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An African Refugee’s Adopted American Experience and His Mission to Elevate Underrepresented Groups With Godfrey Coker, Social Entrepreneur & Clinical Scientist

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For many refugees integrating into American society is a challenge. Simply exposing themselves to life in a new country is just one of the many challenges that refugees face. Language barriers, helping them succeed in school, finding work and housing and accessing basic services like transportation to name just a few. Many refugees come from underprivileged backgrounds and are oftentimes lacking the tools necessary for an equal playing field with their American counterparts.

Embracing code-switching, also known as “language accommodation” is one way Godfrey Coker, as a refugee from Sierra Leone, transitioned into American society. Depending on your audience, “code-switching” can be an effective communication strategy. But is it good? Join us as we tackle this subject and what it means to live as an underrepresented group member (AKA minority) in America. You’ll gain perspective from Godfrey’s personal experience and learn what he’s doing to provide improved access to resources and representation in both the technological field of gaming and in clinical research.

About Our Guest: Godfrey Coker is a clinical researcher and social entrepreneur with over 10 years of experience in data analysis, with an emphasis on increasing minority participation in clinical trials. In previous jobs, he used corporate rules to give hands-on training for at least 500 illegal immigrants to better grasp case documentation and health records administration.

Godfrey has spearheaded numerous efforts as a refugee who came to the United States, including co-founding Hughes Who Technologies, Gye Nyame Biodiesel and developing Shikapa Mobile with his brother.

Godfrey graduated from Purdue University with a dual Bachelor of Science in Engineering Technology and an MBA, as well as two master’s degrees (MPH and MS) from the University of Southern California.

Guest Website: Guest LinkedIn:

00:00 Introduction

2:47 What was it like growing up in a predominantly white community in the late eighties?

5:50 How is Hughes Who impacting African American communities?

9:38 What games have Hughes Who worked on?

10:48 How does code-switching affect people?

23:35 How do you use code-switching to your advantage?

25:16 As a clinical trial manager how are you enhancing minority recruitment in patient trials?

30:13 Is medication less effective for African American communities due to lack of patient trials?

37:24 What are the solutions to code-switching?

45:02 What is the Shikapa App?

47:33 What’s Next for Godfrey?

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Corinna Bellizzi

Hello, fellow do-gooders and friends. I’m your host, Corinna, Bellizzi, and activist, and cause marketer. Who’s passionate about social impact and sustainability.

If you haven’t already done. So be sure to visit our website care more. Be You can sign up for our newsletter to be the first to gain access to new episodes and easily browse past shows on topics that matter to you. You’ll find full transcripts suggestions for actions you can take to make a difference and make a donation to support the show.

Today I’m joined by Godfrey Coker. He has an extensive background in clinical research, coordinating trials and serving as a guest lecturer at reputable institutions, including university of Southern California and Mount St. Mary’s university. But today we’re not focused on his experience as a clinician, we’re going to focus on his history, his experience, and the work he’s doing through Hughes, who productions to put more good into the world, specifically for African American youths.

Godfrey. Welcome to the show.

Godfrey Coker

Thank you for having me. It’s such a pleasure to be here. Let’s, let’s dig right into it. Cause this is fun. I’m enjoying myself already. I’d

Corinna Bellizzi

love for you to share a bit about your personal story, who is Godfrey.

Godfrey Coker

Well that’s a, it’s a very rangy question there, but I’ll, I’ll try to fill it up with the details, right?

So I’m actually from a small country on the west coast of Africa. It’s called Sierra Leone and I was born there, to two beautiful, black parents. During my early, I say, first decade of my life, we experienced a terrible civil war and, I was able to get out, unfortunately, my parents weren’t, but in the process I was able to work through Ghana, Ethiopia.

And then finally I ended up in the United States of America. Where I moved into this amazing state known as Kentucky. Yes. As a result of that, I was positioned to go into engineering, which is one of the careers of my foster parents. I went to a Perdue University got two bachelor’s degrees in engineering. I also got an MBA and then moved to California, where I got a, an Ms and an MPH also. So lots of degrees, lots of fun. But think about it as a person who was given an opportunity to be in a candy shop at the age of four, I just grabbed whatever I could. So that’s my initial story and I’ll, I’ll stop there.

And see what else you have to ask?

Corinna Bellizzi

I think it’s such an interesting perspective because you grew up now and a predominantly white neighborhood. To white parents as a black boy from Africa. So I’d just love for you to share a little bit about what that experience was like at the time that you grew up, because I know now we’re talking what?

The seventies,

Godfrey Coker

eighties, or late eighties. Yes. Early nineties. That’s that’s my, my time here. And yes, I, so imagine being the only one in your community that is first of all, can’t really speak the language. So that was even though Sierra Leone has what they call broken English, English language on its own is a very difficult way to sort of understand how people speak. You put the, you put verbs and adjectives together. That’s not really how you speak up in the, on the west coast of Africa. Not to mention, we also have dialects, but being here, the transition from being a person who absolutely had no idea. What a Caucasian or white person look like to being thrown right into that.

It was a growing experience, but I appreciated the fact that I could understand that I was alive. And I think that’s the priority. If you know that you’ve been given a second chance to live, everything else is secondary because you can breathe. You can look outside and, and see a lot of individuals that are there for you.

And I think that’s the second part. My foster parents, I would do anything for, they poured so much love and attention and time into me. I can only describe this as more of a divine intervention or maybe they were just divine people. But as a result of that I think I was able to move into my purpose, which as you can see as this been to like read, read, read, read, study, study, study, and get degrees and help people back home.


Corinna Bellizzi

Wow. So I think about a couple of things as you tell this story, and one is really how challenging it would be to be the only one of your kind, so to speak coming from this war torn region, essentially as a refugee and adopted child. So one of the stories I tell in my podcast in the first episode.

To people who are fleeing from middle east and war torn countries and have landed in Greece and are working to reenter society without very good support systems in place. So many children are finding themselves with their family, stuck in these situations, as opposed to having that kind of healthy landing.

And Love without Borders For Refugees In Need. Is this not for profit? That’s specifically working to serve those people and help them reenter society. So, this is obviously something I care a lot about. I feel like you are absolutely living from the right perspective and that you’re saying I’m grateful to be here and look at this amazing opportunity ahead of me, but not everybody gets that opportunity.

And even people growing up in America, don’t get those same opportunities to go to Purdue and have this incredible educational experience. So I really applaud your parents for building the type of world for you that you could really advance and continue and contribute as you had. Now, what we’re here to talk about today is what you’re doing with Hughes, who and how that is in a way giving back too.

So why don’t you tell us a little bit about that and how you’re actively affecting African-American society.

Godfrey Coker

Thank you. Thank you. And I always reached back to the concept of having individuals who not only pour love into you, but once you to also realize who you are and where you really are from.

And so they really nurtured, nurtured those values in me to understand that look, even though you’re here and we love you and you can sing country music westerns, and you understand the value of a banjo. You know, these things that here’s where you’re from. These are, these are really your people.

Corinna Bellizzi

It’s painting a picture for me. And I’m picturing, you know, on, on a porch with like the Georgian columns and a banjo or something,

Godfrey Coker

Billy Jo Conway, Twitty, believe me. I mean, think you’re thinking exactly what it was poured in my direction, but they also emphasize that I had to understand that there were individuals that had allowed me the opportunity to come here.

Those were the African-American people themselves that are, that were from here. Also to understand that I was from a continent if people that need me. So they nurtured all those values and never made one above the other, which is why it was so easy for me to get to the point where I created Hughes, who with the co-founders the Hughes family.

So Daryl and Edie Hughesare two amazing individuals. They were one of the first two. I guess undergrads at a university of Chicago to get their their IT degrees and understand the value of gaming. In the process, they realize that the, you know, this, the world it’s the gaming world itself pushed individuals like themselves to the side and they weren’t really brought to the table.

Weren’t really asked to dance with the rest of the people. It didn’t have the opportunities to do so. And so realizing that one of the things that we decided was right. If we are unable to do those, and we have the degrees as in like Darryl and Edie themselves, what we needed, what the, the, the only opportunity to sort of highlight what, what they were doing was to bring the concept to the forefront.

That is that even though 75% of African-American males, And then females play video games. Only 3% are represented on the stage of game production. So what, it wouldn’t be an amazing concept if we could actually go into the neighborhoods acquire some of the portions of these games and create an, a, the ability for these students or these kids who really would have no alternative or opportunities to create these games, to actually create these games.

We would pay them a living wage and then literally could see their products being used by the mass, by the mass population. And so we started there. Of course, we ran into a few issues. Not every gaming company is looking for a mom and pop organization with no compliance, understanding, no insurance worth millions of dollars.

So what we did is we, we, we shifted a little bit. We pivoted into the casino industry and we started there. So we started creating games there. And if you’re aware of like the Las Vegas scenery there, a lot of those games, the background and all the the virtual reality portion of those, we were very instrumental in getting the strip to be the way it is today.

All the games that you see there, the coins that are dropping, that makes you happy when you win things. All those sounds are really corporations and gaming companies. They get a chance to pitch in and create those things. And there are. There are hundreds of kids that we, we positioned ourselves to work with that really put us in the limelight to work with the bigger company.

So that’s just a little bit of history of who we are.

Corinna Bellizzi

Yeah. Some of my friends from high school were in bands and they were low. Their claim to fame was that they got a song on a video game. You know what I mean? So, I mean, I know that happens everywhere. It’s almost like Hollywood, right? Like people are really looking at gaming as this next big wave of entertainment.

Right. Interactive entertainment that people are engaging online. So are there any particular games that the team has. To develop at Hughes who that we might’ve heard.

Godfrey Coker

Yeah. So a lot of, so like your early Madden games back in the day. So yeah, those games, we were positioned to sort of work on fairness.

So for example, to make sure that what was being scripted in the information, when people talk. Wasn’t too urban, if you know what I mean? We were also positioned to make sure that fairness with regards to the re the reality of what things look like. And we worked with a lot of companies that put those together for e-sports that was before we got a chance to get there.

And then also, if you look in the gaming industry, a lot of those Games that have the opportunities for you to win, you know, like all position, all your cherries and win, you know, for $400. Or if you get all the cars and you pull and you get a, you know, a car in a truck, can you in $40. So we positioned the machining behind that, the hardware, and also the virtual portions that actually came as a result of that too.

So kids were able to program and do that, but we have the concept of being able to do the hardware and the software. As a company and then we just put the kids in there to be able to do those together with them.

Corinna Bellizzi

Oh, cool. So you mentioned something in that that I have been particularly interested in that’s trying not to make the game too urban, which also I think connects to this concept of code switching, which I recently learned about, I didn’t even know the term existed before about a month and a half ago.

So I’d love for you to speak to code switching what it is and kind of the struggle that it creates for people and the African-American community in the United States.

Godfrey Coker

Yeah, this is something that I can speak on personally. And it has a lot to do with my youth coming in first. So the funny thing, well, it, wasn’t funny, but if you look at the, the way the geography of Kentucky, you have Cynthiana Kentucky, which is further away.

You have Paris, which is a little lower down and then Lexington, which is the big city where everybody is supposed to be a little bit more modern. So you have a little bit of an African-American culture. That’s there. And in Louisville also, and I had the opportunity to frequent those areas when they were big things like 4th of July Easter, we would take rides out there.

And what I would realize earlier on was, even though I looked like certain people, my phenotype was the same when I tried to interact. There was pushback. I’m sorry,

Corinna Bellizzi

I’m laughing because you said phenotype is like, you’re such a scientist, so I’m not laughing at you and laughing at phenotype.

Godfrey Coker

I’m trying to say this in the nicest way to make sure your podcast is accepted by.

Corinna Bellizzi

That’s okay.

You know, you can say whatever you feel,

Godfrey Coker

if that’s the case, let’s take the gloves off. So, pretty much when I thought I was black, I really was not black. How’s about that. Right. So I would walk into a group of individuals and they would see me and here’s this guy wearing, you know, a hat with some cowboy boots and he’s like, Hey guys, what’s going on?

You want to hang out? You know? And they’re like, whoa, listen, I literally had a couple of people who would pull me to the sides and be like, look, we do not do that. Okay. And it was the first time. Exactly. It was the first time I understood that you literally had to change your persona. Literally had to change how you walked, how you interacted the questions you act ask.

So not only was I had to know, not only did I have to face being an African in a white culture, predominately. But when I moved among the people who I thought looked like me, it was a whole other learning experience that I had to go through. And so fighting the urge to not want to be, to not want to lose myself was a constant struggle until I understood the value of code switching, which may sound bad, but it got me through so much.

And I literally went through my junior high, my high school. Undergrad and graduate school code switching the entire time. I pledged a black fraternity and all black fraternity when I was at Purdue. And I literally had to understand you know, the history of African-Americans and what they went through and why things are the way they are.

I bonded with my fraternity brothers and I learned so much. In that process, that at that point code switching, wasn’t really code switching. I tapped into something about myself that made me understand who they were. And then at the bottom line, if you take off all those layers, we are sort of alike, even though the layers.

Once you bring them back up to bring them to position ourselves, to who we are. Does look different and there is an amount of, you know, changing the way your, your vernacular happens at that time or saying the right things that don’t make you sound too white or too African, but just right. So I hope that kind of gives you a little bit of a foundation of the struggle that I even today go through.

Corinna Bellizzi

Yeah. Well, I can imagine you’ve been exposed to this kind of mild racism and your time in the states comments like, wow, he’s so articulate for a black. And the reality is, I mean, for, for a what you know, like this is something that people often say, it’s like this backhanded compliment where they feel like they’re complimenting you for something.

But essentially what they’re doing is acknowledging the code switch. Thing even exists, you know, without knowing that that’s what they’re acknowledging. So

Godfrey Coker

the question I would pose to you though would that be close with, would that, is that a negative thing? If you realize that it’s your only opportunity to be able to be in an environment.

Where you don’t have to explain yourself. But in other words, if I walked into a bar in Kentucky and it was all white with a whole bunch of white people that, that were from the north and had not, didn’t have a lot of experience with black people. I know exactly what I have to do to get people, to be like my brother fit rock, just lock a bullet right in here.

You know, I know what to do to do that. Right. Is that. I guess my question,

Corinna Bellizzi

I think it’s only a bad thing and that you have to alter who you are to be acceptable to the community you’re in. And that’s the thing that bugs me. So, you know, I’m Corrina. I essentially have the right to be myself. Almost anywhere I am.

And the reality is while I may switch a little bit of how I speak when I’m talking on a podcast, I’m not cussing as much. Believe me, the F bomb is like one of my favorites and my husband seriously threw me under the bus when the daycare called and complained about our son saying the F word, right. I don’t use it on the podcast.

At least I haven’t yet. Okay. But you know, I’m sure to slip up at some point, I’m sure it will happen. And he’s the first to throw me under the bus and, oh, well, you know, his mother, so that’s code switching even, right? Like just being articulate and understanding like, oh, it’s not appropriate now to act this way.

So I’m going to act that way. I’ve often said it’s like, no matter how polished I am or how dressed up I am, I’m just. I try to bring me into what I’m doing. And I, that’s a privilege. That is a privilege I am afforded. The reality is you might not want to wear a hoodie and walk into certain neighborhoods because of the fact that you have black skin.

So, you know, I think that there is a certain perspective that we all need to shift our thinking and kind of get through this so that people can be who they are and uniquely them. Without having this kind of fear of retribution or a lack of acceptance.

Godfrey Coker

I think you’re very accurate when you say that because I, the reason I pose a question to you is if I was sitting here and it was a African-American person who was in front of me, they would tell me you have to in your whole life be unapologetically black, You should have to, you should not have to apologize for who you are.

You should not have to change who you are, but then think about this in three layers, right? You’ve got the, African-Americans speaking to the person who was African, that lived in a white neighborhood. Your dynamics change a little bit because first of all, you are a complete stranger. And a visitor, even though you’re a citizen in this country.

Right? So whenever you position yourself, you have to make sure that you’re not spending time going, okay. Listen, the reason I speak like this is because I’m from here, but I want to make sure that you know that I am unapologetically black, but wait, not from here, but from, if I was to take time to explain that on a continuum.

I would have no time to contact communicate, right? Code switching works well in certain instances, but let me give you a bad one. When I went to USC and I was at the Marshall school of business, one of the things that they asked us to do was to present in front. Groups presentation, presentation, presentation.

Like they just, you know, that was just the thing. Right. And whenever we would speak, we would have groups of individuals that they would pair you with. If I was with an African American individual. One of my downfalls was I would try to make that individual comfortable. So I would change my vernacular sometimes to match theirs and we would ACE it.

But when you would put in, in recordings and compared to a situation where I was with someone white. I would change the way I would talk. And I think I got called out on that for a lot of reasons. Even though I was successful in all arenas, it was one of those situations where I was like, who am I?

And why am I doing those things even though they’re successful. So I think, I guess that would be the only thing I’d say about that.

Corinna Bellizzi

There’s another situation in which you use this without even thinking. And that is in sales. And I will say this time, and again, because what I’ve worked in some form of sales my whole life, and then I went to graduate school and Indiana.

Right. And the reality is you’re taught to mirror people, whether or not it’s intentional, that you’re taught to mirror people because. You know, you could be sitting across from somebody. I I’m hanging out with some people from the east coast. And suddenly I find that my accent has shifted and it’s not like I even intentionally did that.

Or I’m hanging out with a bunch of guys and I find myself just getting a little bit more boisterous and a little bullish and how I present or how I. Put myself forth versus when I’m hanging out with a group of women. And so we all kind of do this, I think, in a social capacity, but when it comes into a place where I’m just not comfortable with it is ultimately when you’re having to do it to fit in to what people would accept. And that’s, that’s just the biggest difference for me. So, you know, yes. From a selling perspective, I might mirror somebody and tell them what I just heard. And perhaps if I’m speaking to somebody who comes from a foreign place, I start over articulating everything. Yeah. I don’t really intentionally do it.

It just kind of happens. I would never speak that way and another, you know, environment, but I do then, because I want to be understood and heard and I’m taking more time. I’m speaking slower. You know, these are things that are natural and kind of this cultural perspective when you’re just trying to communicate.

Godfrey Coker

I agree. I agree. Yeah. And then, you know, just the amount, let me use the right word. It’s the veggie back off of what you’re saying. Apparently you can’t say piggyback anymore because it’s not good food anyway. Just to kind of go off of what you’re saying real realistic. You know, if you look at that and you think about the you know when you have three different segments of the population globally, that you’re trying to make sure you fit in with.

So you’ve got the people on the continent when I go to Sierra Leone or Ghana and I’m speaking and I’m like, oh, wait, I’m speaking in an African-American dialect. Maybe I should speak more proper or go back to the, you know, the dialects I was used to before I came there. And then you talk about, when I speak to African-American people on this continent and white people. I honestly just want to have some time where I just live and I can just be me. And I’m just telling you as an honest statement for the first time in my life, only because I’ve been through some therapy, I’ve never really had the peace of mind. Communicate. I don’t know what that is.

You know, so as I’ll make this the first time, I’ll let you know that having been through those things, the only problem with all of that is I’ve never had the chance to just be me. Code switching is literally my life. There you go.

Corinna Bellizzi

So I want to ask you again, who is Godfrey?

Godfrey Coker

Good question. Now that you say that this time it’s, it’s almost like this journey of life will help me probably find out who that is, but my life is so engrossed in what I’m doing so far and in a sadistic way, I’m enjoying this stuff.

You know, that the financial part is great, but I’m enjoying the fact that I get it. Travel. Okay. I get to meet people. And as I code switch, which unfortunately that’s what happens. People sort of accept me into the areas that other individuals might not have the opportunities to go in. And I am very grateful, first of all, because again, I code switch just to get into the country.

Right. I said, Hey, I’m being attacked. Help me. I’ll speak English. I’ll do whatever you can. If you make me a citizen and they did that. So that was like code switch. Right. And then I was like, Hey, so this works. And now I utilize that to sort of get into the good graces of other individuals. And I’m like, whoa, people accept you when you don’t spend time trying to be an appeal, unapologetically yourself, but you adapt and you fit in their instance and move forward.

So it’s going to take a while for me to find out who that is, but I’ve never had the opportunity to just be me.

I dare say a lot of people feel that way. And for so many reasons, like we’re just finishing pride month, right? Like this is when we’re recording this it’s June 29th and we’re coming to the close of pride month really.

Right. And a lot of people around the world. They have not felt comfortable in their skin, their whole lives, because they feel like they’re different than they’re able to really express in their communities. And so it’s not always the color of your skin. It can just be how you feel inside. And if it feels like you can’t be, you need to be agreed.

Agreed. So I just, I think it’s important to, yeah. To keep it that in our frame of mind, as we kind of head forward and really try to be more accepting of people for being them and bring them into the workplace, as opposed to, you know, what were our preconceived notions of how

agreed, agreed. Hey, you know that the fact that you mentioned that, so one of the things that I’ve also been there, unfortunately.

Given the advantage of having is being able to pitch to anyone anywhere. So I was at the airport at a and I think it was. John F. Kennedy airport JFK. And I saw Run-DMC the group. And I just remember having saw, like, it was one of the first records I listened to when I came here, they was like on a record back in like the late eighties and this DJ was set.

I was like, well, this is great. And I saw them and I ran over to them and I still had an accident at that point. It was just my first time going back and I saw them and I told them, I said, you know, I, I, I love what you guys do. This is great. I listen to your music and they’re like, where are you from? And automatically I just shifted.

I was like, I’m from Africa. And then I came here as a refugee and it’d be so great for you guys to participate in what I’m doing. I love you guys. And I remember leaving there thinking, oh my God, What have I done? I didn’t even tell them that I have white parents and all that part. So, you know, all those things that I could have done, but what I pitched was who I was and what I was doing at that point to help individuals where I was.

And I think of that helped me solidify a relationship with him. Matter of fact, We’re still friends today. Every super bowl, they do a concert and they dedicate some of the money to some of the the child soldiers in Sierra Leone. We’ve developed a very good working relationship. They also have been a part of pitch paying for some of my endeavors.

But I think being able to code switch and being able to understand the value of fitting in that environment at that point in time to make someone feel comfortable has really helped me to be able to pitch my businesses. So I’m not completely off the hook. When I say I, I love what I do, but it’s really propelling me forward.


Corinna Bellizzi

sorry, I just gagged on my own saliva.

Godfrey Coker

Haven’t seen the best of us.

Corinna Bellizzi

It might’ve been the mention of run DMC that started that because they were one of my favorite bands in that period too. So, yeah. So I would love to know a little bit more about what it is that you do because you’ve got this extensive education. Now you’re working with Hughes who to really work with the youth and enable them to code and, and really.

Learn to develop video games so they can take those skills with them into the workforce later, which is great. But you’re also doing work. I mean, heck your, your everyday job with regard to clinical studies. So what is that exactly? What are you doing and how is that benefiting the world?

Godfrey Coker

Sure. So fairness, let me just start there.

I am, as you can tell, as a result of where I’m at, I just believe in fairness. And one of the first things I realized when I got into graduate school into clinical studies epidemiology was that there was absolutely no representation when it came to African-American males in clinical trials there’s this fear that the Tuskegee experiment and other things that have happened since then is a a master plan by the government to eliminate the race, right?

Realistically on the side of individuals who are constant participants in clinical trials, this is absurd. It’s a conspiracy theory and individuals do not really want to look at that as a fact, but when you get into the. The nuts and bolts of things that are happening with African-Americans when you start realizing the fear is more of a ingrained past genetic coding from ANSYS stories from slavery.

From that period of time through Jim Crow the 14th and 15th amendment. Once you start finding out. These are ingrained things that are passed down. And the fear is almost as real as when you say, Hey, this is tornado out that outside, by the way, that’s the Midwest reference. There’s this tornado outside.

So go back inside and hide it’s as real as that. And I think that’s a discord disconnect that individuals in clinical trials don’t understand. And how realistic that fear is. One of the barriers, for example, like when you go to a hospital and you think you’re going to go see a physician as a white person or someone who’s consistently.

In healthcare, that is a tremendous fear to look at an, an, a beautiful escape that has all these white walls and esteemed scholars who are going to tell you that something’s wrong with you. Talk to you and tell you what to do when, when you leave that. Joel, you move back into your environment with food deserts and individuals that are suffering from domestic abuse and having no mom and dad or working 11 hour shifts, six days a week, and eating fast food for your whole, you know, your whole existence.

So what I realized was there were some specific. Tales that people have to look at before you make judgements as to why, or try to figure out why individuals aren’t moving into clinical trials to represent their ethnicity. Black men do not go because their fear they’re afraid to the point where scientists classify them as off the grid.

Realistically, that’s what they’re called. We’re called off the grid because our percentage in every single clinical trial. Average is at 0.2%. Wow. Yeah. So if you look at what we try to do as scientists, we look at the census and just on the whole minority representation is 25%. African-Americans represent about 14, 12, and 14%.

So imagine in that 12%, and you’re only seeing 0.2% and some of those individuals are fully in industry. Master’s degree students, full-time jobs with, with Roth IRA accounts and full insurance, and they still don’t go. So it’s a deep seated fear. And so my job is to find realistic ways to get people together, to speak to them, to, to, to, to combat.

The the fear and then find ways to get them to be a part of this, because even in the, in the, the disillusionment, which is what, what, what it is that we call on the scientific side, people are still dying. They have to go through this, so you have to find a way to put them in there. And so I do that for Alzheimer’s trials, Alzheimer’s trials.

I do it for the cognitively normal. I do it for the mild cognitively impaired for the ones that have Alzheimer’s disease. On the women’s side, I do it for high infant mortality, which is very high when it comes to black African-American women, it’s double the rate for every white person.

And I just work with the whole. The whole kitchen sink to try to make sure that they get the right health care. They’re putting the right trials and it’s been my battle for the last 4 years.

Corinna Bellizzi

Wow. Well, I mean, I think about a book I read recently and my book club about Henrietta lacks and what she went through.

So yes, I mean, these aren’t that far in the past, like, let’s be real. You know, in the last century, African-American communities were experimented upon with reputable institutions that we would think wouldn’t do things like that. Exactly. So the fear. Seems to me to be quite reasonable given such recent histories.

So I can appreciate that. Wow. So I’m curious though, because there is a large percentage of African-Americans who have sickle cell anemia. And or who are carriers for sickle cell anemia? So I wonder if this means that a lot of the drugs that are created are less useful for them because they haven’t been part of these trials.

And we haven’t been able to ascertain whether or not they would be effective in these communities.

Godfrey Coker

Oh, my goodness. You move open a can of worms. I can’t wait to publish my book. I will be published in a few, few months anyway, to specifically to this topic and I will make sure I send you the link once. So I’ve been published with the greatest Alzheimer’s researchers by Dr. Paul ASEN and Dr. Michael Weiner. We will be published really soon. And it, again, specifically to what you’re talking about, but you are correct. So when you look at the fact that individuals are classified, first of all, with a broad stroke of a brush called African American, that is an issue on his own when you flat line blackness and you’re incorporating people from the continent.

People from you know, the Caribbean from the Virgin islands and then also indigenous individuals who are, who are from, you know descendants of slaves. And you’re putting them in one box. The one size does not really fit all. As a matter of fact, I can actually tell you that the truth is when you look at an African-American male and you say, go get mental help or here’s medication to help you.

That specific drug is not going to be the same. If it’s given to a person you just put as black, it’s not going to work the same because an individual from the continent and then develop it from the Caribbeans. And one from here, the, the medication that’s needed for them is completely different. But physicians just use that one broad stroke and think that’s what it goes into.

And everybody should be given the right. That specific diagnosis when, when they come in contact with them and not being able to individualize or separate, those groups is a major reason why you’re seeing first of all, people dying under those specific healthcare systems, we recently saw a doctorate at the university of value healthcare who was a physician herself, died from COVID.

Because of the type of medication she was given, and there’s no broad stroke for just black African-American people. They have to be divided because they are different. They are different, but that’s where we are now.

Corinna Bellizzi

So do you think genetic testing is going to help us get to a space where we have more preference or just better drugs for particular people?

Or is it the science behind it? The clinical science, getting that refined to where we can expect something like that in the foreseeable future.

Godfrey Coker

It’s the only way. It’s the only way. And I think with all these biotech companies that are allowing genealogy and genetic testing to come together where they can actually predict just based on, on a child, what diseases they’re most likely going to get at the age of 40 or 50, that is literally the only way this is going to work.

But again when it comes to individuals who are comfortable with that system, it’s going to work for them. But when you look at African-Americans they’re, first of all, they’re not even, and I say there, but I’m in it too. So why not? We don’t even go to the doctor, the physicians, you know, we would rather and I hate to say this because it opens another can of worms, but a religion and their, their realization that God, somehow is going to change things around and you see every app, there’s like a Christian Church on every sidewalk that has sort of kept individuals. They, you know, with, with that I guess it’s like a way to sort of lean on something else besides medicine and it’s carried in. Those would be those individuals for awhile.

So it is the way to go. But unless we bridge that barrier, it’s just going to be a it’s really, we’re just walking in a very synchrony synchronicity thing, but it’s side by side, like,

Corinna Bellizzi

sorry, I don’t mean to interrupt, but it does sound to me like you’re talking about patient advocacy in the African community.

African-American community and black community.

Godfrey Coker

Yeah. So, yeah, there’s, I think there’s that portion. But then when you look at, for example, infant mortality, right? That is something that happens with midwives, midwives. You can have that happen at a, at a, at a healthcare facility. So that’s something that happens without you having to just go to get a checkup.

Like when you give birth, it’s something that happens. Every day, right. But if you look at that, there shouldn’t be a reason for these women who are given primary care physicians who are given the prenatal drugs to still experience. Right. The high infant mortality over the course of 15, it’s been since this, that way since the early 1990s and hasn’t hasn’t changed at all.

Right? So there are little details that go past patient advocacy, and that is realization that. You know, the genetic transfer of the system of slavery and, and colonialization, those things affect the kids that are being born right now. And that question, like, why wonder why this is still happening.

If we were to. Into those things. I think that would provide the answer more than just like, Hey, let’s provide, you know, 24 hour care for these individuals that are giving birth or for us to provide more physicians that look like us. Those are good things, but I think it’s more gene related and unless we sort of stop and analyze the trauma that’s been experienced in that period of time, we’re just going to go keep going through this for centuries to come.

If we live that long.

Corinna Bellizzi

So what you’re then advocating is more like a treatment for people that are living now and procreating now, in addition to improvements in care and nutrition and all that other stuff that benefits, you know, infant living 100%,

Godfrey Coker

100%, you know, and the example I always give when I split.

Yeah. Caught conversations as the GI bill, when people go through a war and they come back after world war one, they’re given an opportunity to sort of deprogram and an acknowledgement is made. War is bad, and here all these things that we’re going to facilitate, you know, having you go through and acclimatize them, but going back to your wife and kids and living in a, in a city and being a a quality citizen, but for individuals that have gone through.

You know, systemic slavery, systemic oppression. There’s never been a conclusion where individuals was like, okay, this was bad. Now let’s sustain this by providing this just for that situation. Right. And so when we use this blanket statement of go get mental health or mental therapy, I really think, and I hate to use this word.

It’s more of a white thing that doesn’t really apply to individuals who are black and those modules that are used to help you you know, work through those systems. Aren’t really positioned for those individuals. So literally we’re asking individuals who don’t know what the perfect, as you said, unapologetically black, if an individual who’s never been through slavery or colonization, what does that person look like?

You don’t have that person for us to direct that, that you know, mental therapy to get better, to look like that. So, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s there, but because we’re not positioning it for that specific group of people, we’re just living and we’re hoping, and there’s no reality or, you know, a sense of destination to get them better.

Corinna Bellizzi

Yeah. I mean, you really have me thinking about a couple of conversations I’ve had this week, literally on clubhouse. And one was with this woman who is from a Jamaican. Right. And she talks about the fact that when she lived there, it’s like they didn’t even describe their white friend or their black friend by the color of their skin.

Didn’t acknowledge color of skin. They really literally did not see color the way that we do here. And so it was a surprise for her when she moved to the states and has been here for many years now that, you know, there was such a difference in treatment from person to person. So she didn’t come here with all the.

references of, you know, kind of that, that bad perspective, but has lived here for long enough to feel it. And for that to become just part of her experience every day. So I can’t speak for her, but I will say that being exposed to racism when you are. On the receiving end of it, isn’t fun. And it will create a lasting, sort of a mark on, on your personhood and creates situations where you feel like you have to code switch to fit in and where you’re constantly having to look over your shoulder.

If, if you don’t feel safe in certain communities. So I think that’s something that does have to be addressed, but I mean, I don’t have the solutions. I would love to hear what you think the solution.

Godfrey Coker

I agree, you know, so first of all, this, this podcast is outstanding. Like, I, I was just kind of going back and all the things I’ve said, and I really literally have held some of those things back in the past, but I just want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to, to just voice myself here, because some of these things are anecdotal.

I realize this is one-on-one experiences with focus groups, but I really appreciate you giving me that opportunity. So with regards to solutions, okay. One of the things that we have to understand is there’s a deep programming that has to occur with everyone. And that is because separation. In some areas and then integration and other areas have, has really caused a, a group think amongst certain people.

And then another elitist thought process of others. If you look at the continent of Africa and I can say this, cause we all know there’s a lot of leaders that go through issues of corruption. And if you look at the continent on the whole. Ever since they received their independence, there’s been like a, flatlining a lot of coups, but it really hasn’t moved in the direction that we would have wanted it to go being from the continent we’re doing the best we can.

Right. But then you look at individuals here. There’s been a lot of integration and understanding of how you can be the best in the world, but there’s a certain subject, some sub group of people who feel like they haven’t been given the right playing field. Right. I think there has to be a general consensus amongst more of a global stage that I’m referring to a country as first world.

And then another group of individuals as developing is one of well, the most problematic statements you can ever make. And that is because the things that would work well in some areas, no matter how much money or funds you pump into that country, they will never be used. They will never be. One of my internship positions was I worked for the 2015 systemic sustainable goals with the United nations.

And I had the opportunity to sort of work with specific countries to see where they went and the result of the sustainable goals was because prior to that, they had what was called the millennial developers. And that was a 15, 15 year period. We’re about $150 million was pumped into different countries to see if they could rise up.

Only one country in the entire Africa, graduated with a grade of a C and that was Zimbabwe. So after you’ve tried that you have to realize that certain countries have to be graded on their best efforts. When was that country, for example, the most ecstatic. When was that country? The happiest, when people are very ecstatic, they produce the best that they can.

They might not have the best clothes, but I becon you to look at some of the PR people. And in west Africa, for example, or for example, in Brazil, during the carnival, the most happy individuals you can ever find enjoying one another, having a great occasion, my theory, and this is something that I’m working on.

It’s a grade individuals on one, they are the best and, and can produce at the highest level and then grade them as that being right, a. A well-developed or a that’s the, that’s the top of where that country needs to go for that time period, but classifying them as a developing country and waiting for them to be developed in like 20, 30, 50, 60 years.

It’s too high and too, it’s too vast and you’re expecting people to change, to look like you. It doesn’t happen. And I think more. Just gauge that country. And when it performed its best and have them emulate that year after year, I think that’s where the first line of difference has to be removed that new grading system.

Corinna Bellizzi

I tend to agree with you. I think grading can have a negative effect too. Like for instance, I was looking at Ghana specifically a couple of weeks ago because I interviewed Nana Abba Anamoah, and she’s a really powerful influencer. From Ghana, right? She’s you know, the leader of GH One TV and star 1 0 5 0.3 FM.

She’s really mentored all these incredible people to be in media there. And she pushes initiatives and she’s willing to talk on really diverse topics and push for the LGBTQ community among other things. Right? Well, their corruption index in Ghana has been at a peak of 48 out of 100. The lower, the score, the worse your corruption is.

Right. And now in 2020, their latest score was 43. So since they’ve been measured over the last eight years, it’s only really gotten worse. And to me that says you’re not coming from a solutions perspective, you’re criticizing as opposed to putting in place some potentially really life changing initiatives that could support growth in the area.

Godfrey Coker

Exactly. No, you’re right.

Corinna Bellizzi

Nana Abba made the point. She’s like, we don’t need more money. We have, you know, all of these were natural resources in Ghana. The problem is the corruption. And so once we root this out, then suddenly the whole world can change. I really just think that’s an incredible comment.

There was another one from Another individual. I interviewed from west Africa as well. And gosh, it was just an incredible connection with Dr. Lydia Kemunto Bosire and she made the comment about not-for-profits that, you know, we have these people come in from the outside and when they come in from the outside, Like, they think that they can create the solution for you, but it’s often not going to be what is needed because it’s basically founded on principles that don’t matter to the people that are there.

Exactly. And so I think we need to put on a new thinking cap to your point. About how we create lasting change that can help everyone rise up. I have been guilty of saying developing countries. I have been guilty of saying third world. And the reality is that I completely agree with you. Like we need to graduate from this.

We need to be thinking more from a one people, one planet, one world perspective. And if we can do that, if we can do that, if we can do that successfully, we can change things.

Godfrey Coker

Yeah. You know, you were asking me, so I had a personal experience, my brother and I. So when I finally got to United States, I was able to find my brother who was in Luxembourg, which is a country by itself.

I didn’t know. I thought it was part of Germany, but we, we were able to get him to the United States. So he lives in Chicago with his family. And we created this app called Chicapa and some money. Exchange uses Bitcoin to transfer money to the cap, to the continent. And in our minds, we’re like, we’re going to solve all the problems.

We’re going to move into a Bitcoin type of transfer fees. We’re going to rival all these. These Moneygrams accompanies, and Ghana is going to be on its own. We’re going to be successful. And then when we finally got, you know, we were all, we were here at an accelerator in San Diego, which was an annex of Silicon valley and we were doing.

Well, we got funded. We got to convert, you know, convertible notes. We’re doing so well. And then we got to Ghana. They’re like, who said, we need this by the way.

Wow. You guys even hear what the, what is, what the hell is Bitcoin? You know? And I think you’re right. They were, you know, we were like, but we’re holding all this cash and have not all these people are unbanked. Aren’t they getting robbed? They’re like, just shut up. That’s not what we asked for. And so. So, right.

You know, before you make all these moves and try to bring, you know, tech into the world, into their world and change things based on your concept, people have their own lives there and they’re doing things their way. How best can you make them be at their best? That’s it

Corinna Bellizzi

well, and respect their culture. I think that’s hugely important, you know, respect where they come from, what, what their beliefs are.

It’s just, I mean, I was schooled in anthropology in my undergrad, so I kind of go there first. Almost every time it just kind of comes naturally because it was like, okay, well you’re judging it from the outside. What would they say? Or have you done enough ethnographic research to understand if that’s actually what they want or if you know these other programs.

Already work there. If they were given a little bit more funding, you’ve already got a charity there there’s already doing good work. What can you do to amplify their efforts? So I think we’re on the same page and I want to continue this conversation as soon as you come out with that book and we’ll nerd out over scientific research and have a completely different topic.

I might have to produce a completely different podcast in order to make that happen.

Godfrey Coker

I really look forward to that. I just, I think, again, this, this podcast really gives me an opportunity to to be a little vulnerable. Cause I’m still going through again, my phase of trying to figure out who I am, sorry, there’s a plane passing by.

Corinna Bellizzi

I can hear that.

Godfrey Coker

But I think one of the things that it’s allowed me to do is to to show myself that I’m moving into a point of clarity to accept myself. So thank you for that.

Corinna Bellizzi

Well, thank you, Godfrey. So I want to know from you what your next goal post is.

Godfrey Coker

So I think for me right now I want to move Hughes who onto the continent.

One of my I would say my closest companions into one of the most respected individuals that I followed on impact investment died a year and a half ago. Layla, Jenna, she was a inventor of impact, impact sourcing. She had a company noticed Samasource and what she would do is exactly what I’m doing now.

But hers was more with the bigger companies like Microsoft and Hulu and Netflix. And what she would do is she would use portions of what they did for production and take them to Kenya and Nigeria area and have individuals who are lived below, below the pyramid, work on those things, packaged them back, back up and send them back to those major companies and pay those individuals, a living wage.

And so for a while, she was working with me to network and she had all the connections and we got it started in Ghana, but then right after he got started, she passed away from cancer. So one of the things that I want to do now is just see that dream dream fulfilled Layla is right here. And I think this is gonna work for a lot of other countries besides that.

So I just want to push that on the continent.

Corinna Bellizzi

Wow. That’s amazing. Well, perhaps I can put you in touch with Nana Abba and she can help get us off the ground.

Godfrey Coker

I look forward to that. Oh, you awesome. That would be great.

Corinna Bellizzi

So I would love to just offer you the floor for you to share one thing that you’d like to leave our audience with.

Or if there’s a question you wish I’d asked that I haven’t just, what would you like them to go off into their days thinking?

Godfrey Coker

Yeah, so, you know, we touched about, we touched on this. Before, and that was living unapologetically as yourself and with this being a pride month. And you know, people are really coming out and doing what they have to, you know, you have to sort of look at that and say, you know, what would a world be like?

If this wasn’t necessarily a time period where you had to come out, like individuals would just know, okay, that’s what you are. And there was a path for you to flow with, you know, accordingly, you know, so you, I think what I want to leave people with is if we can push to the point where this doesn’t become a segment in time where we don’t have to have.

You know, people really understand why there needs to be a dig into, you know, how systemic oppression occurs or why trans people can’t be free to be who they are or people who are going through coming out, why they don’t have to feel like they have to be closeted if we can look inside. And when people say this and they don’t understand what it means, I think looking inside means how, if you can make yourself.

Feel free and comfortable to be unapologetically you. That’s the way that we’re going to make all these situations happen for everybody else. Because if we continue to look outside to try to solve these things, we’re losing exactly what we talked about at the beginning. When you said, who is Godfrey I would choose to say, who are you, who the, whoever the audience is, that’s listening to this.

Who are you? And what are you doing to look inside, to make yourself live unapologetically yourself? And I think once you find that you realize that. People will start respecting you for who they are. They’ll emulate you and look into themselves. And if we can do this as a mass, as a group of people, that’s how we create people to come into this world and just be free themselves.

It’s you, it takes you to look at yourself and find out who am I and how do I live unapologetically myself. So that’s what I believe.

Corinna Bellizzi

Well, I love that sentiment, Godfrey. Thank you so much.

Godfrey Coker

You’re welcome. You’re welcome. This is great. I look forward to whatever else happens. Hopefully you listen back to this and then kind of recollect some of the thoughts that I had put forward on this podcast.

Corinna Bellizzi

Well, as we wrap up, I’d like to invite our audience, all of you to act. It doesn’t have to be huge. It doesn’t have to feel like a Herculean effort or climbing Mount Everest. It could be as simple as sharing this message and this podcast with friends and your community, so that more people. Get to live unapologetically themselves.

They get permission specifically from Godfrey to do so.

Godfrey Coker

I agree. Yeah.

Corinna Bellizzi

Yeah. And for me too, and just everybody who loves you, be you to find suggestions. You can always visit our website and our action page. We have charities. We’d love you to support. You could even donate to the show to help support our efforts.

I invite all of you to join the conversation and be a part of the community we’re building. You can do that by visiting us, even on clubhouse, Godfrey, and I are sometimes there together. And so there’s a care more be better club. You can also follow me at, CareMore be better just leave that, that final E and editor and, and better rather.

And you’ll find it. You can also always just send me an email to I want to hear from you. Thank you listeners. Now in all ways for being a part of this pod and this community, because together we really can do so much more. We can care more and we can be better. Thank you.

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