Call to Action: 40 Voices 4 Wellness for People of African Descent in Contra Costa County

Call to Action: 40 Voices 4 Wellness for People of African Descent in Contra Costa County

There is an opportunity to support 40 Voices 4 Wellness for People of African Descent in Contra Costa County
in their demand that the Board of Supervisors authorize the funding of an African American Holistic Wellness and Resource Hub to help address structural and institutional racism in healthcare, education, housing and other systems. Please see below for information on how to support their call to action.

This call to action is designed to place a demand on Contra Costa County to replace words with specific and meaningful action. African Americans need an African American Holistic Wellness and Resource Center, operated by members their community and funded by Contra Costa County! A promise was made through a proclamation acknowledging racism as a public health crisis. We recognize the consequences of racism are demonstrated and were exposed in Contra Costa County by the recent acknowledgement that we were unable to close the racial equity gap for African Americans as it related to COVID-19. This, coupled with the current and historical harms experienced by people of African descent has propelled us to demand more of our county leaders.

Here are some facts that support the need for things to change in this county to create improved outcomes to make movement towards reducing the pain carried by this target population. This group has been denied the opportunity to realize its fullest potential by using missionary, non-effective approaches that cause further damage, versus empowering the community to use community defined strength-based approaches, proven to be successful:

It is well-documented that African Americans impacted by mental illness experience glaring disparities due to systemic racism.

  • - African Americans make up less than 10% of the population in Contra Costa County, yet African American males typically make up over 40% of the county’s mental health criminal justice population.
  • - African Americans also have a 5-7 year delay in receiving a mental health diagnosis. Both of these issues sadly result in African Americans being criminalized for living with what is a medical condition and rarely receive the services needed to improve outcomes.
  • - 70% of all juveniles incarcerated in this county have documented mental illness and the bulk of these young people are African American.

The educational system has created a school to prison pipeline for many African American students.

  • - For decades now, many school districts in this county have been identified by the state as failing African American students.
  • - One of our county school district’s records indicated 38% of African American students were deemed to need an IEP (Individualized Educational Plan). This would mean that close to 50% of African American students are inherently intellectually challenged, yet in speaking with the parents, we know this not to be true. This alarming disparity is obviously the result of racial bias in the education system.

In the area of housing, we recognize African Americans are at the greatest risk of being unsheltered and living with food insecurity largely due to the lack of compassion and disregard for working with institutions such as the Black Church that fill the gap.

  • - African Americans made up 37% of individuals seeking rental assistance due to COVID-19, which is 4x the county population. This highlights the lack of economic opportunity for African Americans in this county.
  • - 40% of individuals who meet the federal definition for homelessness in this county are African American.

The information mentioned above highlights just three of the key areas where structural, institutional, and systemic racism result in African Americans trailing behind other groups. We recognize funding and advocacy from leading decision makers will improve these currently deplorable outcomes. Of course, we could also highlight the criminal justice system and its glaring disparities, the lack of employment opportunities, the lack of accessible primary care, and overall strained community relationships.

Do we want and deserve reparations, restitution, and an apology? Of course, but to improve outcomes for the African American community through stakeholder processes and subject matter expert informed interviews, we have determined funding for African American Holistic Wellness and Resource Centers.

We envision a central hub with satellite offices across the county that will be safe and trusted environments for African Americans to receive culturally responsive, community-defined approaches and resources offered by ethnically reflective staff. Our aim is to begin a journey of healing and developing a stronger community, which thrives and carries a sense of belonging.

When one suffers, all suffer. If you believe and support that, please join us in this call to action by participating at the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisor Meetings on Tuesday mornings. Please email [email protected] or call Gigi R. Crowder at 510-990-2670 if you have questions.