Beneath Our Skin Storytelling Project

Beneath Our Skin Storytelling Project

What's Your Story November call in poster for Black Vermonters

Beneath Our Skin is a storytelling project for Black Vermonters. It is the result of a partnership with Clemmons Family Farm for an innovative approach to better understand the needs and perceptions on what will improve vaccination access and uptake among Vermonters who are Black/African American and/or of the African diaspora.  Beneath Our Skin uses digital storytelling and visual and performing arts as culturally relevant methods to gather and share stories from Black Vermonters about their vaccination choices and experiences. The project also looks at attitudes, perceptions, and caregiving behaviors among health care providers involved in delivering COVID-19 vaccinations.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the worsening disparities faced by Black Americans, evidenced in Vermont by the disproportional rates of infection and hospitalization as compared to white non-Hispanic Vermonters. The Weekly Summary of Vermont COVID-19 Data published a spotlight report on May 21, 2021, on cases among Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.

"The stories and art are a powerful way to help others better understand Black Americans’ often traumatic intergenerational relationship with the health system... giving time to learn about these experiences is the first step toward building trust with the health system and improving the way health services are delivered."

Dr. Lydia Clemmons, President and Executive Director of Clemmons Family Farm

Beneath Our Skin project provides safe spaces for Black Vermonters to share their COVID 19 vaccination experiences. The project uses an innovative approach that blends oral storytelling with visual art, music, or poetry. The rich stories communicate Black Vermonters’ thoughts, feelings, and experiences about getting vaccinated—or not—in the context of the social upheaval we have all been experiencing over the past two years. The stories and art are a powerful way to help others better understand Black Americans’ often traumatic intergenerational relationship with the health system. What we have learned through this project is that giving time to learn about these experiences is the first step toward building trust with the health system and improving the way health services are delivered

The project runs from August 2021 through December 2022 and has featured in-person, call-in, and now zoom sessions.

Check Out Beneathourskin.org

The Interim Report

The interim report submitted in March 2022 reveals that the spaces created by this project have offered catharsis to Black participants as they process their experiences. The report highlights these factors influencing Black participants' decision to get the COVID-19 vaccination: 

  1. Trust/mistrust in the medical establishment
  2. Consistent communication
  3. Familial relationships
  4. Freedom/agency over one's body
  5. Access to and the type of vaccination sites
Factors influencing Black participants decision to get COVID vaccine: Trust, communication, family, agency over one's body and accessible clinics

Read the full report

Find more research publications on our COVID-19 Resources page.