Over the past two years, members of the Healthy Community Partnership-Mahoning Valley have been journeying together towards an ambitious destination: To improve health, wellbeing, and health equity for all residents in the Mahoning Valley. A big part towards achieving this mission includes encouraging residents to get outside to use parks, trails, sidewalks, or other public spaces and participate in physical activities to improve physical and mental health.
Unfortunately, some places like parks, trails, and other public spaces are not always safe or welcoming spaces for Black people and people of color like they should be. The recent killings and intimidation of Black Americans in public spaces breaks our hearts for many reasons, one of which is because they remind us of this unsettling, discomforting truth. But, it emboldens and reaffirms the commitment of the Healthy Community Partnership to our vision of a Mahoning Valley where everyone can experience the benefits of our public spaces to improve the health and wellbeing of themselves and their families without fear.
The Healthy Community Partnership expresses our sadness, frustration, and outrage for the recent killings of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery in open public spaces. Leadership of the Healthy Community Partnership expresses our sadness, frustration, and outrage that Christian Cooper was profiled and threatened while enjoying a personal and professional passion in a public park. The Healthy Community Partnership expresses our sadness, frustration, and outrage that these tragedies continue to happen to Black communities as though they are inevitable or unstoppable.
Along with an increasing number of city, county, state, and national leaders, the Healthy Community Partnership recognizes racism as a public health crisis. We support not only the recognition of racism as a public health crisis, but the need to make commitments to do what is necessary to address policies, practices, and procedures in our own organizations, businesses, and communities that enable the disease of racism to spread and cause untold harm to Black communities and communities of color.
The Healthy Community Partnership reaffirms our dedication to building relationships and developing strategies that ensure all residents can be present, be active, and be healthy without fear for their safety or their lives. We are dedicated to identifying opportunities to use our collective power and influence to elevate and amplify the voices of Black people and people of color who have been calling out for justice and healing, because of these tragedies that continue to be forced upon them. We are committed to looking inward—to do the hard work of evaluating ourselves and whether or not our practices, decisions, and investments in our work and relationships reflect our vision of a more equitable Mahoning Valley. We are committed to learning how we can do more and do better—as individuals, as organizations, and as communities—to educate ourselves and to recognize and confront racism when and where we see it.
The Healthy Community Partnership may be a new initiative, but we are committed to working together to address one of the oldest, most challenging issues affecting our country and our communities: systemic racism and racial inequity. We know we have only just started, and that we have a long way to go. However, we are committed to each other and to the residents in our communities, to do the hard work, to have the uncomfortable conversations, and to make the difficult decisions necessary to help us become a healthier, more equitable Mahoning Valley.