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College Brings Together Experts for Symposium on Racism, Public Health

August 31, 2020

Schoolcraft College International Institute

The Schoolcraft College Focus Series, with Michigan United, recently was virtual host to the symposium “Racism is a Public Health Crisis.” This event welcomed experts from healthcare and legislative bodies to share stories, insights and ideas on how to address this issue.

Highlights from the symposium included:

  • Remarks from Shanay Watson-Whitaker, who, while pregnant, was suspected of drug use because of the appearance of her arms, which was due to a skin condition. She also was not admitted promptly when about to give birth to a second child.
  • Dr. Shelley Holt explained the differences between equality, equity and justice and the concepts behind each. Equality: The assumption is that everyone benefits from the same supports. This is equal treatment. Equity: Everyone gets the supports they need. Justice: Everyone can “see the game” without supports of accommodations because the cause(s) of the inequity was addressed.
  • Senator Erika Geiss, Michigan 6th District, noted that Governor Gretchen Whitmer declared racism a public health crisis in early August through a resolution, but that more meaningful legislative acts are necessary. She is hopeful that the resolution can help effect change.
  • Tina Talley, Romulus City Council, was pleased that a similar resolution was passed unanimously by her council, which includes Black and white members. She is eager to build on the work of Senator Geiss and others.
  • Dr. Ijeoma Nnodim Opara, Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine and Pediatrics, Wayne State University, addressed the systemic issues behind certain diseases, such as diabetes, and championed causes to eliminate the root causes of such disparities.
  • Dr. William Lopez, Clinical Assistant Professor, Health Behavior & Health Education, University of Michigan School of Public Health, provided perspective on challenges those in the Hispanic community face, specifically in the Ann Arbor area, as they are often targeted because of how they look or what job they are doing.
  • Commissioner Alisha Bell, Wayne County Commission, Health and Human Services, Public Safety, Youth Services, Special Rules, and Ethic Task Force, questioned the disparity of how COVID-19 has affected the Black community in Michigan. She reported that the state’s population is about 14% Black, but that group has accounted for 40% of the COVID-19 cases.
  • Tashawna Gill, Founder of United Precinct Delegates, recounted her often-harrowing childhood in the Herman Gardens Housing Project in Detroit. A strong support system, anchored by her mother, helped her overcome these many challenges to the point that she is now working with Governor Whitmer. Her many messages included going beyond changing policies to changing the people who make the policies and that everyone has a responsibility to be politically active.

You can view the entire presentation here. The password is @1OS9%HU.

Earlier this summer, the Schoolcraft College Diversity Committee welcomed Dr. Lorenzo Boyd to discuss community policing. Dr. Boyd is a nationally recognized leader in police-community relations and an authority on urban policing, diversity issues in criminal justice, race and crime and criminal justice systems.