Black History Month: Black history is American history.

To celebrate Black History Month 2023, we asked students and faculty in the UC Berkeley School of Public Health community what the month means to them and what everyone should know about the black experience in healthcare. What we heard: representation, respect, resistance and fearlessness. Below, their thoughts in their own words.

Bria Brown

Bria Brown (she/her/her) is a first-year MPH candidate in the Health Policy and Management program. For her, Black History Month is a time to remember that despite built-in systemic oppression, her ancestors’ legacy inspires her to continue to break barriers.

What does Black History Month mean to you?

Black History Month gives me an opportunity to reflect on the past and the present, and undoubtedly to thank, rejoice and honor my ancestors and the fruits of their labor. Black history is American history; Without black history there would be no history. We are often taught the wrong narrative of history or “chosen” history in school, yet Black History Month is a time to recognize and acknowledge Black achievements, contributions, untold stories, culture and issues. of our people. We are still standing by constant and deliberate attacks by institutional design with the intention of destroying our communities! My father’s legacy inspires me to continue to overcome obstacles and to tackle challenges head on without fear.

What do you feel is a better story about the black experience in health care and public health?

First and foremost, it is imperative to acknowledge and understand the historical disadvantage that Black people have faced in the health care system. The Tuskegee Trials and the story of Henrietta Lacks are prime examples of the mistrust, racial discrimination, and injustice that blacks often face in oppressive systems. History repeats itself again and again. Today’s problems are the same as those of the past. If past experiences are not recognized, acknowledged and confronted, this problem will continue. In order to seek change, you must first recognize the past and then take active action to dismantle a fragmented system. Also, having more representation in health care allows black voices to be heard and seen.

How do you think UC Berkeley and Berkeley Public Health can amplify the voices of members of our black community?

UC Berkeley can amplify the voices of members of our Black community by increasing the number of Black faculty and staff in leadership positions. This alone increases the visibility of our voice. Second, when they have guest speakers, it’s good to hear from a black member about their experiences in different areas of the workforce. Additionally, providing spaces where black voices can be heard and diverse issues and events can come together and discuss is a big step in the right direction. Finally, access to additional financial aid in terms of fellowships and scholarships will provide more opportunity for Black individuals to enroll and graduate at UC Berkeley.

Olufunke Bamidele Fasawe (Funke)

Second-year Ph.D. student Funke Fasawe (her/she/her) thinks one way to move public health toward equity is to bring health into all major dimensions here at Berkeley Public Health.

What does Black History Month mean to you?

Black History Month represents a time of deep reflection as a nation to achieve racial justice and break down the structural barriers that have kept so many people from achieving their human rights and potential. It reminds us of the struggles and bloodshed of tireless activists and advocates to advance the cause of Black people in America and around the world, and how much more we still have to do. It brings a sense of responsibility to continue to emphasize the core message of our society, regardless of race, gender, and other social constructs that we have created to make our society a just, nonjudgmental, and inclusive society for all people everywhere. It reinforces my desire as a person to contribute to this cause in my own way in a meaningful and practical way in my social and professional involvement.

What do you feel is a better story about the black experience in health care and public health?

I think we need to educate more about the structural barriers to health care access and how these barriers actually play out. I believe that educating public health professionals and frontline health care workers about structural fitness is critical and should be incorporated into all areas of health care and public health. We need to learn a lot of history and health ethics. Finally, we must intentionally influence blacks and others to address inequities, disparities, and inequities in health care delivery by creating forums for participation across the board in the public health community.

How do you think UC Berkeley and Berkeley Public Health can amplify the voices of members of our black community?
  1. Increase black representation among students and faculty. Employing more black faculty members and admitting more black students is beneficial. It creates strong models for public health graduates and social change makers of Black background who want to see more Black faculty leaders who push the narrative of Black empowerment and empower people of color to thrive in the UC Berkeley community and create shared and equal space. Above.
  2. Expand classrooms that shed more light on the structural barriers that create disparities in health care access and how this affects black communities and other underrepresented communities. Likewise, I think health ethics should be considered as a core theme for all degree programs in public health here at Berkeley as a breadth course or as a core theme in slightly interspersed breadth courses.
  3. Increase funding and fellowship opportunities for research aimed at breaking down these structural barriers. This critical funding supports the development of innovative frameworks to increase the diversity and representation of Black people and their experiences in health care and public health care and programming, delivery and evaluation.

Jordan Williams

Jordan Williams (she/her/her) is a first-year MPH candidate in the Health and Social Behavior concentration and a fellow at Blue Shield of California. She says she’s here at Berkeley to “acquire new skills, knowledge, and support in breaking down systemic health disparities that disproportionately affect historically marginalized and marginalized communities.” One of my main goals is to actively push boundaries and create healthy communities through the development of innovative solutions based on research, education, advocacy and community empowerment.

What does Black History Month mean to you?

To me, Black History Month is a time of focused reflection, community bonding, and honor. I reflect on all the sacrifices my forefathers made so that I could live in the world and take places in freedom as a black woman. I connect with family, friends, elders, and other community members with joy, laughter, and deep conversations about where we are as individuals and as a community and where we want to be in the future. I especially enjoy celebrating BHM with various works of art. From singers like Nina Simone, authors like James Baldwin, and writers like August Wilson, I love celebrating Black History Month with artwork that captures the essence of many black experiences.

What do you feel is a better story about the black experience in health care and public health?

There are many ways that the history of the Black experience can be incorporated into health care and public health. Real progress comes from a deeper understanding of the black experience and how public health and the health care system are part of that experience. Three areas I would like to explore in depth include:

  • Education: As academic programs produce the next generation of public health and health care professionals, academic institutions should incorporate the history of black health disparities into their curricula to increase cultural competency and foster an environment of empathy and understanding.
  • Cooperation: Partnering with historically black colleges and universities, black health-focused health care organizations, and community stakeholders will help ensure that the history of the black health care experience is accurately represented and disseminated.
  • Digital Media: The widespread use of websites, social media and apps allows for efficient and effective dissemination of information. Public health and health care professionals should use digital media to enhance communications and bring awareness of the Black health care experience to a wider audience.
How do you think UC Berkeley and Berkeley Public Health can amplify the voices of members of our black community?

Progress means pushing boundaries and questioning the status quo. I think it’s important to note that people should be comfortable with the zooming process. Additionally, we cannot simply amplify voices in the decision-making process and turn around and ignore those voices. I believe that Berkeley Public Health can amplify the voices of members of the Black community by providing spaces and opportunities for members of public health to share their thoughts, ideas, and concerns candidly and authentically with each other and with stakeholders. UC Berkeley and Berkeley Public Health must be willing to redesign, rebuild, and reevaluate existing harmful systems and processes to foster an environment that promotes equity, inclusion, and compassion.

Daniel Woolridge

Daniel Woolridge, MD (he/him/him), is a faculty lecturer and recruitment/addressee specialist in the UC Berkeley/UCFS Joint Medical Program. For him, the month makes him both respectable and respectable.

What does Black History Month mean to you?

What Black History Month means to me can be summed up in a series of words.

  • A memory
  • Honor
  • Resilience
  • Resistance

Indeed, I think the month is equal honor and glory.

How do you feel that the Black experience in health care and public health can be better disseminated and how UC Berkeley and Berkeley Public Health can amplify the voices of members of our Black community?

To answer both of these related questions, I first want to emphasize that if we as a community are to properly disseminate and amplify Black voices and experiences, we must go beyond using a trauma-based lens and balance this with a healing/body-centered lens. After all, honoring perseverance and success despite the existence of white supremacy is quite different from honoring what has happened to us. And make it incomplete.

Thus, I envision both direct and indirect ways of disseminating and amplifying the voice of the black community. For example, UC Berkeley, like the original UC, hosted some of the best proponents of racial justice and self-determination of the time (e.g., Stokely Carmichael in 1966, Malcolm X in 1963, the free speech movement’s Mario Savio), and some of our country’s worst (e.g., eugenicists Herbert M. Evans , MD, Samuel J. Holmes, PHD, professors of anatomy and zoology, respectively) developed academic careers; All records are available in the Bancroft Library. While many of today’s most prestigious universities share the same guilt as Berkeley, I suspect that UC Berkeley and BPH are more likely guardians of these efforts in terms of institutional ethics.

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