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Health Equity Forum: Executive Director Article – March 2018

“In times of crisis, the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another as if we were one single tribe.”


--Black Panther, 2018

Building Bridges, Breaking Barriers

By Sarah de Guia, Executive Director, California Pan-Ethnic Health Network

I was in awe after seeing Black Panther a few weeks ago with my husband on date night. The movie was amazing. I was inspired to see Black women as the lead source of power. I was drawn into the political themes and global dilemmas. The costumes, the visuals, the rituals, all kept me enthralled throughout. As the credits rolled, I continued to sit in my seat not ready to return to reality. Normally I don’t stay for the credits, but something kept me sitting there. Surprised, I watched the film resume with King T’Challa addressing his final audience, his words washed over me: “In times of crisis, the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another as if we were one single tribe.” I immediately thought of CPEHN and was so proud of our communities’ continued connection and love for each other. And, for a minute, anger rose in me as I thought of the divisiveness of the current federal administration and I was drawn back into the reality…that we are in the midst of an era when people choose to erect barriers rather than to build bridges between our communities. Will we at CPEHN be pawns in this age old game of divide and conquer? I think not!

In December, CPEHN celebrated our 25th anniversary, paying tribute to our founders’ vision to unite our communities to improve health for all. Our founders came together in a time of divisiveness, much like today, and a generation later, we are still together and even stronger. Our mission and vision are clearer. We are working three times as hard to erase those barriers and reduce health disparities through stronger systems and better, more equitable access to care. Yet, the threat remains.  

Today, the Federal administration continues to threaten the gains we have made under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by instituting new barriers to obtaining health care coverage that have resulted in millions of Americans, a majority people of color losing access to care and refusing to enforce anti-discrimination policies that protect the rights of women and transgender individuals to equitable care. Congress is failing our Dreamers -- DACA recipients and their families -- by dragging their feet and failing to create a permanent pathway to citizenship for them. Instead of investing in our future generations, Congress is rolling back long time protections in laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and enacting permanent tax breaks that will benefit the rich and corporations at the expense of our children and working families, the future of our nation.

This year – 2018 -- must be a game changer. We have to keep up the fight and continue to make our voices heard. I am fortified by the recent student movement in Florida to fight gun violence which affects us all, but continues to disproportionately harm people of color, and the record number of women running for elected office. As champions of diversity, we are encouraged to see so many people standing up for service in government, both as potential elected officials and as people behind the scenes. We believe these fresh new voices will rejuvenate our electoral process and local, state and federal government.

Join us in 2018 to change the game. Don’t let our shortsighted leaders win and build new barriers. Help us instead to build and fortify the bridges created by our founders and leaders to look after one another and unite and mobilize our communities for better health for all.