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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — African Americans are at a greater risk for getting COVID-19. And in many places, the death rate for Black people is much higher.

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That’s why there’s an effort to raise awareness about the importance of wearing cloth face masks.

KingDemetrius Pendleton is doing his part to save lives, working away in the basement of his St. Paul home, sitting underneath his classic sewing machine.

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“You want to make sure they real tight at the end because that’s where the elastic can come apart at,” Pendleton said.

He is making masks with African prints to help flatten the curve, combining beauty with safety to inspire African Americans to wear them.

Community activist Nekima Levy-Armstrong of the Racial Justice Network put a call out to anyone who could make mask to help make a difference.

A mask made by KingDemetrius Pendleton (credit: CBS)

“I drove around my community and I saw that many people did not have masks,” Levy-Armstrong said. “We would go out into the community, of course wearing masks ourselves, doing our best to practice social distancing, and we would educate people and we would put masks in their hands.”

Pendleton said was one of several who answered that call, and helped in handing out more than 170 masks.

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“People were excited to see that there was outreach going on to show that we cared about people in our community, and we were reminding folks that contrary to some of the false information that had been put out early on, claiming that Black people couldn’t get COVID-19,” Levy-Armstrong said.

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She says the outbreak is hitting Black communities hard. She blames misinformation and underling chronic illnesses for the spike in cases in communities of color.

“We just trying to survive during through pandemic,” Pendleton said.

Giving everyone a fighting chance against COVID-19 is what this is all about, for people using their talents to make difference.

“This pandemic is not about big I and little us,” Pendleton said. “We all have to come together.”

The Racial Justice Network will pass out more masks as soon as volunteers make more.

Visit for resources to help get through this difficult time.

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Reg Chapman