Sharing our voices for our health
Dear BPAO Members,
Systemic anti-Black racism is a public health crisis. We are in a historical moment in time – the world is watching – many people are horrified or confused by the videos and reports on social media and mainstream media on the acts of anti-Black racism by the police, and by society in general. Those who were not listening to the cries of Black communities and our Black leaders who came before us, are now paying close attention in a way that we have not seen before. Many of us are tired, and frustrated, and processing the traumatic events that have occurred and continue to occur in the United States and Canada. But it is time for us to raise our voices and speak up against the injustices that we have faced for generations – as the United Nations reported in 2017, they were: “…deeply concerned by the structural racism that lies at the core of many Canadian institutions and the systemic anti-Black racism that continues to have a negative impact on the human rights situation of African Canadians.” We committed to sharing our voices for our health a long time ago, but now is the time to amplify the call for change.
BPAO is working with many groups to rise to the occasion and advocate for the responsible collection of race based data that is done in partnership with racialized communities (i.e. culturally safe data collection ); meet with medical school leaders to speak about the impacts of anti-Black racism in academic institutions and healthcare settings and offer solutions; and looking to amplify the voices of our Black medical students across Canada , who have mobilized very quickly to advocate for substantial change. Most recently BPAO released a position statement , expressing our condolences for the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquette, expressing concern regarding police violence and support of community action. This was co-signed in solidarity by the Black Health Alliance , the Indigenous leads of the National Consortium for Indigenous Medical Education, and the Quebec Black Medical Association .
We understand that so many of you are mentally, physically and spiritually exhausted by the whirlwind of requests for your time from allies, patients, friends, and family given the multiple impacts of COVID-19 on our communities, combined with the recent interest of mainstream society in anti-Black racism. Based on international literature, due to our prior experience of anti-Black racism throughout the life course, we are at greater risk for vicarious traumatization from news coverage and social media videos of police taking a Black man’s life, and/or experiencing negative mental health symptoms for a longer time than people who have not experienced anti-Black racism. For that reason, BPAO is organizing virtual healing events, and we hope to organize events for mobilizing action in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, we are providing resources for us to educate ourselves and others on systemic anti-Black racism, resources for mental health for you and/or your patients. We have links to Black community resources and centres. We also have included a few of the many, many reports that Black communities had already provided (but were largely ignored by mainstream society until now) with recommendations on how to address anti-Black racism in healthcare and other settings. Note that if someone is asking you how to help with anti-Black racism there are many resources and proposed solutions that are easily accessible online – a plethora of recommendations for change already exist across North America. Colleagues and allies who want to be part of positive action can also donate to BPAO , to support the phenomenal work we are doing to support pre-medical students, medical trainees, and the broader community.
BPAO is taking a stand. Our mandate is to ensure the equitable representation of Blacks in medicine and health equity for Black communities. Black lives matter. If we don’t speak up now, then when? Our actions (and inactions) are history in the making.
Onye Nnorom, MD, MPH, CCFP, FRCPC
Public Health & Preventive Medicine Specialist
2021 BPAO Annual Health Symposium
We are pleased to announce that the 2021 BPAO Annual Health Symposium will take place on Saturday, February 27,
Our keynote speaker will be revealed at a future date.