Many of us have grown accustomed to the celebration of Black History Month in February over the years, likely thanks to its recognition in our schools growing up. It was officially recognized for the first time by President Gerald Ford in 1976, but the event actually stems from a weeklong celebration that began in 1915.
Not long after, Carter G. Woodson (a Harvard historian) and Jesse E. Moorland (a minister), formed the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, which has since expanded into a month-long celebration of the accomplishments of Black Americans across all disciplines, movements, and areas of study.
Black History Month 2021
As we all know, 2020 caused a lot of things to hit a little differently. Black History Month 2021 will certainly have a deeper meaning and a larger presence. In light of the social justice movements throughout the last year, many of us have taken time for personal reflection and to learn more about the friends, colleagues, and neighbors we see each day.
With this year’s theme, “The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity,” we have an incredible opportunity to continue to learn about the people and culture within the Black community.
Black History Month and the Celebration of Black Healthcare Professionals
Black History Month is especially relevant to nurses and other healthcare practitioners from several different angles. We care for people from every race and culture at the bedside, and we see firsthand the racial disparities in health care that we learned about in school.
This has become even more evident amidst a global pandemic, where Black Americans have experienced a significantly higher death rate than any other group. Fortunately, there are prominent leaders in healthcare that recognize these disparities and are advocating, researching, and paving the way to address and prevent them.
Notable Black Leaders in Healthcare Today
Dr. Patrice Harris
Dr. Harris is the current President of the American Medical Association. Dr. Harris has a background as the organization’s first-ever Chief Health Equity Officer. Her focus has been on addressing implicit bias in healthcare at every stage, including at medical school admissions and during the hiring process.
Dr. Beverly Malone
Dr. Malone is the current Chief Executive Office of the National League for Nursing. Dr. Malone has a distinguished and decorated background in nursing, including being recognized by Modern Healthcare magazine as the fifth most influential person in healthcare on their 2020 list.
She has been a strong advocate for excellence in patient care as well as in nursing education, including promoting increased diversity in nursing and the inclusion of social factors in nursing education.
Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett
Dr. Corbett is the Scientific Lead of the Coronavirus Team at the National Institute of Health’s Vaccine Research Center. Dr Corbett’s research on spike proteins and mRNA encoding as a potential means of triggering an immune response led to a partnership with Moderna, ultimately leading to the development of one of the early COVID-19 vaccines.
She has also spent a lot of time educating members of the Black community about the vaccine, recognizing that many are hesitant to take the vaccine due to safety concerns and historical contexts around medical research and vaccinations.
Ways to Celebrate Black History Month
There are many ways to celebrate Black History Month, and a lot of them are extensions of activities that have been talked about and encouraged even more so over the last year. Many are pretty easy to get started, including reading books by Black authors, or autobiographies of influential Black figures.
Streaming services have great television shows, documentaries, and movies that have been highly regarded and recommended as well. There have been countless lists of books, movies, music, and documentaries by or about Black figures that have been released over the course of the last year (and prior) that certainly deserve a watch or listen.
Challenge yourself by exploring some suggestions from each type of media this month. If you’re a parent, there have been similar lists geared toward children’s books and movies. It’s never too early to teach your kids about diversity and equality, so take this month as an opportunity to build off of what they’re hopefully learning in school.
Outside of home, you can choose to patron local restaurants and businesses that are Black-owned, as well as support Black artists in your community. Again, with all of the social justice movements of 2020, many of these businesses and individuals are easy to find through a quick search!
With the pandemic sidelining many in-person gatherings, there are many events that have gone virtual. Among them is the 2021 Black History Month Virtual Festival, hosted by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History — the founders themselves of Black History Month.
As always, we can also continue to be strong advocates for our friends, loved ones, colleagues, and communities, by supporting efforts for social justice and speaking out against racism and prejudice. There are organizations dedicated to fighting these injustices that have opportunities to volunteer, donate, and educate in many communities across the country.
What Trusted’s Doing for Black History Month 2021
Beginning on Wednesday, February 3, 2021, we'll be releasing a series of interviews on The Handoff Podcast with leading voices in the Black nursing community around topics like building a more diverse nursing workforce, creating inclusive workplaces, and providing equitable patient care.
Our guest line-up kicks off this week with Dr. Rumay Alexander. Dr. Alexander is currently a professor in The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Nursing. She also served as the university’s first-ever Chief Diversity Officer.
Throughout her career, she’s been “the first” or “the only” in many of her roles, whether it was the first woman, the first African American, or the first person ever to hold a given role. It’s a perspective that has shaped much of her career and her passion for topics like diversity, inclusion, belonging and justice.
Our host, Dr. Nurse Dan, and Dr. Alexander talk in depth about how to make nursing at both the bedside and in academia more representative of the population overall. Dr. Alexander shares the strategies she used to widen the funnel of students at UNC, her thoughts on what good leadership looks like when it comes to advancing the cause of diversity, and how COVID-19 has actually been helpful in opening our collective eyes.
Future guests include Dr. Ernest Grant, the president of the American Nurses Association, and Dr. James Simmons, an acute care nurse at UCLA and an advocate for the Black and LGBTQ+ nursing communities.
You will also have the chance to ask some of these guests questions yourself during our Instagram Live Series dedicated to Black History Month. Join us and Kimberly Ellis, FNP-C for "Black Nurses Making History: Remembering Our Past, Prevailing in the Present, and Forging the Future."
During these four different chats throughout the month of February, we will be highlighting different nursing trailblazers who are making history. You'll leave these live virtual events knowing the powerful stories of nurse leaders, what propels them forward in the face of adversity, and be filled with inspiration to become a change agent in the nursing profession!
Additional Resources to Get You Started
- Addressing Implicit Bias in Healthcare - Esther Forte, SRNA, BSN, RN
- How Nurses Can Help Dismantle Racial Healthcare Disparity - Brittany Greaves, RN
- Being the Only Black Nurse on the Unit - Ashley Sayles, MSN, RN, CPNP-PC
- Being a Young Black Health Care Professional in Nursing - Ebony Thyme, RN, FNP
- Healthcare and Cultural Considerations for Patients - Kimberly F. Ellis, MSN, APRN, FNP-C
- Black History Month: Notable Nurses Throughout History - Trusted Team
- The Role of Allyship in Healthcare & Nursing - Trusted Team