Black History Month: ‘How can we write new history?’
As health leaders struggled to understand the coronavirus in the early days of the pandemic, friends and colleagues would ask Erickajoy Daniels if she’d seen reports on a clear and troubling trend — amid all the uncertainty, communities of color were being hit significantly harder by COVID-19.
“Our community already knew it,” said Daniels, Chief Diversity Equity and Inclusion Officer at Advocate Aurora Health. “Whenever there’s a tragedy, some communities are hit hardest. That wasn’t news to us. What was news was to me was that others were finally becoming aware.”.”
There was reason for hope, though. The fact that there were reports, showed that the problem was being acknowledged, she said.
The news brought hope to Daniels, who joined Aurora Health Care as its diversity leader in 2015 after jobs in talent management at a major Milwaukee manufacturer and the Federal Bureau of Prisons on the east coast. At first, she was hesitant to take a diversity and inclusion job, but she agreed to help build the department into what it is today – a team at the epicenter of both the COVID-19 pandemic and a renewed focus on racial injustice in America.
The pandemic was a large complicated problem. But when Daniels’ team held listening sessions with community members, they learned that people had pretty simple questions, like how to make a mask and where to get hand sanitizer.
With those lessons in mind, Advocate Aurora Health team members gathered at Aurora Sinai Medical Center to assemble thousands of kits with basics, like mask-making instructions, salt-free food seasonings and other essentials to help people get by.
“None of us were writing a prescription. No one was taking anyone’s temperature,” Daniels said. “But we saw an opportunity to help people live well in ways beyond medicine.”
Simple acts can make a big difference. And now that Black History Month has begun, Daniels wants people to think about shaping their actions like the great Black leaders of the past who pushed America forward in their time.
“How can we write new history that people who come after us will be proud of?” Daniels said. “Otherwise, we keep reading and celebrating leaders who made strides in an era that we have long lived past and not recognize that it is now our job to add to the history by leading change in this area.”
About the Author
Mike Riopell, health enews contributor, is a media relations coordinator with Advocate Aurora Health. He previously worked as a reporter and editor covering politics and government for the Chicago Tribune, Daily Herald and Bloomington Pantagraph, among others. He enjoys bicycles, home repair, flannel shirts and being outside.