Thursday 8 December 2022
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Have you Signed the “Racism is a Public Health Crisis” Pledge Yet?

Staff Report

Black Agenda Group member, Hanif Abdul-Wahid speaks surrounded by Mayor Malik Evans, City Council President Miguel Melendez and members of a new coalition fighting racism. Photo from the City of Rochester, NY – Mayor’s Office Facebook page.

 “The issue of racial health disparities has been a conversation for too long,” said Rochester Mayor Malik Evans, and urges members of the Rochester community to sign the “Racism is a Public Health Crisis” pledge.

The Greater Rochester Black Agenda Group (BAG) made an initial declaration that racism is a public health crisis and on May 19, 2020 it was officially declared. 

The campaign’s purpose is to take the issue of racial health disparities from a conversation to a push for action. History shows that people of color face unfair disadvantages in many aspects of life, including the reception of adequate health care.

“For too long, historical exclusive systems of access for some and not for others have plagued our city and country with the results of poverty, violence, bad health and poor quality education,” said Hanif Abdul-Wahid of the Black Agenda Group. “It has left too many black, brown and underserved communities to suffer and struggle. Now is the time to work on eradicating exclusive systems to more inclusive systems.”

With the support of the mayor, and the city of Rochester, the Black Agenda Group introduced the organization’s new Implementation Tool that centers on advocacy, transparency and accountability.

The Implementation Tool lists the organizational practices identified in the “Racism is a Public Health Crisis Declaration.” The Black Agenda Group prompts organizations to identify an Executive Sponsor, a responsible staff person and an experienced, internal cross-functional team to complete this tool and to implement the selected practices.

Established in 2015, BAG is lifting culturally specific and culturally responsive interventions to address the effects of racism within the Black community across the social determinants of health.

“The first step to solving a crisis is to identify it,” City Council President Miguel Melendez said. “We’ve identified it. Now, we raise awareness, and take action.” 

Since the 2020 launching of the campaign, over 1700 individuals, agencies, schools, businesses, colleges, universities and medical centers have signed the pledge, said Abdul-Wahid. 

The Black Agenda Group works to implement the collective interests of Rochester’s Black community in order to establish and maintain a comprehensive systemic framework (Black Agenda) that will be adopted to drive, influence, and endorse policies and practices in the areas of education, health and wellness, and economic development.

Abdul-Wahid said the elephant in the room is racism.

“And just like segregation became law and culture and wasn’t removed until education disparities was the tool launched to eradicate it. Racism is a public crisis that serves the same aim of equity across the board in health disparities and then followed up with tearing down structures in employment housing, business and education.” And, the pledge and tools serve to tear down structures of inequity.

The group also assembled a coalition of individuals and agencies whose everyday life functions around fighting racism as a public health crisis.

The coalition will consists of Abdul-Wahid and the Greater Rochester Black Agenda Group, as well as:

  • Angelica Perez Delgado, Ibero American Action League. 
  • Melanie Funchess, Ubuntu Village Works LLC. 
  • Sherita Bullock, Healthy Baby Network. 
  • Dr. Myra Henry, YWCA Rochester & Monroe County. 
  • Dr. Seanelle Hawkins, Urban League of Rochester. 
  • Dr. Janice Harbin, Jordan Health Center. 
  • Wade Norwood, Common Ground Health. 

“They are all stalwarts, talented, committed and experienced in the history, challenge, and realities of racism,” Abdul-Wahid said. The coalition will launch in October 2022. 

Mayor Evans in support of the pledge that racism is a public health crisis. 

“We have to have a commitment to recognize that we have to have a commitment to health and public safety and we have to call things for what they are , we can’t sugar coat it. We have to say that racism is a public health crisis,” said Evans. 

“How can we create safe, stable neighborhoods if 40% of our population is underserved and unable to rely on a health system created to keep them healthy? We can’t.” 

The time to take action against racism is now, echoed by all.

“These are life and death conversations that we are having. So we need to combine, and join forces and our resources to create change. We need to take action, that’s how Rochester will grow. This will not just be idle talk and chatter. People are tired of the idle talk and chatter,” Evans said. 

“It’s one thing for us to say that racism is a public health crisis. It’s another thing for us to do something about it. We are going to do something about it.”

To learn more about the Black Agenda Group and to sign the “Racism is a Public Health Crisis” pledge, visit the website at