Black History Month:

Berkeley Public Health (BPH): What pronouns do you use?

Leanna W. Lewis: She/her/hers

BPH: What is your role here at Berkeley Public Health?

Lewis: I teach and train students at the Joint Medical Program and at UCSF in the Program for Medical Education for Underserved. I also work with the BPH faculty helping to facilitate the Antiracist Faculty Leadership Academy.

BPH: What does Black History Month mean to you?

Lewis: BHM has always been a time of appreciation and celebration for me. I grew up in San Francisco, in the Fillmore neighborhood at a time when it was a predominantly Black community. BHM was prominent throughout our community, in school, in church, and in the community centers. These places were epicenters of vibrant BHM celebrations that connected and reflected an appreciation for the diaspora of Blackness stretching from pre-enslavement through modern, everyday heroes and sheroes.

My BHM celebrated everyone from Asata Shakur to Gwendolyn Brooks; we honored the commonly known names in Black history but it never stopped there. Because I got to experience BHM from the gaze of my Black community it was nuanced and full of the joy and richness that is the essence of the Black diaspora. More recently, as BHM has become mainstream and commercialized, I miss the personal feel of Black History Month when it was still ours and I was assured the celebration was authentic. While I appreciate the intention of the mainstream BHM, I can’t be sure today of the authenticity, and the Black joy of BHM I experienced in my childhood feels muted.

BPH: How do you think UC Berkeley can amplify the voices of our Black community members?

Lewis: The Black people of UCB and BPH have so much to give and have limitless wisdom, insight, and of course, swag to offer the UCB community. Allowing and providing more physical and virtual spaces created with the goal of protecting and amplifying the UCB Black community is necessary if the university is legitimately committed to the UCB Black students, faculty, and staff. I would love to see financial support, physical space in multiple parts of the campus, and the investment of time provided for the UCB Black community to be seen and heard throughout UC Berkeley.

To honor Black History Month 2022, we asked Black members of the UC Berkeley School of Public Health community what the month means to them. The answers we received were thoughtful, nuanced, emotional, and joyful. Read the full article to see our participant’s full thoughts on Black History Month, Black Lives Matter, Black experience in health care, and what UC Berkeley and Berkeley Public Health can do to amplify Black voices.

Black History Month: “There is still more work to be done”

Photo illustration by Fernando Augusto

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