On November 10, more than 500 community members gathered at the Wilde Lake Interfaith Center for the Horizon Foundation’s first Equity Summit. The Summit brought community members and leaders together to highlight health disparities and barriers, learn about tools to address those barriers and begin developing an approach to advance racial equity in Howard County. The summit featured presentations by national equity experts from the Association of Black Foundation Executives (ABFE), interactive discussions and a compelling keynote address by nationally acclaimed author Ta-Nehisi Coates.
The Horizon Foundation launched its equity initiative in August after analyzing local research and data that showed that some residents of Howard County face barriers to good health, overall wellness and opportunity. This is especially true for communities of color, which experience higher levels of chronic disease, deaths anddisabilities.
“Unfortunately, we see glaring disparities when we look at our county health data,” said Horizon Foundation President and CEO Nikki Highsmith Vernick. “We must confront and address these disparities to make a meaningful and lasting impact on health outcomes in Howard County.”
The Horizon Foundation seeks to reduce health disparities and work toward racial equity in health by advocating for policies and practices that break down health barriers and promise more equitable health outcomes for people of color. To achieve this goal, we must elevate the voices of leaders from communities of color and strengthen the abilities and resources of community organizations to advance movements for social change.
“We must address these challenges and make a concerted effort to create an equitable environment by breaking down the systems that have caused these disparities and by partnering with organizations that care about these disparities in our community,” said Highsmith Vernick, explaining the Horizon Foundation’s approach.
The half-day event featured an Introduction to Racial Equity workshop facilitated by Susan Taylor Batten, President and CEO of ABFE, and Anthony Simmons, ABFE’s Manager for Racial Equity Grantmaking. Workshop participants discussed how structural racism has impacted – and continues to impact – communities of color, understanding the key building blocks for doing racially equitable work and the importance of using a structural and systems’ lens for addressing racial disparities.
“It doesn’t matter what issue you’re working on improving, we see disparities related to race in all of them,” said Batten at the workshop.
The Equity Summit also featured four “back-mapping” sessions on sugary drink consumption disparities led by both facilitators from ABFE and Horizon staff. Back-mapping is a tool used to understand underlying systems that have created barriers to full achievement for communities of color.
The Summit culminated with a keynote address by Ta-Nehisi Coates, moderated by Marcus Walton, Director of Racial Equity Initiatives at Borealis Philanthropy. Coates is a distinguished writer in residence at NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute and is the author of the bestselling books “The Beautiful Struggle”, “We Were Eight Years in Power,” and “Between the World and Me”, which won the National Book Award in 2015. Coates is also a MacArthur Fellow and the current author of Marvel Comics’ “Black Panther” and “Captain America.”
Coates spoke about his experience of growing up as a young black man in the Mondawmin neighborhood of Baltimore during the crack cocaine epidemic and how that experience shapes his worldview today. He emphasized the importance of racial equity in all areas.
“During the new deal, we made it very easy for the expansion of the white middle class by expanding housing through federally backed loans, GI bills, and slashing the amount of down payment that was needed. Except black people were excluded from this,” Coates said during his Keynote address.
Summit attendees were able to ask Coates questions during a Q&A session following his keynote address. Residents spoke about how important Coates’ work was for them personally and explained why they are excited to work towards racial equity in Howard County.
If you attended the Introduction to Racial Equity Breakout Session, click here for the slideshow. As we reach the end of the year, please keep an eye out for updates and next steps as we finalize our 2019 programming.
Thank you to all attendees of the Horizon Foundation’s Equity Summit.