Reducing Racial Disparities
addressing Extreme Prematurity
Eliminating Sleep-Related Deaths
Over two days First Year Cleveland, along with the YWCA Greater Cleveland, took a journey with nearly 600 individuals who are committed to eliminating racial disparities locally as well as nationally.
The 400 Years of Inequity Action Summit kicked off November 8, 2019 at Cleveland Public Auditorium with a crowd that included health care and service providers, policy makers, professionals and citizens, all eager to learn how others are tackling the issue of racial inequity not only on a local level, but on a personal level, too. Participants listened intently to nationally renowned speakers including Isabel Wilkerson, john a. powell, Darrick Hamilton, Harriet Washington, Stacey Stewart and Gail Christopher. The Summit led them through the history of the first Africans who were brought to British North America and enslaved in 1619 to present day, where inequities and discrimination are still faced by African Americans.
The goals of the Summit were threefold: commemorate the 400-year anniversary of slavery, begin to change the narrative about the black experience, and discuss where we go from here. Through education, music, reflection and conversation, participants gained a solid understanding of how America has managed race and its consequences for citizens of African ancestry. Breakout sessions provided greater insight into specialty areas including maternal and child health equity, managing internal bias, education and justice inequities and more. A highlight of the event was a panel discussion focused on declaring racism as a public health crisis. Leaders from Milwaukee, a city that is challenged with many of the same racial issues as Cleveland, talked about their recent declaration of racism as a public health crisis, both at the city and county levels, with the end goal of making things equal for all. They admit that getting people to recognize that racial inequity is a real problem has been challenging.
Declaring racism as a public health crisis is an official pathway for government to address the negative economic, cultural, emotional and physical hardship brought on by 400 years of slavery and oppression. When local governments declare a public health crisis, they are then able to direct tangible human and capital resources to resolving the crisis.
Cleveland’s leaders are listening. Already systems changes are taking place, with implicit bias training being conducted in many institutions and organizations. But there is a long road ahead before equity can be reached. As Gail Christopher stated, we must “build public will and a critical mass of people committed to eliminating the idea of racial hierarchy and its consequences.”
The Summit served as a starting point. First Year Cleveland, along with YWCA Greater Cleveland, will advance that effort. Dr. arthur james, national maternal and infant health expert and advising consultant to First Year Cleveland, and Margaret Mitchell, president and CEO of YWCA Greater Cleveland, will lead a First Year Cleveland Action Team committed to working with city and county leadership to address racial inequities, challenge the status quo, and ultimately declare racism a public health crisis. Their work will also include outreach efforts to nearby states dealing with the same problems and the same unacceptable infant mortality rates that Cleveland faces. Ultimately, there is potential for a national wave of identical declarations.
The Summit was a moment to begin building that public will that Gail Christopher spoke of. Now we must turn the moment into a movement. We hope you’ll be part of it.
We would like to thank our event sponsors: March of Dimes, The Ohio State University's Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, and Radio One including stations WZAK 93.1, WENZ 107.9 and WJMO 94.5.
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