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Baton Rouge's Ella Perkins, left, gets her Pfizer booster shot from Our Lady of the Lake LPN Zakilya Francis, right, as OLOL Ascension Injection Clinic supervisor Nicole Borne, center, does paperwork at a vaccination site just outside Southern University's A.W. Mumford Stadium, where staff from OLOL Ascension were giving COVID-19 shots, including boosters to those for whom the timing was right, before the Jaguars' home football opener against Miles College.

I was on Cloud Nine all day last Saturday, and I will be there again tonight if I decide to battle what might be a rainy day in Baton Rouge.

My reason? Gathering with my football tailgate crew for the first time in more than year at a Southern University home football game. The time away seemed like an eternity.

It was great to be with The TrueBlue Tribe under our tree on the south side of SU’s F.G. Clark Activity Center (The “Mini Dome”).

The COVID-19 pandemic had kept us away last year. But, here we were enjoying bright sunny skies, back together again on The Bluff. We had our usual spread of barbecue, red beans and rice, “crack” chicken, desserts and a host of other stuff loaded with calories and fat.

Oh, wait, there was some green leafy stuff, but that’s not a big tailgate menu item. There were soft drinks and some not-so-soft drinks, too.

With the horror of COVID-19 and the gut-punch of Hurricane Ida, this was definitely a time to be with “old” friends in every sense of the word. Add to that the passing of one of our members. But it was just good to see everyone. I smiled when my wife and I rolled up to the spot.

There was an immediate outpouring of love from folks. But, and that’s a capitalized BUT, hugs were not freely granted until some vital information was made clear.

We said “Hello” and “It’s so good to see you,” but no one embraced unless there was an answer to this simple question: “Have you had your shots?” Translation: There would not be full love unless you professed to have had a Moderna, Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson shot. Not surprisingly, every member of our party had had at least two shots and a couple had taken a booster.

What’s more, a nurse, who is a member of our group, took one of our tailgate members away for about an hour, to a place on the campus where she was able to get a booster shot. Yeah, think about that.

All day long, the tough question was asked to whoever came over. If the answer was “No,” the sentiment was “You just stand over there and we’ll talk.”

I had a couple of cousins walk by and I even asked them The Question, to which they all said “Yes.” Then there were hugs all around.

If some folks find our actions a bit extreme, then so be it. That was the consensus of our group. We will listen to and bank on science and common sense. We believe in the vaccine and masks. Oh yeah, this crew is going to get the boosters when it’s their turn.

But, there was something else. Southern University had asked fans attending the game to wear their masks into A.W. Mumford Stadium. Everyone in my crew obeyed the request. In the area where I sat, I estimated about 90% of the folks had on their masks.

A number of folks, mostly younger, I would guess, took theirs off once they got into the stadium.

Here’s something to think about. What if all of those people — 99% of whom were Black, at the football game — had had their vaccinations. That would be awesome. But, sadly we know that is not the case.

Statistics show that between 28% and 31% of Louisiana’s Black population have been vaccinated and make up nearly 37% of the deaths, while making up 32% of the state’s population.

What if Blacks, and everyone else, for that matter, followed the tough guidelines of The TrueBlue Tribe? Maybe we would be getting more hugs of joy, instead of tears of sadness.

Email Edward Pratt, a former newspaperman, at epratt1972@yahoo.com.

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