12-05-2016  10:44 am      •     

As the nation’s leading reproductive healthcare provider, Planned Parenthood has a deep history of serving the black community to increase access to health care for greater opportunities to live a healthy, fulfilled life. Black History Month is an opportunity to recognize that access to quality health care is a fundamental right for all people to reach their fullest potential — regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation. Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette is committed to working with the next generation of black leaders in the fight for equity and justice, harnessing our collective power to create the world we want to live in.

Political and civil rights leaders like W.E.B. DuBois and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as well as black medical leaders such as Dr. Thelma Patten Law, believed that all people need access to health care to complete their education, plan their lives and protect their families. As our nation celebrates Black History Month, we’re honoring that commitment and are grateful for their leadership in helping expand access to health care. This commitment and leadership inspires what we — as a community — do today.

Far too many African Americans continue to face unequal access to proper healthcare and education services. As a result, African American women are dying at higher rates than their white counterparts due to breast cancer, cervical cancer, HIV and other illnesses that can be detected early. And as long as there are barriers to economic and educational opportunities, as well as social and political equity, obstacles will also remain in the way of full health care.

Ever resilient even in the face of systemic oppression, black women have fought and continue to fight for reproductive justice and body autonomy. Planned Parenthood is also committed to increasing access to health care and opportunity.

Many African Americans have laid the groundwork for the great strides we’ve made in improving healthcare outcomes for our community. These leaders of the past inspire our present and make way for the future. And that’s why during Black History Month, Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette is honoring leaders of the past, present and future as Dream Keepers.

  • We’re honoring activists like #BlackLivesMatter founders Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tomet, who created a hashtag that turned into a nationwide movement to embrace the resilience and importance of black lives.
  • We’re honoring storytellers like Melissa Harris-Perry, who uses her MSNBC show to elevate stories of marginalized communities often overlooked by mainstream media. She gives a visible plat6form to those working for social justice.
  • We’re honoring trailblazers like Laverne Cox, a transgender advocate and Emmy-nominated actress on the Netflix series “Orange Is the New Black.” She is a leader in talking about the intersection of different identities and their importance to understanding transgender issues.

There’s a saying that you can’t know where you’re going without understanding where you’ve been — and this rings true for reproductive freedom for the black community. The history of the reproductive rights movement and the black community is as complicated as the nation’s, but throughout our history, we have worked together to break down barriers to healthcare access posed by poverty, racism and politics.

For nearly a century, Planned Parenthood has worked to address racial and economic bias in access to health care. We take this opportunity during Black History Month to remind ourselves that this work is only successful if we continue to develop partnerships with the communities we serve. This united work will not only improve healthcare outcomes for all, but create fair opportunities to succeed in all areas of life. Because when people are truly cared for, they make their lives, families and communities stronger.

 

Sirius Bonner is the Director of Equity and Inclusion for Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette, the largest nonprofit family planning and reproductive rights organization in Oregon and Southwest Washington. Since 1963, PPCW has provided a wide range of youth education programs and preventive healthcare services, including lifesaving cancer screenings, birth control, STD testing and treatment. For more information visit PPCW.org.

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