By Susan Burton, Director, National Grassroots Advocacy
In the last year, Community Health Centers have altered their ways of being – from the ways that care is provided to the ways that patients and staff are supported – to keep our neighbors from becoming infected with COVID-19.
Through the pandemic and cell phone savvy bystanders, white supremacy has also become more visible in our nation and worldwide. There have long been racial health disparities in women’s childbirth experiences, infant mortality, rates of heart disease and diabetes. Yet, crossing 500,000 unimaginable COVID-19 deaths has finally gotten our nation to pay attention to the work that Community Health Centers have long been doing to address social determinants of health.
The promise of the vaccine means that one day we will not be watching so many of our neighbors suffer from the horrors of the pandemic — physically, economically, and emotionally.
Similarly, the promise of new information and new lives — each minute and each birth — means that we have the opportunity to strengthen our communities by practicing what we know protects those we love and those whom we may never meet.
During Black History Month, I hope that we can each commit to doing all that we know – and listening when we don’t know – to keep racism and white supremacy from infecting our communities and our babies. The precautions that once seemed onerous – hand-washing, mask-wearing, and social-distancing – are practices that have become every day because they save lives.
I encourage you to look around your health center, your home, your places of worship — anywhere children and adults gather — to see if there are images and stories that celebrate and honor the dignity of Black people.
Like COVID-19, white supremacy is insidious. It is spread sometimes by people who are well-meaning and without visible symptoms. It is a drumbeat that gets into every system in our society promoting the idea — through policies and systems — that white people are superior and anyone who does not have white skin is less valuable.
This year, as we consider the new ways that we are learning to care for one another, I hope to introduce you to the art that I began collecting to ensure that every child who walked into my home or workplace would see themselves and know that they are beautifully and wonderfully made.
These are three of my favorite children’s books that celebrate the beauty and power of Black people and communities:
- Homemade Love, by bell hooks
- The Friendly Four by Eloise Greenfield
- Destiny’s Gift by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley
I hope you will join me in some new practices throughout this year as we work to root out oppressive systems that are killing too many of our neighbors. I will continue to share a few of my favorite children’s books as we celebrate different groups of people throughout the year.
Please share your new practices or favorite books with me too! Use the comment feature below.