A message from Hazelle Palmer, President and CEO of Sherbourne Health
Each year Black History Month is celebrated as an opportunity in February to recognize the achievements, history, and contributions of Black communities. There have always been many ways in which such recognition is honoured – each with common aims of increasing awareness and highlighting pride.
For many Black people, however, Black History Month isn’t just one month a year. It’s something we focus on every day that goes beyond awareness and pride to the daily challenges, frustrations and trauma associated with anti-Black racism.
First expressed by Dr. Akua Benjamin (a Professor in Social Work with Toronto Metropolitan University), the term anti-Black racism is generally defined as “policies and practices rooted in Canadian institutions such as, education, health care, and justice that mirror and reinforce beliefs, attitudes, prejudice, stereotyping and/or discrimination towards people of Black-African descent”.
Conversations about anti-racism now include specific discussions about anti-Black racism and include actions to challenge and dismantle the unique systemic nature of this racism. Black History Month, then, is an opportunity for each of us to reflect on ways we can disrupt those barriers, shift personal beliefs and, within our work environments, contribute to actions of change.
It’s hard work. However, it is a way to see February as a catalyst for ongoing change and reconciliation; to seek out resources that improve our understanding and knowledge, to show empathy and to change old behaviours.
I have the privilege of being part of (and co-Chair) an anti-racism steering committee organized by Ontario Health (Toronto Region). This committee is working to deliver on Ontario Health’s EIDA-R framework and is creating resources, frameworks, and policies to assist health care institutions in Toronto. We are creating resources, frameworks, and policies to assist health care institutions to dismantle behaviours and systems that continue to cause harm to Indigenous and Black communities. Together we are creating tools that we hope will be instrumental to management and staff at health care institutions in bringing about changes that improve these environments for us as health care workers and for our clients.
One tool, already launched, is an Introduction to Anti-Black Racism. This self-directed e-module provides base knowledge of Black people’s history in Canada including experiences of slavery and colonization and the origins and ongoing challenges of anti-Black racism. I invite you to begin this February by clicking on this link as a first step in increasing your knowledge and being a catalyst for change.