Black History Month 2023
Black History Month is a time to reflect on the contributions and sacrifices of Black individuals throughout history. For many, it is a time to honor the legacy of those who have fought for equality and justice in the face of adversity. At the NIH Clinical Center, we value the perspectives of our Black and African American staff, understanding that their contributions and insights are vital to the success of the organization. Currently, 36% of CC workforce identify as Black or African American.
Adam Massenburg, a clinical research nurse, shared his thoughts on the importance of Black History Month, and how the Clinical Center can create a more supportive environment for its Black employees.
"Black History Month to me is a way to highlight and bring to surface the wonderful things that the Black and African cultures have added to society both locally and globally," said Massenburg.
He believes it is important to acknowledge and celebrate Black history because of the population demographics of this country and the impact that Black history has made to promote this country's success.
Massenburg believes that every employee can make the hospital a more supportive place for their colleagues, regardless of their background, role and level within the organization.
"The Clinical Center as an organization can be more supportive of its Black colleagues and really all of its employees simply by showing more acts of courtesy," he said.
"Whether it be a simple hello when passing or entering a space or even the tone when addressing one another. Such small changes would make the work environment supportive to all."
When asked about a Black historical figure who inspires him, Massenburg replied, "The 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, would definitely be an inspirational Black historical figure for me. Having lived in times where such opportunities were unheard of, to witnessing the successful presidency truly is an inspiration and notable moment for Black history. His presidency encourages a sense of acceptance and representation in this country."
For Alexis Braxton, a nurse educator in the Clinical Center’s Nursing Department, Black History Month has taken on a more personal tone as she's aged.
"During my school-age years, it was a time to learn the about the giants of Black history," she said. "I enjoyed studying how Black Americans arrived in this country; learning of Phyllis Wheatley, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, the struggle for equality during the Civil Rights Movements of the 1960s." More recently, Black History Month has provided Braxton with the opportunity to take a deeper look at Black history through the study of modern authors and events not typically taught in American classrooms.
Additionally, this month is an opportunity for Braxton to present as unapologetically Black.
"It is extremely hard to be an authentic Black woman in spaces that are historically occupied by primarily by white persons," she said. "We are judged constantly by our hair not being professional enough. We often practice 'code switching' when speaking with those whose lived experience is vastly different, all to be accepted and not othered."
During February, "all bets are off. I get to celebrate out loud, every aspect of my being and experience because I am a proud Black woman. One of my goals is to ensure I show up every day and each month as my authentic self."
When asked about an inspirational Black historical figure, she immediately thought of the legendary Billie Holiday. "Her voice was distinct and powerful," she said. "The lyrics to many of her songs speak to experiences to which many of us can relate. Her lyrics remind me of the struggles that Blacks in America have fought, and continue to fight, to this very day. Her life reminds me that although we deal with so many problems in life, each of us can use our gifts to create a powerful impact on the world."
While celebrating Black History Month, remember the contributions of these individuals and work to create a more inclusive and supportive environment for all.
- Janice Duran