Dorothy Oliver, a retired Black woman from a rural town in Alabama, made it her duty to make sure her fellow residents were fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. In a documentary by Jeremy S. Levine and Rachel De La Cruz titled The Panola Project, Oliver and the county commissioner, Drucilla Russ-Jackson team up to bring a pop-up vaccination center to a nearby hospital in their small town of Panola, Alabama. Thanks to their determination, they helped 94 percent of Panola get vaccinated.
“I just felt like I had to do it because the government, nobody does enough in this area,” Oliver told the New Yorker. “This area here is majority Black. Kind of puts you on the back burner. That’s just it. I mean, you don’t have to put nothing else with that. That’s just it. I don’t have to elaborate on that one.”
Oliver and Russ-Jackson’s effort was crucial. The state of Alabama alone has the lowest vaccination rate in the country with only 56 percent of residents having one dose. For Panola, the nearest vaccination center was between 30 to 40 miles away, which made things difficult logistically.
In order to secure the pop-up vaccination center, 40 people had to sign up to get the vaccine. The Panola Project follows Oliver as she makes phone calls and goes door to door talking to residents about getting vaccinated.
Director Rachel De La Cruz was impressed with Oliver’s charming and effective approach.
“There’s this very warm and kind of loving and caring way that Dorothy and Ms. Jackson approached those conversations, even when people aren’t in agreement,,” she said. “And it wasn’t done in a way that’s, like, ‘I know better than you.’ ”
Oliver isn’t slowing down her efforts to get more folks vaccinated.
“I have the names of everyone who hasn’t been vaccinated, and I’m still working on them,” she said.