As we await President Biden’s nomination of the first Black Supreme Court Justice, this historical moment is a stark reminder that Black History Month is living history, ever-evolving and intertwined with the persistence for representation, inclusion, and equity.
Each year, more and more educators teach children about the unsung Black heroes, unrecognized pioneers, and hidden figures who shaped and advanced American society. An example of an educator embracing this expanded curriculum is Vista’s very own Benjamin Phillips, who shares historical events often overshadowed in traditional American history classes. His lesson plans include Wattstax, a benefit concert commemorating the seventh anniversary of the Watts Rebellion headlined by some of the biggest celebrities of that period, such as Isaac Hayes, The Staple Sisters, and comedian Richard Pryor. On the subject of arts and culture, learning about The Harlem Renaissance has taught students how this period gave rise to Black artistry on a national scale, instilling a sense of Black Pride in communities across the United States.
One aim this month was to engage our entire staff in this year’s national theme of Black Health and Wellness. Family Service of Santa Monica’s Program Director Chantilly Wijayasinha sent an agency-wide survey asking staff what Black Health and Wellness means to them and how they work to advance this issue. For Wraparound Staff, Tommy Miles this means supporting families by linking them to vital community resources such as nutritional support and education. Whereas Wraparounds Christine Jordan’s commitment is supporting youth wellness and overall physical health.
Coordinator in our Adoptions and Foster Care Division, Christian Burroughs, MSW, ACSW recognizes that “as a Black male, I am both acutely aware and often reminded, that there are not many professionals in social work/ child welfare, who look like me. Yet children of color, specifically Black children, are overrepresented in the foster care system.” Christian goes on to express that he hopes to continue to advocate for the wellness of these youth by raising awareness and securing stable placements for misunderstood children deserving of permanency.
At the Handler Residency, Youth Development Counselor Chuck Watterson showcases Black culture in a classic film series featuring leading Black Men and Women such as the late, great Sidney Pointier and Lena Horne. To engage with this month’s themes Residents and staff share images and words on the main bulletin board promoting themes of Black Health and Wellness. Black History Trivia and art projects are also part of the month leading up to an end-of-month celebration.
In closing, I appreciate the diversity of our Vista Del Mar family. I embrace the impact and advocacy Vista strives to have within our community, especially for those who do not always have the opportunity to have their voices heard. We stand strong together to continue to shape and build the lives of the children and families we serve. It is the work and contributions of our staff and the larger LA community that allow us to shape our narrative and bring about real and meaningful change.