Kern County Tobacco Free Coalition & Community Collaboration Supports Capacity-Building

Bakersfield “Clergy, Cops & Community” members of The LOOP who attended the Mentoring Center training in Oakland, CA with Chelsa Snead and Achebe Hoskins. Featured here are LOOP Technical Assistance Trainer Kevin Keyes and Pastor Toure Tyler.

Bakersfield tobacco control advocates, who are newly-recruited LOOP technical assistance trainers (TATs), recently attended a mentor training hosted by the Mentoring Center in Oakland, California. The group took the opportunity to meet with statewide members of The LOOP including Dr. Valerie Yerger and Carol McGruder who is also the Co-Chair for the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council. Carol and Valerie met with Pastor Toure Tyler from The Cross Christian Church and heard his story about struggling with cigarette addiction as a college student. When he learned about their research on menthol, he wanted to bring those efforts not only to his church but to community and faith-based organizations in Bakersfield. Since then, the groups in Kern County have hosted, under the collaborative efforts of the “Clergy Cops and Community” initiative, “The Great American Smokeout” event at New Life Residential Center. They also hosted “No Menthol Sunday” at The Cross Christian Church.

This capacity-building effort has expanded to include collaborative events working with churches in San Francisco and the Season of Peace Movement to stop gun violence in Bakersfield and Oakland. These collaborative efforts are aimed at addressing both gun violence and tobacco-related diseases. Bakersfield’s Danny Morrison, an active partner in the collaboration, has a powerful movement going called #HowLong, which uses rap music to spread the message of ending gun violence in the community.

New Bakersfield Police Department Chief Lyle Martin came to support the effort and joined a group photo with all program participants.

Those five initial trainers in the photo above have now trained approximately 32 community volunteers, staff from Bakersfield City School District and Kern High School District, Bakersfield Police Department staff, clergy and community-based partners from Garden Pathways, New Life Vocational Training Facility, Reach for Greatness Mentoring, Body of Christ and other partner agencies working in southeast Bakersfield with young people of color.

It’s exciting that this capacity-building work continues to gain momentum in Kern County, as another group of local police officers and local churches will be trained soon in the area of concern. The program recently graduated eight more members. The technical assistance provided by The LOOP has contributed to building and strengthening the Tobacco Free Coalition of Kern County by equipping coalition members to empower community members and to advocate for tobacco control policies designed to shield their priority population communities from the tobacco industry’s marketing schemes.

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