Health center finds creative way to spread the word about COVID-19

Photo by Ben Hovland CYC emissaries

The COVID-19 pandemic made 2020 an unforgettable year and took the nation on an unexpected turn. The contagious virus has mutated, and variants have now spread from overseas to the U.S., including Minnesota.

When the coronavirus hit the nation, Check Yo’Self Crew (CYC) Health & Wellness sprang into action. The center, housed in the High School for Performing Arts in St. Paul, offers services through the HIV/AIDS/STD Prevention and Awareness Program (HAS). It is dedicated to keeping young people safe and meeting the needs of “street cultured or at-risk youth in diverse ways,” according to its website.

CYC Health & Wellness Director Chi Ellis, affectionately known as “Mama Chi,” took advantage of the opportunity to educate young people and the community at large about the coronavirus by putting together emissaries, a team of volunteers, whose mission it is to spread awareness.

She came up with an idea for a graphic and a billboard that could be seen at I-94 and Plymouth and 35E, to remind the community about mask wearing, handwashing and social distancing. Ellis and her team can be found at many events around the Twin Cities spreading the word.

Reaching youth in diverse ways

Submitted photo Pneuma Pierre

CYC crewmember, who is now a staff member for HSRA (High School for Recording Arts), Pneuma Pierre, and artist Kashta, collaborated and wrote a song to raise awareness of COVID through hip hop. Pierre wrote the lyrics and Kashta wrote the beat.

Pierre said that the community gravitates towards hip hop music, so what better way to reach young minds about the pandemic?  The song opens with: “Ok, Mama Chi? Looks like we got another killer to put in check!/We talking COVID, Ok, show me where your mask at?!” and it doesn’t let up from there.

Pierre is not new to writing lyrics or performing. He’s a motivational speaker, spoken word artist and hip hop performer who uses his experiences as an HSRA alum to reach the students.

You can catch Pneuma Pierre on all platforms by visiting his website at or contacting him via email at

For more information about the Check Yo’Self Crew (CYS) Health & Wellness, go to

For more info about HSRA, go to