Part 2 of 2: Reflections by Health Equity Awakened Leadership Fellows

Part 2 of 2: Reflections by Health Equity Awakened Leadership Fellows

So Health Equity Awakened has really helped
me to evaluate the way I am in my life. It’s not just what I do in my workplace, but
it’s about who I am as a person. And, um, it really transformed me in a way
that has made my work more meaningful; not only for myself and for my own healing, but
also for our clients and the customers that come to the Public Health Department. [upbeat music]. One of the things that’s happening as health
departments and public health institutions start to talk more explicitly about health
equity is that we go right to the systems level and Grace Lee Boggs said, “We transform
ourselves to transform the world.” And so, our opportunity at Health Equity Awakened
is to take a group of individuals and really do some deep, personal work to get them to
understand their relationships with one another, their relationships with their own past, how
they racialize in the world, the ways that they walk in structural privilege and oppression,
and to really connect through one-on-ones and deepen their relationships so that they can
do role work and do systems work. And I think that’s the kind of transformation
that is gonna actually get to the policy work and kind of see the systems change that we
need to see. I am definitely asking a lot better questions,
and I don’t have the answers, but I am bringing a frame to the work that’s different. And I think right now or some of the next
steps I see is really helping to open up what is the actual lane for a health department. Because ultimately, if we’re not explicitly
addressing race equity and we’re not involved in the power imbalances in these other structures
and these other systems, we’re not going to see any change in these health outcomes. And I think through a lot of the relationships
with my fellows in the cohort, it has crystallized in my heart how much my engagement is needed
and how much–like I just can’t go back, I see my liberation as tied up in their liberation. That’s just a piece that is so invaluable
and it’s immeasurable, but it’s probably the most significant part of my transformation,
and I think that’ll be the thing that sustains the transformation as well. For the last year, it’s been a journey about,
you know, understanding the work of health equity, there’s a movement behind it, there
are people there to support you, but if you don’t work on yourself as a person of color
leading and supporting the work, you’re not gonna be in this game long. And, uh, that was unanticipated, you know,
jewel of transformation that I didn’t anticipate a year ago. My own personal piece is key to making sure
that what I want to see happen in neighborhoods is actually something that I can achieve and
execute in solidarity with others. One of the things that is really different
for me now is just how I present in relationship with people. Um, I would’ve been the first to admit that I
would do a lot of transactional relationships with other community partners and other community
leaders as a way to sort of get my agenda across and not going deep, not being vulnerable. So it’s been a really positive transition,
but I was able to bring more of that personal piece um, and then bringing that to the staff
that I coach and do one-on-ones with is trying to the bring the heart. We are getting really clear about what we
mean when we talk about um, the impacts of racism on health. We are drilling down um to get folks to think
about their own skin in the game, to really bring heart back into the room and into our
practice. Our ability to to improve the health of our
communities really relies on our ability to be in deep relationship with one another and
to begin to taste some of our own liberation and freedom such that we can lead more radical
health equity practice back at our offices. Someone said, “You know, I came here for the
tools.” And her response, which was so wonderful because
I think it was really so many of us was, “Yeah, I came here for the tools too, but what I
got was transformation.” In the last year, I’ve seen people respond
to me differently because of my approach in the workplace has shifted from being that
enforcer, that authority to one that’s empowering and collaborative and I’m seeking to facilitate
their success so we can improve our communities and not restricting them
from um doing the things that they feel are most important to address racial and social
justice issues. I am so grateful for everything the institute
has done for me because I feel like I’m not just a better public health professional,
but I’m a better person. I don’t see this as an institute that’s coming
to an end with our work being done. It’s really just the beginning. The relationships and networks that we’ve
established over the last year are meaningful not just for the what we’re doing now but
will be meaningful for the rest of my life. [upbeat music].

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