Chaney Turner is an entrepreneur and cannabis activist from East Oakland. Credit: Amir Aziz

Chaney Turner received their first shot of the Moderna vaccine a week ago at Lifelong Medical Care. Afterward, they posted a selfie on Instagram holding a vaccination card, with the caption: “Because I miss my family and traveling.”

Turner is a recognized entrepreneur and cannabis activist in East Oakland. Back in 2016, Turner founded Town Biz Oakland, a cultural and social justice brand. They also founded Beyond Equity, an organization that promotes equity in health, housing, and the cannabis industry. Turner currently serves as commissioner at-large on the Oakland Cannabis Regulatory Commission.

In addition to community-based work, Turner is a caregiver for their mother.

The Oaklandside spoke to Turner about their decision to get vaccinated, and what a post-pandemic Oakland might look like once a larger percentage of the community is vaccinated. The interview has been condensed for clarity. 

Why did you decide to get vaccinated?

It was my responsibility. In order for me to get fully back into the work that I do, which involves a lot of community engagements, I felt that I needed to do it. Also, I miss my family. I have not seen my dad at all in a year. I’ve recently started caregiving for my mother. I have to take her to doctor’s appointments, multiple appointments a week. My parents are getting older, and I’m the only child. It would have been selfish if I did not get it.

I see my mom every day. We live in the same neighborhood and I can walk to her house. So although we didn’t physically live in the same space together, we were in space [together] every day. So [when the pandemic started] I was like, well, we might as well just keep it going. I would just make sure that I wore a mask when I went over there, and all of us were getting tested on a regular basis. This vaccine is just the next step for us to have some type of normalcy to where we can be around our loved ones comfortably without having anxiety.

I am still skeptical. In a way, it’s like, do you trust the system? No, not fully, but I also don’t trust YouTube, and conspiracy theorists. I’m also not going to judge people who don’t want to do it, that’s their own personal decision. 

Walk me through the process of getting vaccinated. How did you know where to go? How did you set up an appointment?

It wasn’t difficult. I’m a patient at Lifelong Medical Care, and not too long after I became a patient, I got my mom to enroll. They sent a mass text to people who are enrolled: essential workers, people with medical conditions, etc. I called. Being that I am caring for my mom, I didn’t want to jump the line. I asked if I fell under the eligible category. They said yes, and I made my appointment. 

There are a good amount of Black people who aren’t getting vaccinated because they don’t trust the vaccine. But there also is a large number of people who just aren’t getting the information. My mother is not tech savvy, and neither is my dad. A lot of the information that they get is because I’m giving it to them. There’s people who don’t have access to technology, and there’s people who don’t have folks in their lives that have that access to give them that information.

What was it like to go get the shot? Did you have any side effects afterwards?

It was a simple process. I’m not afraid of needles so it wasn’t a scary experience. I actually want to shout out all of the nurses and volunteers who are working at all of these sites. It’s mainly women who are working and volunteering. They’re working in cold conditions, and they all have smiles on their faces. They all are trying to make people feel comfortable. If it weren’t for the people working on the frontlines like these volunteers and staff, I don’t know if the experience would have been as pleasant. I personally did not have any side effects, aside from the soreness in the arm. I get my second in about two to three weeks. 

What would you say to community members who are feeling nervous or hesitant?

I would say, for folks who might be nervous, that if you can, try to schedule a time to go with a loved one so y’all can be there together. The staff at the site asks that you stick around 15 minutes after your shot, just to see how you’re feeling. The staff and volunteers have been super awesome and they try to make you feel as comfortable as possible. It doesn’t hurt. If you’re scared of needles, don’t look, and take a friend with you and have them distract you while getting the shot. 

For those who still have concerns, I understand. But I will say, if you have concerns, don’t look at propaganda, look at facts. We don’t know how we’ll be able to integrate again. As someone who does events and all types of community organizing, I want people to be able to come, whether it’s a social event, or a community event, and feel comfortable in the space. And I don’t know how we’ll be able to do that, if there’s people who are vaccinated and people who are not. I want our community spaces to be safe for older people and younger people. We want our kids to go back to school right? Do you want the teacher to not be vaccinated? They have to be vaccinated, so we can take these steps to re-enter society. 

It’s kind of hard for me to tell other adults how they’re supposed to make those decisions when America really has not been a country that we have trusted in. I’m just trying to stay safe, and be able to move through the world freely and not have to worry about infecting other people. 

When do you think we might be able to gather in community, break bread in person, and not worry about getting sick?

I think we’ll be able to break bread maybe sooner than we think if we change certain things. I was just looking on Twitter, the video of a concert in New Zealand. The country has a woman in leadership, and women are smarter—she took the steps to make sure that they could reopen safely. But whether people are vaccinated or not, the reality is, every person isn’t going to get vaccinated. We knew that before coronavirus with people who are anti-vaxxers. The coronavirus isn’t going anywhere, it is here to stay. It is just us really learning how to live in this new society that includes COVID. I was reading that even if you are fully vaccinated, you should still wear a mask. I probably will wear a mask forever when it comes to certain gatherings, concerts, and other different things [but] I look forward to being barefaced as long as possible.

Azucena Rasilla is a bilingual journalist from East Oakland reporting in Spanish and in English, and a longtime reporter on Oakland arts, culture and community. As an independent local journalist, she has reported for KQED Arts, The Bold Italic, Zora and The San Francisco Chronicle. She was a writer and social media editor for the East Bay Express, helping readers navigate Oakland’s rich artistic and creative landscapes through a wide range of innovative digital approaches.