AURORA, Colo. — An activist group in Colorado is ensuring those who died of COVID-19 are remembered as more than just a statistic.
Just two weeks ago, the U.S. surpassed more than 400,000 COVID-19 deaths. The national death toll now stands at 438,035, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On the last day of January, the COVID-19 death toll in Colorado stood at 4,928.
Those victims were remembered Sunday night during a candle light vigil outside the MLK Library in Aurora.
At the end of each month, Black Hammer Organization, an activist and anti-colonial group, gives away KN-95 mask, food and clothing in conjunction with a vigil.
The organization's secretary general, Anco Nahuel, said, everybody's lives are just "go, go, go" right now.
"There hasn't been a moment for us as a community to actually realize what we have lost," Nahuel said.
Nahuel said the pandemic is taking a major toll on communities of color.
With many people out of work, many families with six to 10 people are living in one-bedroom apartments, he said.
When many of those residents ask about the COVID-19 vaccine, Nahuel said he urges caution.
"There's a lot of skepticism. It's a brand new science," he said. "Most vaccines have been tested for six to seven years, and this one came out in eight months."
He said he believes the big push to get everyone vaccinated is part of a drive to get everyone back to work.
Nahuel said he advises waiting to see how the vaccine pans out in other groups first, because of minority communities' past experience as guinea pigs.
He mentioned Pfizer Pharmaceutical's controversial meningitis drug trial in Nigeria, which left nearly a dozen children dead, and dozens disabled, according to ABC News Radio.
Just prior to the vigil Sunday, Brie Hammer gave a testimonial about her loss.
"My uncle was a family man. He was an elder in his church," she said.
She said he died of COVID-19, even though he took precautions, and encouraged everyone else to do so, including wearing a mask.
Brie said the CDC was tardy in educating the public about masks.
"Black Hammer informed myself and other Africans, six weeks before the CDC, that cloth masks are inadequate," she said.
After the testimonials, there was a moment of silence.
Participants were asked to pick up little battery operated votive candles, to switch them on, and then to place them at the memorial to the victims.
Nahuel said they have a similar memorial at the end of every month to call attention to the pandemic, to ask for unity in dealing with it, and to remember those lost.