Hello all,

We are still in a pandemic, the pace of vaccinations is slowing and local leaders are clearly and rightly willing to do anything to spread the pro-shot message – including butchering Tik Tok memes.

In this week’s “bless their hearts” moment, check out Shelby County leaders’ pro-COVID vaccination take on the “pass the phone” Tik Tok trend, which includes cameos from Shelby County Juvenile Court Judge Dan Michael, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris, Shelby County Commissioner Van Turner, suburban mayors and others.

Shelby County Juvenile Court Judge Dan Michael is just one of the elected officials starring in a “pass the phone” Tik Tok video designed to encourage locals to get vaccinated.

If you’re not familiar with the trend because you don’t spend your waking hours on Tik Tok, the “pass the phone” concept combines snippets of friends speaking directly into the camera, with one speaker gently (or not) roasting the next speaker, who doesn’t know what the person before said about them. See some examples here and here.

Executed well, the videos are hilarious, as friends call out their friends’ failings –  I’m passing the phone to someone who proudly wears white socks with black sandals, I’m passing the phone to someone who always gets ghosted, I’m passing the phone to someone who puts raisins in the potato salad.

But when repurposed as an upbeat government PSA, it falls flat. It’s heartwarming when the olds try to be cool, and I say this as an old. 

The 30-second video is but one tiny part of the city and county’s vaccination campaign, which includes door-knocking and critical partnerships with churches.

But it’s such a missed opportunity, given all the shade that could be thrown around the county’s inequitable and troubled vaccine rollout and the political posturing when the state swooped in and relieved the county of its vaccination duties.

When I last checked, the county’s video had less than 200 views. Coming next week, social media guru and former MLK50 contributor Kirstin Cheers will give us a “pass the phone” video that’s true to the trend’s spirit. You won’t want to miss it.

Many of you may know that for 11 years, I was a columnist at the daily paper in Memphis. Well, starting this week, I’m putting that hat back on, with mini-columns like the one above available only to newsletter subscribers. 

Speaking of vaccinations … There’s always more info in a reporter’s notebook (or computer) than can make the story. Here’s a tidbit from Hannah Grabenstein, who, for her story this week, returned to vaccine-hesitant people she’d interviewed last year.

Timothy Moore changed his mind on being vaccinated – and that’s a good thing. Photo by Andrea Morales for MLK50.

One of those people was Timothy Moore, who in December said he wasn’t going to be vaccinated for a few years. But after he spoke to Grabenstein, and despite the precautions his family had been taking, they caught the virus. In May, he got the shot. His decision sparked exactly what vaccine advocates want: A ripple effect.

“When I went,” Moore told Grabenstein, “it kind of spurred a whole friend movement. All of them started getting vaccinated.”

“It kind of became the running joke of my friend circle. ‘Well, Tim did it!’ 

“It was funny. I had a wife call me. She was like, ‘Hey, hey, talk to Marcus real quick. Tell him to go get the shot!’ I was like, ‘Well, I can’t tell your husband to go get it. I can tell him that I went to go get it.’”

Moore talked to Marcus, and was honest about the side effects: The first shot wasn’t bad. The second? Not great.

In the end, Marcus got the shot, Moore said. Read the story here.

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