This Juneteenth, we spoke with the three members of our Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) team to learn more about them and the work they do at BHCHP. In this short interview, they discuss why and how they mark Juneteenth, a day of immense historical significance for the country, and offer recommendations to resources that can better inform our understanding of U.S history. We hope that you find this conversation informative and engaging. To learn more about our commitment to equity and inclusion, click here.
Q: Can you introduce yourself briefly?
Over the last 10 years, Patricia Holliday has worked in health and human services in a senior executive capacity focused on Human Resources, Talent Acquisition and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) for Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. Prior to joining this sector, Patricia served in leadership roles in public education for both profit and non-profit organizations at the local, national, and international level focused on social justice and equity for students from all socioeconomic backgrounds. In her spare time, Patricia volunteers and serves as Vice Chair, Board of Directors for a health and human services organization; Board Member of the Diversity and Inclusion Professionals (DAIP) and is currently volunteering as a Founding Member of the Legacy School Design Team for a new high school for students from the urban core who aspire to become teachers. Patricia has provided guidance, training and leadership as a Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) practitioner and has held Board positions on several community organizations and committees. She joined the Program as Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer 6 months ago and hired her team members this Spring of 2023.
Adline Juste is a former DEI Consultant and Program Manager who also conducted research with key organizations around legislation and shelter policies for families experiencing homelessness. Adline is also a trained and licensed social worker who has worked with non- profits, private and public-school systems.
Levi Green is a former DEI Communications Specialist and Manager who has supported DEI teams at a local healthcare institution and at the global level at a strategy consulting firm. Levi brings a wealth of knowledge including system wide approaches for employee resource groups.
Patricia feels that both partners bring a valued perspective and approach to the JEDI team and its commitment to Equity and Inclusion.
Q: Why is JEDI important for our organization?
Diversity is important because it brings together people with diverse cultural backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences which increases innovation and creativity. Inclusion is important because inclusivity values and supports diversity. Inclusion welcomes differences in perspective and allows all voices to be heard and valued rather than some voices to be heard and valued—providing all with a “seat at the table”. Equity is important because it allows everyone to receive the resources that they need to be successful. Equity levels the playing field by giving those that need more resources, more and those that may need less resources, less. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) must work in tandem and is vital to fostering a culture that supports, empowers, and welcomes historically underserved populations. By prioritizing DEI, we become a more equitable, innovative, and cohesive society.
JEDI principles and practices are the fabric of any organization in creating a culture of inclusivity and openness vital to helping people to feel safe in having a lasting and positive impact on the community and those they serve. Given the nature of this work, it is critical for our organizational culture to build and sustain equity and social justice in our practice. As our organization grows, we will undoubtedly shift and experience transformations around how we approach our work. In this way, JEDI principles can support the transition of making decisions without losing sight of historical context. Achieving true JEDI status is hard and takes time and commitment to create a diverse, anti- racist culture at every level of the organization. Exploring equity and inclusion allows people to recognize various barriers and inequities present in their personal and professional spaces. BHCHP has a long-standing commitment to equity and inclusion and has led through years of intentional change such as its ability to thrive during the disruption of a pandemic, while also continuing to stand out as a great place to work!
Q: Can you share specific examples of JEDI work done at BHCHP?
The Founding JEDI Team was committed to equity and inclusion work which has continued over the last six months and will continue to develop with the new team. Currently, the JEDI team has partnered with organizations such as the ACLU MA and developed a 4-part series focused on 1) Economic opportunity through the HOMES Act, 2) Strengthening Civil Rights and Racial Justice, 3) Adopting a Public Health Approach to Substance Use Disorder with a Focus on Overdose Prevention and Medication, and 4) Respect for Personal Autonomy and Reproductive Health. JEDI has also streamlined and redesigned the process around their orientation and systemized as well requirements for reporting. JEDI is reaffirming the Program’s commitment to restorative practice and is leading two cohorts on Restorative Justice training. Currently, we are working on a few objectives such as a Pilot Program to expose those from the urban core to professions in the healthcare industry, particularly as they relate to work with our community and population.
Q: How do you celebrate or remember Juneteenth?
Patricia shares her experience with Juneteenth. “My remembrance of Juneteenth starts before it was recognized outside of the Black community and as a holiday. For me, recognizing Juneteenth begins with acknowledging New Year’s Day. As slaves in the US, New Year’s Day was also known as “Hiring Day” or “Heartbreak Day” because enslaved Black people spent that New Year’s Eve- NYE- waiting and wondering if their owners were going to “rent or sell” them to someone else and split up their families. As we know, this was a profitable, common practice for slave owners and those looking to hire new laborers. Some foods scraped together by slaves that many Black families still serve to date were considered “good luck” food and cooked with the hope of keeping families together. The tradition of cooking greens, black eyed peas and pork symbolizes our past and the embrace of a future. For my mom, making these items each NYE and requiring us to be together was never explained, but always required. The understanding that these were for good luck for our family was the story she told us and told to her. We understood that the abolishment of slavery was not as simple as the Emancipation Proclamation and how much sacrifice was made for us to maintain as a family that stays together, regardless of a struggle. So, Juneteenth for me and my family is recognized at the beginning of each year with “good luck, love and reflection” on NYE and celebrated on June 19th. Happy Juneteenth!”
Q: Can you recommend a book/film/podcast about U.S history that you recommend others to check out?
Patricia: For books, I recommend Caste: The Origins of our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson, The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin, and Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison (my all-time favorite). They are great Juneteenth reads! As for films, check out 13th, a documentary by Ana DuVernay.
Adline: I recommend, I am not your Negro by James Baldwin (book) and A Birth of a Nation (film).
Levi: I recommend a film, America on Film: Representing Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality at the Movies.