includes another remarkable chapter. She is a 2020 New Thought Walden Awards Honoree.

The prestigious award honors those who use empowering spiritual ideas and philosophies to change lives and make the planet a better place. Nominations were received from the public, and each was considered carefully by a selection committee comprised of representatives from partner organizations.

Rev. Leonard was among 20 honorees chosen in six categories: New Thought Wisdom, Interfaith and Intercultural Understanding, Social and Environ- mental Activism, Creative Arts and Entertainment, Next Generation (under 40), and Mind/Body Connection and Healing. Rev. Leonard was selected for the Social and Environmental Activism category.

“My mind could not grasp how it happened,” said Rev. Leonard. “I thought someone was pulling my leg. It’s just been an incredible experience. It’s an honor, and I am really humbled by it.”

Each honoree is being profiled in the September/October 2020 issue of Unity Magazine and listed in the September 2020 issue of Science of Mind magazine. Honorees are also being featured in a podcast series on Unity Online Radio (

“The honorees include both well- known individuals and relatively unsung heroes alike, each of whom has made a valuable contribution to furthering the ideas at the core of New Thought,” says Unity Magazine ® editor Katy Koontz, a member of the selection committee. “Our goal with the Waldens is not only to honor these fine people and spotlight their notable accomplishments but also to inspire others to follow in their footsteps.”

The New Thought Walden Awards partner organizations include Unity, Centers for Spiritual Living, Association for Global New Thought, Agape International Spiritual Center, Divine Science Federation International, Universal Foundation for Better Living, and Affiliated New Thought Network.

Unity World Headquarters at Unity Village, Missouri, publishes Unity Magazine and Daily Word ®, while the Unity prayer ministry, Silent Unity offers support 24/7 (receiving nearly 1.4 million prayer requests annually). Unity was founded in 1889 and helps people of all faiths apply positive spiritual principles in their daily lives. Unity Worldwide Ministries supports Unity ministries, their leaders and congregants around the world.

Rev. Leonard said the Walden Award shines a national spotlight on LTC. “Folk never hear about us,” said Leonard. “This awards gives us the opportunity to be exposed to a larger community. The hope is that someone will hear something that moves them to support the work that we do.”

LTC has recovery houses on Wheeler Avenue, Lafayette Avenue, N. Patterson Park Avenue, and Payson Street, and also operates a training center. Women living in the homes work on a self- improvement plan while living as a family unit to support their own and each other’s recovery process.

The New Thought Walden Award is among a long list of honors Rev. Leonard has received. She is also a recipient of The Positive People Awards, an honor given to individuals who work to improve their quality of life and that of their community.

For more information about Rev. Leonard and The New Thought Walden Awards, visit

Black Americans and COVID-19 Clinical Trials

The unrelenting spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) throughout the United States of America in 2020, continues to pose an unprecedented public health crisis for all Americans, but in particular for Black Americans and other people of color who are disproportionately negatively impacted by COVID-19.

As the trusted voice of Black America, the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) in March of 2020 established the NNPA Coronavirus Task Force as a means of increasing public awareness about the overall preexisting health disparities in Black America and the disproportionately fatal consequences of COVID-19 for Black Americans and other people of color.

In fact, the NNPA and our Coronavirus Task Force were the first to issue a national “State of Emergency” declaration on April 3, 2020 to warn Black Americans and others about the evolving dangers and public health risks of COVID-19.

Earlier this year, there were just too many myths and other misinformation circulating primarily via social media falsely asserting that “Black people and people of African descent were immune to COVID-19 because of the presence of melanin.” Of course, that assertion is not true. Yet, unfortunately, too many people in our communities began to risk infection to COVID-19 because of falsehoods and misinformation.

The media has a responsibility to research and report the truth.

This year marks the 193rd year of the Black Press of America. Since Freedom’s Journal was first published in March of 1827, the Black Press has remained on the front lines of publishing and speaking truth to power by demanding freedom, justice and equality.

All of this brings me to state categorically, “Black Americans have to be involved at all levels of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. We cannot afford to be silent, detached, denied, or prevented from being at the decision-making tables in terms of COVID-19-based public health policies, research, clinical trials, remedies, and vaccine development. Our lives and future are at stake.”

The good news is that today there are many Black American physicians, infectious disease scholars, clinicians, medical researchers, nurses and others on the front lines as first responders and as leaders inside the major pharmaceutical companies that are striving to develop a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19.

We are profoundly aware that within our communities there has been a historical and contemporary distrust of medical research. However, the challenge today is for more Black Americans to be involved at every point of the development of a COVID-19 vaccine to ensure that the medical rights and interests of Black Americans are thoroughly protected, respected, and addressed effectively and truthfully.

In other words, Black American engagement is crucial and critical in the development of a COVID-19 vaccine — including participation in clinical trials — to make sure that the new vaccine is effective to prevent Blacks and others from COVID-19 infections.

Three years ago, the NNPA, Howard University and Pfizer collaborated to do a national landmark poll and study of awareness of Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) among Black Americans. This was important because Black Americans are disproportionately impacted by SCD across the nation.

Included in that NNPA-Howard University-Pfizer poll was the issue of Black Americans’ willingness to participate in clinical trials with respect to SCD. We were pleased to learn and to document that 76% of the Black American poll respondents had positive or neutral attitudes toward SCD clinical trials, and a majority indicated a willingness to participate in future clinical trials for SCD, given appropriate knowledge and recommendations from health care professionals.

It is urgent that in the strategic rush to develop an effective COVID-19 vaccine for all people, that Black Americans are not left out of the process. The health of our families and communities necessitates our involvement to raise all the questions that need to be raised, and at the same time to participate responsibly in the COVID-19 clinical trials.

Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. is the President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and can be reached at