The Community Health Center Movement stands on the shoulders of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and its leaders whose dreams ignited many different kinds of social change. Civil Rights leaders like Rosa Parks, U.S. Rep. John Lewis, Dorothy Height, Jo Ann Robinson, the friend we lost – U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, and The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. inspired others to stand for peace, equality, health, and unity. Like Dr. King, the budding leaders of the health center and farmworker movements all had dreams and stood at the crossroads of history. Today, because of the bold leadership of doctors H. Jack Geiger and Count Gibson, John Hatch, activist Dolores Huerta, and many others, a strong movement that supports access to quality health care not only remains but thrives, serving 29 million people nationwide.
King was a supporter of health care workers and their plight. He openly spoke out against prejudice in the health care system and health inequities. In one of his last speeches, King suggested that in times of despair the “radiant and vibrant idealism” of these health care workers gave him the “renewed courage and vigor to carry on.” The advocates of the Community Health Center Movement exhibit this same infectious energy and idealism. Passion and zeal are necessary for the Community Health Center Movement as we hike, step-by-step, up the peaks and down the valleys in the country’s ever-evolving health complex.
“You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step”.
On this day of service and remembrance, let us focus on a collective vision where quality, affordable health care is accessible for everyone– prioritizing our nation’s most vulnerable. As health center patients, staff, executives, and advocates, it is our duty to carry the torch of justice with purpose as we go forth to find solutions to the nation’s health problems. After we gather to serve our communities this holiday, honor King’s legacy throughout the year by remembering to take the first step for justice and equity in health and our Community Health Centers.