Since Black History Month’s official recognition in 1976, the month of February has served as an opportunity for all Americans to broaden our understanding of and appreciation for Black culture and to celebrate the significant contributions of African Americans throughout the centuries. It also is a time for us to reflect on our own history as an institution – honoring the considerable achievements of our Black faculty, staff, students and alumni while also reckoning with the misdeeds and mistakes of our past.
As a global pandemic is disproportionately ravaging communities of color because of inequities rooted in our country’s history and ongoing systemic racism, it is more important than ever to widen our awareness and begin to connect the past with the realities of our present.
With that in mind, I encourage you to take part in the numerous events being hosted by VCU, VCU Health and others throughout the month of February. Last evening, Dr. Alice Coombs was a panelist on a highly informative session entitled “Lessons from Tuskegee in this Season of COVID-19.” And tomorrow, we have the opportunity to attend the 20th Annual Black History Lecture, which will be hosted virtually by VCU Libraries from 7–8 p.m. Historian Marcia Chatelain, Ph.D., will discuss her book Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America, followed by a Q&A session.
Other highlights throughout the month include VCU alumni panels, a talk about Richmond’s African American cemeteries and a panel discussion focused on systemic racism, medical mistrust and the COVID-19 vaccine.
We are incredibly excited about these and other opportunities this month to learn and strengthen our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). I encourage you to continue to check our DEI website for more scheduled events.
It is often repeated that “those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” I am proud of our recent contributions to our nation’s collective learning about systemic racism in health care through publications in high profile journals by faculty such as Dr. Jessica Balderston Gertz and Dr. Alex Krist, as well as funding for researchers like Dr. Dina Garcia to inform future DEI practices across medical schools, including our own.
There remains much for us to learn to truly realize our obligations to each other and to become a more inclusive, equitable society. We will continue on this journey together.