In 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized February as Black History Month to observe and honor the history of Black Americans. This includes celebrating the contributions made and acknowledging the struggles that Black Americans have faced historically and are still going through today. It also showcases the significance of Black history to American society. Stories from our community, like EverThrive Illinois’ Development Director Leslie Wooten’s, deserve to be told this month and all year round. “Unfortunately, I had a traumatic birth experience with my first child. I had my second child at a hospital that was shutting down its birthing center, so I saw firsthand what the lack of quality care looked like.”
This year’s national Black History Month theme is “Black Resistance,” highlighting how “African Americans continue to mobilize resources and shape social movements to create a space for Black Americans to thrive.” Past actions of activism and resistance are essential to our organization, and our work focused on Reproductive Justice. In 1994, twelve Black women created the framework for Reproductive Justice in a hotel room in Chicago. This directly responded to the Clinton Administration’s proposal for health care reform, which didn’t address the disparities in reproductive health care that communities of color experienced. These women helped lay the foundation for today’s leaders, activists, and organizations like EverThrive Illinois to move forward in ensuring everyone has access to quality health care and achieving Reproductive Justice.
The work EverThrive Illinois does is “so important for the Black community because finally, someone hears and sees us in understanding the implications of the lack of access and resources has on our lives,” said Leslie. “EverThrive Illinois recognizes how the injustices have impacted us as individuals, our families, and our communities. EverThrive Illinois is working to heal and change systems so that the Black community receives the health care and resources we deserve.” Recently, EverThrive Illinois launched a digital campaign called The Gathering to address the Black Maternal Mortality crisis in Chicago and help to increase positive health outcomes.
With this year’s theme, it’s important to recognize the current disparities and celebrate the community efforts that are being made to move toward equity. “I’m glad to be a part of an organization that is reshaping systems and policy. Through my work, I have an opportunity to be a part of the solution to the problem,” said Leslie.
We hope you take this month and all year to learn, assist, and tell the stories that need to be told and center our most vulnerable communities.