On September 14, 2020, Dr. Gail Christopher spoke on Racial Healing on Office of Community Empowerment & Opportunity’s Panel, Reconciliation: Learning from the Past to Heal America’s Future.
Achieving health equity requires eliminating racism. We are supportive of Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s ongoing and long-standing leadership on issues of racial justice and equity. She has introduced a resolution calling for the creation of a US Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Commission. We at National Collaborative for Health Equity encourage you to educate decision makers about this important effort and raise your voices in support. Please see the related press kit and supporting documents below.
We are excited to announce the Health Opportunity and Equity Initiative’s newly published blog from Health Affairs, which features our analysis of data on COVID-19 and health equity in Arizona, Maryland, and Wisconsin. On June 25, HOPE also unveiled a new, interim site that examines how existing inequities play a role in the virus’ disproportionate effects on poor, marginalized, and communities of color.
The HOPE Initiative is interactive data tool designed to help our nation and states move beyond measuring disparities to spur action toward achieving health equity. The project is sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and is a partnership of the National Collaborative for Health Equity, the Texas Health Institute, and Virginia Commonwealth University. Our full site will launch in late summer, 2020, where we offer a 50-state analysis of 24 critical factors in people’s health and well-being by race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.
Please check out these new resources, share them with your networks, and be on the lookout for our full site to go live later this summer.
June 19, 2020
Statement by Dr. Gail C. Christopher,
National Collaborative for Health Equity
Juneteenth: Honoring our Ancestors
Today, the Juneteenth holiday, should be a source of inspiration for all people in America. Commemorating this day will help us all breathe by inspiring us to see and to eliminate the lasting, until now, seemingly permanent, permission to devalue other human beings, especially black and brown people.
It is too late for George Floyd, Eric Garner, Ahmad Arbry, Breana Taylor, Sandra Bland, and countless others. The list of black lives and bodies sacrificed to both build this country and enable it to continue imposing an unjust racial hierarchy that values one group over another because of skin color is overwhelming.
Juneteenth is the day to commemorate the end of enslavement of black people in America, the day in 1865 when enslaved people in Galveston, Texas finally received the news that President Abraham Lincoln had freed slaves within the rebelling Confederacy.
It was a day of short-lived jubilation.
While Juneteenth, 2020 is garnering more attention than ever before within an amazingly vast chorus affirming that Black Lives Matter, it is helpful to revisit how little black lives mattered at the time of their emancipation. Freed people seeking refuge in Union Army camps during and after the Civil War, found nothing of the kind. Often starving and exposed to the infectious diseases rampant in war time encampments, freedmen, women, and children experienced the continued trauma of hatred at worst and disregard at best.
In his book, Sick From Freedom, author, Jim Downs, documents the pain, suffering and needless deaths of freed people during Civil War and Reconstruction years. Using authentic narratives and medical records from the Archives of the Freedman’s Bureau, Downs opens our hearts to the plights and resilient humanity of our ancestors. He exposes the fault lines of a nascent public health and medical system steeped in racism, and totally unprepared and unwilling to care for them. When smallpox broke out in 1862, Downs explained how military and federal officials in the North followed health protocols to stop the spread of the virus among the soldiers but justified the outbreak among free people as a “natural outcome“ of emancipation.
“The outbreak reinforced theories that the newly freed black people were on the verge of extinction, providing little incentive for federal agents to try to stop the spread of the disease,” Downs wrote. “Additionally, even when various doctors and federal officials rejected that theory and committed themselves to stopping the spread of the virus, the massive dislocation created by emancipation thwarted their efforts. Smallpox spread among the former slaves and in the armies that moved throughout the South.”
There is a clear line connecting that era to today’s systemic manifestations of violence and neglect. The COVID-19 coronavirus has unveiled the effect of decades of inadequate resources and opportunities, including lack of access to healthcare, which has rendered black communities extremely vulnerable to the virus.
It’s clear that black lives did NOT matter then, and we are still striving to make them matter today.
Black Union Army troops played an instrumental role in assuring final victory for the North and preservation of the Union, but that’s not the only reason for us to celebrate Juneteenth. It should be commemorated as a day of remembrance for our ancestors, who demonstrated amazing courage, strength, and resilience, in spite of slavery’s devastation. Further, our nation needs to acknowledge America’s past, which was rooted in ignorance and racism. Today should be about collectively committing to overcoming four centuries of embedded belief in the root cause of racism – a false taxonomy and hierarchy of humanity. This is a day to recognize that a healthy nation and democracy cannot co-exist with a culture that continues to devalue our lives. It is a day to be inspired and breathe in the promise of true freedom.
(Dr. Gail C. Christopher is the Executive Director of the National Collaborative for Health Equity, Senior Scholar at the Center for Advancement of Well-Being at George Mason University, founder of the RxRacial Healing movement, and former Senior Advisor and Vice President of the W. K. Kellogg Foundation. Follow Dr. Christopher on Twitter @drgcchristopher.)
June 1, 2020
Statement by Dr. Gail C. Christopher, Executive Director, National Collaborative for Health Equity
AMERICA URGENTLY NEEDS TRUTH, RACIAL HEALING, AND TRANSFORMATION TO BRING UNITY, EQUITY AND RACIAL HEALING TO OUR NATION
“Today, the National Collaborative for Health Equity (NCHE) enthusiastically applauds the House Resolution urging that a United States Commission on Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation (TRHT) be established. As cited in the Resolution, a devastating belief in racial hierarchy has fueled injustices against populations of color for centuries. It has resulted in structurally-based inequities in America’s systems, particularly biased healthcare that diminishes our well-being, and patterns of discrimination in public policies and private practices throughout our society. NCHE believes that a TRHT Commission can help jettison the hierarchy of human value and launch a new era where all human beings are valued and have the capacity to see ourselves in one another.
“NCHE envisions a TRHT Commission that will facilitate racial healing and shape policies and practices that will change community narratives, broaden the understanding that Americans have for their diverse experiences, and encourage communities to unite and work together towards policies that benefit everyone. As a nation, it is imperative that we acknowledge the inequities of the past, their persistence today, and then act earnestly to heal the wounds and move forward. The TRHT Commission can lead our nation in addressing this unfinished business. Americans can come together, to collectively help change attitudes and beliefs, hearts and minds and transform our country into one that embodies equity and fairness for all people. The TRHT Commission can help us hold each other accountable as the healing work proceeds in our homes, workplaces, schools, neighborhoods and places of worship. We can make a solemn commitment to unifying the nation, rejecting racism, and finding strength, not resentment, in our differences.
“In recent weeks, as COVID-19 disproportionately infected and killed people of color, it has become even more clear that racism and the belief in a hierarchy of human value has accelerated barriers to health, housing, education and economic opportunities in communities of color, creating environments where the coronavirus can spread. Further, unarmed people of color continue to be targeted by citizens and law enforcement, and are being killed at alarming rates. But the US Commission on TRHT can help build a path towards real change for our nation, thereby helping eliminate conditions that are determinants of poor health outcomes. These conditions include residential segregation, concentrated poverty, low-wage jobs, food insecurity, environmental pollution and under-resourced school systems. The nation must collectively examine how the belief in a hierarchy of human value became embedded in the culture and structures of American society, including racial violence and police brutality. Together, we can work with civic, government, religious, community and private sector leaders to design and implement effective actions to permanently uproot racism, replacing it with actualized principles, policies and practices of equity.
“This is a path towards assuring dignity and respect among populations, transforming societies to move beyond differing races, religions, ethnicities and conflict to embracing unity and a connected-approach towards creating environments where everyone, and especially children, can have equal opportunities and thrive. This work is all more urgent now, as most of our nation’s young children are children of color. Our collective futures are at stake.”
(The proposed U.S. Commission on Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT) is informed by ongoing TRHT work on college campuses and in several US cities. Originally funded in 2017 by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation and several other philanthropies, this model and framework for action was created by Dr. Gail C. Christopher while she served as senior advisor and Vice President for TRHT at the Kellogg Foundation. To schedule print or broadcast interviews with Dr. Christopher, please contact: Michael K. Frisby, 202-625-4328 or [email protected])
In a speech delivered at Cornell College, in Vermont Iowa in 1962, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “I am convinced that men hate each other because they fear each other. They fear each other because they don’t know each other, and they don’t know each other because they don’t communicate with each other, and they don’t communicate with each other because they are separated from each other.”
In cities and towns all across America today, people are honoring Dr. King’s legacy through community service. This is good. Today people will honor his legacy by participating in a National Day of Racial Healing, an annual commemoration launched in 2018 as part of the Truth Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT) work. Leaders from every sector worked collaboratively to design a set of recommendations for helping to heal America’s racial divide using an overarching framework that I designed before leaving the W. K. Kellogg Foundation. This framework emphasizes that separation is a primary tool for maintaining the fallacy of racial hierarchy and its harmful consequences. Our entrenched systems of separation take many forms today. These range from residential segregation and concentrated poverty, food deserts and school segregation to incarceration inequities and cruel immigration policies. Racial separation perpetuates limited access to life saving health care in communities made vulnerable by exposure to environmental toxins including the stress and trauma caused by violence and inadequate resources.
Dr. King knew that people had to work together to actualize his dream. He knew that learning to see ourselves in the faces of one another through genuine communication with one another was required for overcoming hate and creating lasting equity in America. We honor Dr. King’s legacy and his ultimate sacrifice when we engage in racial healing efforts. NCHE urges you to both serve your community today and come together for racial healing circles today by participating in the annual National Day of Racial Healing.
Dr. Christopher presented at TEDx Charlottesville 2019.
In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. These events are branded TEDx, where x=independently organized TED event. TED provides the rules and guidelines, but TEDxCharlottesville is independently organized and executed. Since 2013, TEDxCharlottesville has participated in the TEDx mission to bring awareness to the rich talent, creativity and innovation found here in Charlottesville, Virginia.
APHA’s 2019 Annual Meeting – Closing General Session: 1619 – 2019: Health and Justice Denied
Join Dr. Christopher for her APHA session on Rx racial healing: Disrupting cycles of injustice by transforming racial beliefs, perceptions and behaviors. https://apha.confex.com/apha/2019/meetingapp.cgi/Session/59277
In her session, Dr. Christopher will be discussing:
- Evidence-based interventions for changing racial attitudes, conscious and implicit.
- Contemporary science and support for eliminating the antiquated idea of a taxonomy of humanity; replacing it with an expressed, empathetic sense of interconnected and equal value among diverse groups.
- How participants can actively engage through their organizations and as individuals in racial healing and related transformational activities.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 9, 2019
Contact: Michael K. Frisby
NCHE LEADERSHIP TRANSITION: DR. GAIL C. CHRISTOPHER TO SUCCEED EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AND CO-FOUNDER DR. BRIAN SMEDLEY
WASHINGTON, DC – The National Collaborative for Health Equity (NCHE) today announced that Executive Director and co-Founder Dr. Brian Smedley will resign effective October 31, 2019, to assume a new role as Chief of Psychology in the Public Interest at the American Psychological Association. Dr. Gail Christopher, former Vice President and senior advisor at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, will succeed Dr. Smedley as NCHE Executive Director on November 1, 2019.
As Vice President for Food, Health and Well-being at the Kellogg Foundation, Dr. Christopher oversaw programming in Food, Health and Well-being, Leadership and Civil Engagement, and place-based investments in Mississippi and New Orleans.
Further, she created the Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT) process, an unprecedented, multi-sector coalition effort to apply the globally recognized Truth and Reconciliation process to address injustices in U.S. communities. TRHT built on the success of American Healing, a multi-year investment strategy created by Dr. Christopher in 2008 to support research, communications and policies fostering racial equity and healing.
“I am honored to return to lead this work that is so vital to the health of our country and I am deeply appreciative of Dr. Smedley’s outstanding work that not only sustained, but dramatically enhanced the mobilization of communities to end health inequities,” said Dr. Christopher, who brings extensive knowledge and experience in creating comprehensive approaches to well-being and is widely recognized for her pioneering work to infuse holistic health and diversity concepts into public sector programs and policy discourse.
“I look forward to working with the NCHE National Advisory Committee, the entire talented NCHE team, national leadership networks and philanthropic organizations to help America develop a true Culture of Health, ‘’ she said. “Doing so will require eliminating the antiquated, but still deeply entrenched belief in a hierarchy of human value and the consequences of that detrimental belief system. Changing the culture requires changing hearts and minds and creating a culture fueled by compassion, empathy and mutual regard.”
Previously, Dr. Christopher was Executive Director of The Innovation in American Government Awards Program at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. She also served as Vice President of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, where she led the Joint Center Health Policy Institute, which implemented powerful initiatives to address social determinants of health disparities, including the Dellums Commission. Named for the now deceased Congressman Ronald V. Dellums, members prioritized the needs of boys and men of color.
Under Dr. Smedley’s leadership, NCHE continued this important work after spinning off from the Joint Center in 2014.
“We are grateful for Dr. Smedley’s many contributions to NCHE and the field of health equity,” said NCHE Advisory Committee Chair Dr. Linda Rae Murray, “and look forward to Dr. Christopher’s return to the pioneering work she began and has sustained for several decades.”
Among Dr. Smedley’s accomplishments, he co-directed the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Leadership National Program Center, along with Natalie S. Burke, President & CEO of CommonHealth ACTION. Now in its fourth year, the Culture of Health Leadership program accelerates the potential of leaders around the country to work more deeply within their sector or across sectors to build a Culture of Health.
At the American Psychological Association, Dr. Smedley will lead the APA’s Public Interest Directorate, which includes offices on aging, disability, children and families, ethnic minority affairs, women, and sexual orientation and gender diversity, among other issues. APA is the leading scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the U.S. and its members include more than 118,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students.
“I will deeply miss my colleagues and the important work that we are doing at NCHE,” Smedley said, “but could not be more thrilled to have Dr. Christopher succeed me. In so doing, we are giving back to Dr. Christopher the great gift that she gave us when she left the Joint Center for the Kellogg Foundation.”
Spanning four decades, Dr. Christopher has created and directed efforts investing more than $1 billion to improve health, racial healing and equity in American society. In her new position, Dr. Christopher will continue expanding RxRacial Healing, a movement launched with five organizations, including NCHE, to mobilize a critical mass of people across the United States committed to healing the racial wounds of the past while seeking an end to racism and the inequities and injustices it creates, as well as the resulting poor health outcomes.
Her distinguished career has been honored by many organizations, including the National Academy of Public Administration, the Health Brain Trust of the Congressional Black Caucus, the Society for Public Health Education, the Schott Foundation for Public Education, the Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs and Grantmakers in Health. Dr. Christopher is Chair of the Board of the Trust for America’s Health.