Black History Month
UI Health recognizes Black History Month by highlighting the achievements and contributions of African Americans in our community.
A few of our employees talk about their own ways of celebrating this history and honoring the lives of those who brought so much innovation and vitality to our country.
To inaugurate UI Health’s first cultural heritage month celebration, Rani Morrison, Chief Diversity & Community Health Equity Officer, discusses the importance of celebrating these months and her own experience with Black History Month in her own words.
Which Black figure — famous or not — has served as an inspiration to you and why?
Too many to name almost. I remain in awe of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr as he was so young but endured so much. I have always admired the patience and wisdom with which he dealt with hate and adversity, and I wish he had lived to see the fruit of his labor and sacrifice. Faye Wattleton was the first African American to lead Planned Parenthood — to be in a role so significant to healthcare and women’s reproductive rights, as a Black woman and single mother, she was definitely an inspiration to me.
What excites you and provides you with hope when reflecting on Black history?
What excites me is that we are constantly writing Black History. Even in 2022, we are still creating “firsts”: We are still accomplishing phenomenal things in the history books and creating new pathways for others to follow. I hope that we continue to teach and educate generations about Black history so that the accomplishments of past and present are not lost and relegated to just books or “Eyes on the Prize” documentaries, but that Black History remains a living, breathing thing that we continue to revere.
What might you recommend to others as they celebrate and reflect on Black History Month?
Black History is far bigger than one month. This celebration is a start but is not the end; Black History should be celebrated and infused in our day-to-day. Let Black History Month be the beginning of your celebration and reflection, not the totality.
What hopes or wishes do you have for UI Health as it implements further diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives?
I hope that we all embrace change, we are willing to take an honest look at ourselves and our contributions, and that as individuals and an organization, we completely buy into the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion beyond just the words — but as actions.
Why is the celebration of Black History and achievements important to you?
I grew up in Atlanta, was called names, and told I couldn’t play with certain toys because of my skin color — in one of the ritziest and wealthiest neighborhoods in Atlanta. No one cared about how much money we had, what cars we drove, or how big our house was. My earliest memories were of being considered less than because I was Black.
Forty years later, this still occurs, just like it did 40 years before it happened to me. There is no protective factor from racism and prejudice. So, to me, the celebration of Black History and our achievements is … necessary. There are always people who will never see us as equals. But not only are we equal, we are elevated. Celebrating Black History is one way to remind us and anyone else who needs to be reminded of that.
In Their Own Words
UI Health’s John Epting talks about what Black History means to him and how he shares the traditions he partakes in to celebrate and reflect on African American culture.
UI Health’s Erica Harris talks about what Black History means to her and her love of being immersed in an institution that serves a multicultural patient population and working with diverse cultures.