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Lessons from Professor john a- powell: Health Equity and Racism

Lessons from Professor john a. powell: Health Equity and Racism

by Chloe Wittry, Project Manager What Professor john a. powell has done to advance the discussion and action taken around social equity is astounding. His talk was engaging and extremely relevant as we’re facing some of our most pivotal racism, poverty and inequality issues today. The crowd of attendees were members of organizations and foundations that that are trying to make a difference in the social and economic systems of Coloradans.

John a. powell developed an “opportunity-based” model that connects affordable housing to racialized spaces in education, health, health care and employment and is the author of Racing to Justice: Transforming our Concepts of Self and Other to Build an Inclusive Society. He’s written many articles for large publications like Huffington Post and appeared on various tv series and podcast publications.

One of his main focuses: Social belonging and how it relates to poverty and inequity. During his discussion he weaved in the cold-hard statistics of current poverty rates with the psychological research behind what is keeping many groups of people in poverty. But it goes way beyond either of these things, to an unconscious level. The fact is there is a huge misunderstanding of what poverty even means and what it’s defined by. One of the main concepts that hit me through powell’s discussion is that poverty extends beyond material inequality and is defined more by a sense of social exclusion and lack of belonging. There are many categories of social exclusion that create a group’s poverty including religion, gender, race and religion.

Nearing the end of the seminar, I began to feel a sense of hopelessness, that the solution to the issues being outlined would never be reached, or that there was nothing I could possibly do to make an impact. However powell’s view is that even simply discussing and making ourselves aware of the infinite layers of poverty and all types of social inequality is a movement toward a better world. These issues will always be evolving and the way we look at them will always be changing, so there is no place in which we can say “We’ve arrived.” Building understanding and engaging in discussion can create structural change to meet a multitude of needs and create a more inclusive society. Powell calls for a solution unlike any tactical policy that has previously been attempted, requiring us to communicate with the unconsciousness that derives social exclusion.

A powerful quote from powell to leave you with: “Creating belongingness will help eradicate poverty, and eradicating poverty will help create belongingness.”

After seeing powell speak, I will absolutely seek him out again when he comes back to Colorado. As our main interests lie in telling stories around social justice at Chance Multimedia, it's important that we keep abreast of these issues and ideas as they develop and are in constant flux.

The Colorado Trust puts on many wonderful programs through their Health Equity Learning Series. Keep an eye on their page for upcoming events or sign up for their newsletter.