Farisai Dzemwa opinion piece column journalist at I Am Birmingham

Ignorance, misconceptions and unhealthy calm.

As l have be engaging with my community, with my fellow migrants and also with my fellow Africans, my concerns and trepidations have been increasing by the day during the coronavirus crisis.

Just as everything around me has been shutting down with each passing day following the government recommendations to keep ourselves and each other safe and above all reduce the pace at which the coronavirus is spreading, I decided to fully make use of social media (though dreaded and disliked by many) to do what l do best and that is to be a community ‘Health Champion’.

I have already been taking part in several social inclusion, wellness and integration initiatives run by MiFriendly Cities on a voluntary basis due to the fact that l have been facing my own health issues which l do not wish on anyone, even my worst enemy.

Farisai Dzemwa has set up a Community Integration Hub with support from MiFriendly Cities in order to inspire and inform members of the West Midlands African diaspora Farisai Dzemwa
Farisai Dzemwa has set up a Community Integration Hub with support from MiFriendly Cities in order to inspire and inform members of the West Midlands African diaspora

Going back to the drawing board and ground roots to establish authentic alternative and less costly habits of maintaining healthy bodies and healthy minds, I initiated an activities based community hub project to bring out the isolated, marginalised and excluded into the limelight of good health.

My approach to establishing the initial engagement and rapport building includes talks, craft workshops and freestyle dance for health sessions live on Facebook.

This also became part of research to establish if this was indeed an alternative for those struggling to get services from mainstream health services, after all social prescribing has well been encouraging this throughout my locality and l believe right across the United Kingdom.

Community Integration Hub was thus a name l picked for this initiative which is both a social media based hub also physically based in Bilston, Wolverhampton. 

Coronavirus misconceptions

However, just as l was counting down to the launch, coronavirus paid us an unplanned, uninvited and unauthorised visit! I mean, ‘Hello Corona, don’t you know it’s bad manners to turn up unannounced like that?’

Rapidly spreading like wildfire right across the world, it became pretty obvious that the physical ground based hub needed to be put on hold and so l decided to launch the Facebook based live Integration Hub instead; allowing me to interact, engage and encourage women, but what l have learned in the process has shocked and worried me.

“The reception of this COVID-19 by many of my fellow Africans and some fellow Christians amounts to dangerous for themselves and worst still for everyone else.”

The reception of this COVID-19 by many of my fellow Africans and some fellow Christians amounts to dangerous for themselves and worst still for everyone else.  Talking to a friend, her response to my concern was not to worry too much about them. “It’s only a small number that is ignorants that are like this” she told me. 

My response was that this is how we can all die like rats if we ignore this, and not insist on educating everyone including the fool hardy. It can take one person to spread this virus to his family and on average one African family is said to be 4.7 children, which means about 7 people can be put at risk by one person that chooses not to follow guidelines. 

Misconceptions about coronavirus and remedies can put people at grave risk Piron Guillaume
Misconceptions about coronavirus and false remedies can put people at grave risk

As l thought, this is one of the things that I aim to start to address at the hub, not alone but with the women that are as passionate as l am about changing mindsets for health benefits.

Excuses and notions such as, ‘black people can not catch the virus’, ‘It’s the westerners who have created this virus so they can wipe the black communities’, ‘My God will protect me as long as I have faith and those that fear this virus have no faith’, ‘Africa is too warm for this virus to attack us’ etc. are some of the many attitudes that need to be dropped straight away if we are to all play our part in addressing the spread of this very serious virus. I have been doing my part both by following guidelines and by sharing them to all l can reach.

“Excuses and notions such as ‘black people can not catch the virus’ are some of the many attitudes that need to be dropped straight away!”

Ignoring the ignorance will not help us at all as those few that remain ignorant will become instrumental to the spread as more and more people get affected. I have started doing live talks there, sharing, posting information, encouraging reasonable calm while taking precautions as necessary as well as inviting those that are willing to also teach and share so that word continues to go round without ceasing.

I have also been sharing little picture captions and videos of observed progression or deterioration noticed in my community and others shared with me so that awareness is maintained. 

Writing this report has been ignited by my passion to be proactive and my desire to save my own life while saving and serving those that l can which I strongly believe is every human beings call and responsibility.

Prayer alone is not enough, talk alone is not enough and posts on social media alone are not enough. Helping the professionals to help us is the ultimate focus and prerogative so please let us help the professionals help everyone by standing together as one in our own corners wherever that may be.

Though it took a little while for people to start taking this situation seriously, I recently noted that many are now taking the message of safety a little more urgently as l noted the silence and emptiness of my local streets and the emptiness of the car parks at my local hospital (New Cross Hospital, and how deserted it was even inside the  hospital too). The craziness with the panic shopping still continues but is calming down somewhat in my community as well as the need to continue encouraging each other remains.

Here is a question for you and food for thought: How committed are you to your health and life? What does it take for you to achieve this?


This article was written by Farisai Dzemwa from Wolverhampton, who is training as a community journalist with Migrant Voice and MiFriendly Cities’ ‘Media Lab’ initiative – a project co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund through the Urban Innovative Actions Initiative. Author views do not necessarily represent I Am Birmingham or partner organisations.To find out more about how I Am Birmingham is supporting the project, read here.


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