Black History Month February 2022

Diversity Equality Inclusion - February 11, 2022

Perspectives on Black History Month

Why Black History Month is Important to Me

by Cynthia McCullough, GLAH Director of Sales and Product Development

When I was a young girl in grade school, I always looked forward to my school’s Black History Month activities. Black History Month, founded by Carter G. Woodson in February 1926 in Washington, D.C., provides a month-long acknowledgement of the achievements of African Americans. Dr. Woodson envisioned a celebration to encourage the teachings of Black history in public schools. Every February, my school would have Black History programs and the teachers would provide information about famous African Americans.

For me, that was not enough; I always wanted to know more. I would devour the many books about my ancestors that filled our bookshelves at home. I learned about historical figures like Charles Drew, a physician who started the idea of a blood bank; aviator Bessie Coleman, the first African American female pilot; and Henry “Box” Brown, who used great cunning to escape from slavery. I was often in awe of and drew inspiration from the courage of Harriet Tubman, a conductor of the Underground Railroad, and the creativity of Madam C. J. Walker, a self-made millionaire.

I am so thankful my parents stressed the importance of learning about our rich heritage and the struggles and oppression our ancestors overcame. They wanted me and my siblings to know that our ancestors were change-makers and revolutionaries whose names we should know. We were not only encouraged to read, but we also had family discussions regarding our forebears and the fruits of their labor that were never seen or enjoyed, and how we owe many of our freedoms to their efforts.

These are just a few reasons why Black History is so important to me. We all need to learn about the efforts of Americans from all races and ethnicities who sacrificed and made contributions that make the United States a great nation today.

Learning About Black History Month

by Judith Kaufmann, GHBC Resident

As we commemorate Black History Month 2022, let us remember the father of Black History, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, who created Negro History Week in 1926. This week was later expanded to Black History Month.

Dr. Woodson, a long-time dean at Howard University, was the second Black man to receive a doctorate from Harvard University. Dr. Woodson also created an organization that has become the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). Every year, they pick a theme for Black History Month. This year’s theme, appropriately as we move into the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, is “Black Health and Wellness”.

The first president to do so, Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month in 1976. He called on the public to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

To honor, we must first learn.

Some may remember the GHBC Senior Quest for Meaning panel in January 2021 on the topic of the pandemic and healthcare equity and inequity. We learned then that Black and Hispanic individuals in the U.S. were bearing a disproportionate burden of COVID-19 infections, hospitalization and death.

There are historic reasons for these disparities. During the Jim Crow era—and even beyond in some areas—Black individuals were barred from certain hospitals and white doctors would often refuse to treat them. African Americans have been used as unwilling and unwitting test subjects, most famously in the government-sponsored Tuskegee experiment, during which Black men with syphilis were left untreated so that researchers could study the progress of the disease.

Statistics show that even today African Americans often do not receive treatments available to white patients, leading to shorter life spans and increased death rates. Black women are two to three times as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. A recent CDC report showed lower use of available COVID treatments, especially monoclonal antibody treatments, among Black, Asian and Hispanic patients with positive test results, relative to white patients. That is, of course, presuming they have access to testing.

Another important part of Black History Month is recognizing the contributions of African Americans. This month, let us note just three of many who have contributed medical and scientific innovations to the nation’s health and wellness.

  • Onesimus was an enslaved West African who had been purchased for a prominent minister, Cotton Mather, in 1706. His recollection of being inoculated against smallpox while in Africa led a local doctor to test Onesimus’ inoculation method when Boston experienced a smallpox epidemic in 1721. Out of the 287 inoculated patients, only six died. We are taught that Edward Jenner, a white Englishman, invented the smallpox vaccine when Africans had known of the technique well before.
  • Charles Drew is the father of the modern blood bank. He developed improved techniques for blood storage and then, during World War II, applied that knowledge to develop large-scale blood banks, saving thousands of lives.
  • Kizzmekia Corbett’s work at the National Institutes of Health led directly to the creation of the Moderna vaccine against COVID -19.

Ideally, we would have no need for Black History Month. Ideally, teaching Black history would be woven into the teaching of American history since Black people have been a part of the fabric of this country since 1619, when the first Africans were brought to this country. As the saying goes, Black history is American history. Unfortunately, Black history is still an afterthought in most discussions of American history, and the current climate makes it unlikely that will change any time soon.

To learn more about Black History Month and this year’s theme, a good place to start is the National Museum of African American History and Culture website.

_________________

Cynthia McCullough, director of sales and product development for Goodwin Living at Home (GLAH), joined the Goodwin Living family in June 2021. Cynthia has worked in sales and marketing leadership roles in senior living and large corporations for 30 years. Before joining Goodwin Living, she spent 15 years of her career with life plan communities in Charlotte, NC. When not working for GLAH, Cynthia is a caregiver for her mom and she also enjoys reading and cuddling with her 10-year-old tabby, Tyson.

Judith Kaufmann has been a resident of Goodwin House Bailey’s Crossroads (GHBC) since 2018. She has served on the Resident Council and is active in the planning for GHBC’s Senior Quest for Meaning series, which for two years has focused on how we can be a more explicitly anti-racist community. She also is active in the committee that plans the Brent Scowcroft Foreign Affairs Lecture Series, a natural follow-on to her career as a Foreign Service Officer of the United States. Her inspiration for this article comes from her nieces and their children, who have navigated being Black in America with grace and courage.

About the Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DEI) Committee: We are a group of staff and residents who together serve a mission to educate, embrace and empower a workplace of diversity, equality and inclusion. Our vision is to seek open and honest communication and collaboration that will inform and celebrate the cultural, ethnic and sexual orientation of all members of our staff without bias. Questions or comments? Please contact us at dei@goodwinliving.org.

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