September 3, 2020

Together, we can advance racial equity in Howard County

Today, the Horizon Foundation launched a new campaign to amplify the voices of Black community leaders and explore the many ways racism and other barriers affect the health and wellbeing of African Americans in Howard County. The campaign features videos and audio clips of prominent Black leaders in the community speaking directly to their experiences with racism. Additionally, the campaign highlights how the COVID-19 pandemic underscores how racism leads to worse health outcomes for African Americans.

“Our country and our communities are reeling from two crises – the COVID-19 pandemic and racial injustice – and both are disproportionately harming communities of color, especially Black communities,” said Greg Olaniran, Chair of the Horizon Foundation’s Board of Trustees. “We encourage everyone in Howard County to use these resources and get involved in our collective work to eliminate barriers to good health, provide opportunities for people of color and to make Howard County a more just, equitable and healthy place to live and work.”

Over the past several months, the Foundation has worked with a wide range of African American leaders to share their perspectives about racism and its impact on areas such as safety, chronic stress, health care, education, access to healthy food and more. The new campaign is committed to elevating the voices of these leaders and igniting conversations about these important topics to help advance racial equity. It also provides residents with a number of tools to take action – including promoting policy change, attending racial equity trainings, educating themselves about how racism affects health, registering to vote and completing the 2020 census.

(WATCH: Why are HoCo African Americans disproportionately impacted by COVID-19? Racism in Health Care)

“The challenge will be for us to continue to push forward for change – systemic change, real change, not just change for the moment,” said Pastor Larry Walker, president of the African American Community Roundtable of Howard County, in a recorded video for the project.

The Horizon Foundation began work on racial equity in 2018 after analyzing local research and data that showed Howard County residents, especially communities of color, face barriers to good health, overall wellness and opportunity. In January, the Foundation released “The 2020 Vision for Health in Howard County,” a report that highlighted racial disparities in areas such as chronic disease, mental health, advance care planning and prenatal care and infant health, and discussed policy changes needed to eliminate those disparities and improve health outcomes.

The Foundation is committed to advancing policies and systems change that promise equitable health outcomes, elevating the voices of leaders from diverse communities, building the capacity of community organizations to advocate for health equity and providing targeted grants to organizations to amplify impact in communities of color. This campaign is one piece of the Foundation’s broader work to combat health inequity in Howard County.

“The Horizon Foundation is dedicated to educating the public about the racial inequities that exist in Howard County and the damage it does to people of color,” said Nikki Highsmith Vernick, President and CEO of the Horizon Foundation. “We are hopeful this resource will spark conversations and give people valuable tools to help us shape a more equitable County for all its residents.”

Visit the website and take action.

Want to take action now?

The Howard County Public School System is one of the top school districts in Maryland; however, our education system in both the county and across the country is failing students of color. Howard County is set to vote on a new policy to improve equity in education on September 10, but the current draft of the policy falls short and needs significant strengthening.

The Howard County Equity Collaborative – comprised of the African American Community Roundtable, Equity4HC, the Association of Community Services and the Howard County Chinese School – has been working on racial equity issues related to the social determinants of health, including education and housing, with funding from the Horizon Foundation. The Collaborative worked together to identify a number of needed improvements to the school system’s educational equity policy.

Tell the Howard County Board of Education to implement the changes suggested by the Howard County Equity Collaborative which will better eliminate racial inequities across the system and foster more inclusive school communities. Send your message to the Board of Education now!