July 18, 2023
– By Gabrielle Lamplugh –
On June 19, communities across the state of Alabama celebrated Juneteenth. The holiday commemorates the day in 1865 when enslaved people in Galveston, Texas finally heard word of the Emancipation Proclamation – over two and a half years after it was issued. For over 150 years Juneteenth has been celebrated by communities across the country, serving as a day of remembrance of and reflection on racial equality and freedom.
This year, ENI liaisons across the state hosted or participated in Juneteenth events to engage their community in conversations on health equity. Ms. LaSheryl Dotch, Prichard Community Liaison, and Mr. Tracy Burton, Goodwater Community Liaison, were two of the ENI team members who hosted Juneteenth events in their communities. For both, it felt important to incorporate conversations on healthcare disparities into their Juneteenth events.
“I was able to get [Prichard’s] ENI kickoff event to be a part of the Juneteenth celebration,” LaSheryl said. “It’s the biggest thing in the city and everybody’s here… we love the opportunity to shed light and educate those who might not know as much.”
In LaSheryl’s community of Prichard, some of the special guests for the ENI Juneteenth event included the local department of health as well as representatives from Tuskegee University. She was especially enthusiastic that the local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Foundation was represented at the event.
“Alzheimer’s has affected my family, so it’s something that I am eager for as far as funding and supporting,” LaSheryl said.
In Goodwater, Tracy Burton also hosted a Juneteenth event that highlighted local health resources and encouraged community members to seek out these resources in the future.
“I spoke about the health and disparities in the rural areas and shared different ways we can come together to get people to where they need to be,” Tracy said. “In our rural areas, and quite naturally all over Alabama, you have people who still rely on old remedies.”
Tracy explained that much of the hesitancy towards medical care in his community is rooted in the medical discrimination and mistreatment that Black Americans have faced throughout history.
“There is a connection with Juneteenth because one reason that people don’t go to doctors stems from the way people were treated in the past,” Tracy said. “It comes down generation after generation after generation thinking that you won’t be treated well and won’t be treated the same [by doctors].”
LaSheryl shared a similar sentiment as she emphasized the importance of ENI being included at Prichard’s Juneteenth celebration.
“Juneteenth is important to celebrate because it’s a part of our history, it’s a part of where we come from,” LaSheryl said. “I also think it’s important health-wise, because a lot of the times prior to Juneteenth, everybody wasn’t able to [access] different types of healthcare.”
Both LaSheryl and Tracy see ENI as an important step forward to achieving health equity in their communities and look forward to continuing to engage their local community in the Initiative.
“What we are doing now with ENI fits in perfectly with talking about what we need to do with our health,” Tracy emphasized. “A lot of times people don’t really realize what is happening inside of their bodies.” “Those things are really important, and we need to be aware of and understand who to call to take care of these things,” Tracy continued. “[Our event] showed you might have help right next door.”