My desire to be a physician is rooted in wanting to help patients feel empowered in their healthcare. Seeing my father suffer with cancer in my youth, I saw him being treated as a disease, not a person with a disease. I wanted him and all patients to feel human. This intention is also what is needed in our society. Black Americans want to be given the simple respect of being treated as equal humans with purpose and worth. In light of the recent events with George Floyd, and all the meaningless loss of life of Black Americans always returns to being viewed as inhuman and disposable. Nothing will ever change until racism and inequality are embraced not as a Black problem but as an American tragedy that we all need to voice as intolerable, unacceptable and un-American.
No matter where African Americans grow up in the United States, there comes a time where the happy, unstoppable and charismatic kid realizes that the world thinks less of them because of the color of their skin. It does not matter what our diverse cultural backgrounds may be, socio-economics, education, or opportunities. That child will learn many times
I remember very clearly one of the many times it happened to me. I was 9 years old growing up in Detroit, Michigan. A white friend invited me to her community pool. Before walking in she whispered, "When someone asks, tell them that you are anything but black, they might not let you in." She was embarrassed by our friendship and I feared what might happen if I said "I. Am. Black." I remember being stunned, frozen. I went home that day embarrassed of who I was and unwilling to share this incident with my family. I never told anyone. Despite having many opportunities as an adult physician, I have avoided some experiences, although I had earned the right to be there, the fear of whether I would be accepted never left. There are numerous impactful, overt and microaggressive experiences throughout my life I could share. Every black person has a mental catalog of them. Change can only happen if we all speak out, if we share our stories and diversify our friend groups. Change happens if you are willing to have uncomfortable conversations and become a genuine friend. Not just an ally but an "adversity partner". Are you willing to take the journey during difficult times? We need White Americans to see us beyond color and culture but at the same time never dismissing it or ignoring it. I am sure that sounds daunting for many, but I have some amazing "adversity partners" that never dismiss my blackness and always see me for me. They are just as willing to have the hard conversations as they are willing to laugh and be silly and share. My story is not unique but my request for change does take heart.
Talking about racism and adversity is difficult for me. The emotions are never far away. I funnel my passion into helping my patients and also giving back to the community. Last year I founded a civic organization called 'Cannabis Can!'. Our purpose is to bring the cannabis industry and supporting businesses together to support the communities that support us. Last year we collected a half ton of food across Ohio and donated them to Greater Cleveland Food Bank, Mid-Ohio Foodbank and Freestore Food Bank of Cincinnati. Currently we have a virtual monetary campaign for the same food banks to fund 12,000 meals across Ohio during the COVID-19 pandemic. Please learn more at CannabisCanOhio.org to learn how to support and donate to Ohio families.