Kelley Robinson on Black History Month
I am Black Woman. Black Woman is me.
Each February, I dedicate this month to radical celebration of both my Blackness and my Womanhood. Because that’s what this month is to me – a celebration of our community!
I grew up on the Southside of Chicago to a churchgoing family. We were Catholics – but not exactly what you’re thinking. We were the double clapping; fall out in the aisle type of black Catholics. I remember, as a little girl, my mother hollering that “if you won’t dress up for Jesus, who will you dress up for?” as she busted out the hot comb, giving me the tightest little braids you can imagine, putting me in a pastel dress with matching frilly socks and sending me along to Sunday school.
Now, our pastor could preach, but there was one sermon in particular that’s always resonated with me. He used to say that there are two reasons people come to church. One of those reasons is for prosperity, to flourish and to thrive in their lives. However, the other is for salvation – to be saved and protected from their circumstances, for survival. He used to say that we’ve got to pray like we mean it. The salvation of our community hinges on the prosperity of each individual within it.
As I think about my community on the Southside of Chicago, afflicted by poverty and crime, and I think about all that the black community in the United States must endure from health disparities, to lack of job access, to educational disparities. It becomes more and more clear why I do this work.
I do this work because our community will not survive without it. A range of health disparities disproportionately affect black women, including higher rates of cancers, unintended pregnancies, and sexually transmitted infections. In fact, black women represent the highest rate of women newly infected with HIV. Women of color even have a lower life expectancy than white women across the board due to these health disparities. Every day we are in a fight for our lives.
However, we’re doing ourselves and our community a disservice to look at this issue through only the lens of health disparity. When we fight for the most marginalized groups we’re fighting for everyone. The solutions to the greatest challenges in black America will never be found at the White House, or statehouses – the solutions are within our communities. I think it’s time we listened to them on how to solve these problems.
Planned Parenthood organizations are standing with communities through our work as leading providers and advocates for sexual and reproductive health. Planned Parenthood is currently active on more than 200 college campuses, mobilizing young people in support of these issues. In fact, Planned Parenthood is the nation’s largest provider of comprehensive sexual health education – always putting the needs and voices of those most affected at the center of our work.
Black History Month is the perfect opportunity for us to raise awareness about health needs in the black community and to celebrate the resilience of our people. Most importantly, this is a call to action for us all to fight for the healthiest generation – which includes an AIDS-free generation, a generation with greater access than those before, a generation more empowered than any other.
We have the power to radically transform the world, when we start with our communities and ourselves. Let’s celebrate that this February!