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Bridging Recovery to Equity

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Re-posted with permisson from Brandywine Health Foundation

By Vanessa B. Briggs

For many of us during the first six months of 2021, we focused our efforts and hopes on putting the ills of the past year behind us, in order to achieve some resemblance of normalcy.  I use the word normalcy with great trepidation.  Nevertheless, we can certainly thank the coronavirus vaccine for our tumultuous resurgence.  However, we cannot become too complacent as we recover, particularly with infection and hospitalization rates on the rise across the nation related to the new Delta COVID variant and it’s linked to unvaccinated populations.  How we define the success of our recovery is both contingent upon our collective ability to move forward and how we actively demonstrate the value of equity.   We are at the crossroads of recovery and equity.

The Apathy of Equity

I believe this pivotal pathway to recovery is a time where we can celebrate the joys of reconnecting with our family, friends, and colleagues and where our future actions and decisions can build equitable long-term impacts for all.  Equity cannot be viewed as the new “buzz” word that will lose its reverence simply because many are exhausted by the heaviness of its meaning.  My CEO message defines equity as just and fair inclusion into a society in which all can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential. Our recovery is incumbent upon how we take our collective diversity, equity and inclusion, social justice, and racial equity statements, plans and learnings and put them into action.  This is how we build a bridge from recovery to equity.

NorthStar to Recovery

Many may have viewed and even celebrated the recent decision to make Juneteenth a national federal holiday.  There is so much more, we can and should do to create a path of recovery to right wrongs for decades of oppression among African Americans that led to years of ongoing segregated poverty, health, and economic disparities.  All of this recently exposed, but not new, by the pandemic and the uprising demand for justice.  This basically boils down to the fact that equity continues to be unattainable for African Americans and other people of color, and we are at a crucial moment in time when we can cease the opportunity to make systemic and transformative change for all.   Equitable outcomes should be our NorthStar as we activate authentic cross-sector partnerships, build community capacity with a strong civic infrastructure, and redistribute power and decision making.  By doing so, we ALL benefit by driving intentional community investments, policies, and systems that can restore and rebuild marginalized communities.

Five Keys to our Recovery

I believe there are five key actions we should consider as we continue our path of recovery to equity.  They include the following:

  1. Let your voice be heard by your state and local government about the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 funding and how it must address the health and economic issues exacerbated by the pandemic. We know all too well how the devastation of the pandemic impacted communities of color with years of disinvestments.
  2. Turn your learning justice and racial equity journey into measurable action. We are well beyond reactionary words, conversations, short-lived solutions, and glossy equity plans with no scalable outcomes.  We need long-term strategies and cross-sector partnerships that include community to drive sustained change to address inequities within our communities of color.
  3. Don’t let apathy set in nor deter you from being an ally as you carry out your equity values. For more than 400 years, African Americans, like no other race, endured oppression that systemically left them in the margins of society. Stand up and speak out when you see injustice and discrimination.
  4. Find ways to build your resiliency and mental health & well-being. This work is emotionally taxing but demands courageous commitment for the long haul.
  5. Continue to advocate and encourage others to get vaccinated. This is vitally important for our recovery and to protect populations, who especially suffer from health disparities.

There are obviously many other actions we can take.  The point of my mid-year 2021 message is straightforward.  There is something we all can do to contribute to the success of our recovery but the one thing we must do, if equity is our NorthStar, we must all share this common value and the will to boldly act.


Vanessa B. Briggs is president and CEO of the Brandywine Health Foundation based in Coatesville, PA.