The Alliance for Healthier Communities stands together with Black people and communities to celebrate and help commemorate stories of Black lives, and the rich and ever-evolving Black histories shared over Black History Month. At the same moment, we stand witness in continued shame and horror at the failure of governments, policymakers and the electorates who invest power in them to address systemic anti-Black racism of police and state violence structures that continue to violently take Black lives, and to traumatize Black communities while perpetuating cycles of poverty and mental illness across Black populations.
We acknowledge (including in ourselves) that standing witness and failing to take meaningful action towards change represents another, more insidious manifestation of oppression and anti-Black racism: apathy. Apathy is what allows systemic oppression that’s been in place for decades to persist. Apathy and words without action simply lead us back to where we were before: to anti-Black racist systems, practices and excuses that uphold white supremacy and white supremacist systems. As the Alliance Health Equity Charter says: “The results [of racism] are health disparities that are avoidable and unjust.”
To help create the urgent change we need in policies and practices across health and other systems, the Alliance supports the work of the leaders of the Black Health Committee, as well as collaborative work with Black Physicians’ Association of Ontario and the Black Health Alliance. That work is situated within the context of wider work and struggle by groups such as Black Lives Matter and others, to pursue racial justice and an end to systemic violence against Black people, in Canada, and around the world. Work against anti-Black racism and work for Black health is intertwined and racism must be addressed as a health issue to support improved Black health.
We also acknowledge and support the work this month of Alliance members leading Black health initiatives across Ontario’s health system, including the work of the Black Health Committee to develop and implement a Black Health Strategy and plan for the province. We’re pleased to be able to share some new stories as well about the Black-focused social prescribing program that several Alliance members are partners on, and stories of improved mental health and community connection across a few different Ontario communities. As we look ahead to Black Mental Health Week in the first week of March, we’ll be highlighting the work of Alliance members and their partners to build programs and services with the communities they serve, tailored to their needs and addressing barriers unique to Black experiences. We’re going to spend some time focused on sharing messages about recently-published research in Black-led community interventions in primary health care, including Afrocentric approaches to the pandemic, and highlight these important successes and what they point towards for improving Black health more widely.
As the Alliance and our staff continue our own journey and work to talk about and address anti-Black racism, we’ve taken steps to have open discussions about our own policies, practices and structures. The work is ongoing and collaborative, as we seek to create safer spaces and practices. Recently, the work included a screening and discussion of the documentary Working While Black, produced by TAIBU CHC. It is an exploration of the considerations and understandings of Black history that non-Black people can bring to their workplaces to help reduce hostility, racism, oppression and aggression against Black people.
During Black History Month 2023, we also look to elected officials, decision-makers, and policy-makers in Ontario and across Canada to take time not just with words, not just to celebrate, or learn, or grieve alongside Black communities, but to declare the actions they’re going to take, determine metrics to hold themselves accountable and commit the funding (and de-funding) necessary to make real change for Black people and communities. We look to leaders in Ontario and in every municipality to address anti-Black racism, and to build the inclusive programs and services to ensure equitable and sustainable Black health and wellbeing everywhere in Canada.