by Lavonne Ansari, PhD

Community Health Centers are comprehensive primary care providers that began during the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. They were started at a time of national unrest to help fight the war on poverty and oppression in underserved communities. Now, here we are in 2020, and we are still fighting the same fight — a fight that has gone on for too long and created decades of pent-up anger, suffering, and the rage we are now seeing.

As board chair of the Community Health Care Association of New York State, the CEO of the Community Health Center of Buffalo, Inc., and as an African American woman educator and advocate for justice that is living in these troubling times, I want to ensure that everyone fighting today in protest for George Floyd’s death and all those that have come before him know that WE STAND WITH YOU.

As human beings, we are the greatest creation on earth. This is a time when our human excellence must rise up and denounce beliefs, behaviors, movements, and policies that have been designed to oppress our natural instincts. It is time to treat each other with the respect and dignity we have always deserved. As primary care providers, we have the responsibility to support our underserved communities, and we are obligated to stand up and share our voices through our work. While we are not exempt from the institutional racism that plagues our health care system, we must serve as essential change agents at this time. We must start with ourselves first as leaders in this movement. We must have the will to guide, educate, and build new infrastructures based on an anti-racism framework. Now, we must stand ready to work with everyone at all levels, to encourage inclusivity within our communities, and lead in addressing social-economic injustices in our systems.

We know that after difficulty, comes ease. At this moment, we have an opportunity to envision a new reality of “justice for all” with the proper guidance, actions, language, and spirit to breathe together.