By Austyn Lee, Office of Diversity & Equity Summer Intern
On Tuesday, July 25th, the African American Community Initiative (AACI) gave a presentation entitled “Conversations about Black History Year” at the Board of Supervisors Meeting in the Redwood City Hall of Justice and Records.
The AACI is one of the county’s nine Health Equity Initiatives (HEI) that address racial, ethnic, and cultural disparities within BHRS. AACI aims to be a resource for African American community members who experience disparities in access to and quality of care in our county.
AACI co-chairs Tennille Tucker and Talisha Racy began the presentation with reflections on recent AACI events such as the Black History Month Health Fair entitled “Mind, Body & Spirit Matters” that was held in February and an African American diversity training for healthcare providers.
The presentation then featured African American community members performing their powerful Photovoice pieces expressing what Black Lives Matter means to them. The Photovoice project is a part of the BHRS Office of Diversity and Equity (ODE) Storytelling Project in which participants share their stories of wellness and recovery through words along with a photo or illustration. ODE partners with community-based organizations, schools, faith-based organizations, correctional institutions, and other members of the community to offer storytelling opportunities like the Photovoice project, furthering BHRS’s mission to draw attention to mental health services, reduce the stigma of mental illness and substance abuse, and provide healing for storytellers and audiences of many different backgrounds.
Common themes from the Black Lives Matter Photovoices included the fear, anxiety, and indignation African American participants experience because they do not feel safe, secure, or protected in their communities. These feelings can lead to a great deal of distress that interferes with their daily lives. For instance, one participant shared that she always puts her license and registration on the dashboard when driving because she fears being pulled over. She continued to share that talking to someone about these experiences made her feel better, allowing her to speak further about the inequities that the African American community experience.
The AACI’s presentation at the Board of Supervisors Meeting highlighted the great work that AACI is doing to address cultural disparities in the county and the impact of collaboration with ODE’s Storytelling Project to amplify community members’ voices in the conversations about mental health and recovery.
Watch Jan Allen present his Photovoice: https://youtu.be/dTvCD0vXaPA
Check out the Black Lives Matter Photovoice projects here: http://www.smchealth.org/sites/main/files/file-attachments/blm_photovoices.pdf
For more information about the African American Community Initiative, visit http://www.smchealth.org/bhrs/ode/aaci or contact Tennille Tucker at TTucker@smcgov.org or Talisha Racy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Siavash Zohoori contributed to this article.