Black History Month is an annual observance each February to remember and celebrate the accomplishments and achievements of African Americans throughout history. It is also a time for recognizing the central role African Americans played in building America.

These themes are even more prevalent today, following the year everyone experienced in 2020 with the murder of George Floyd and the social unrest and protests that followed. It was a time for difficult conversations about race, about inequality, about inequity, and about systemic racism and social injustices taking place in America.

LaShanda Roberts, MSN, BSN. RN. FNP-BC, is the Nurse Practitioner here at Maryland Addiction Recovery Center. She offered these thoughts as an African American woman, a nurse, and as a frontline worker in the behavioral healthcare field:

“Black History month is a time to highlight African Americans who have contributed their genius to American culture in some way. This year the celebration of Black History Month seemed more important than ever because of the many emotional ups and downs experienced during 2020.
We started the year off by walking into a pandemic that killed people by the thousands and affected black and brown people in disproportionate numbers. In the midst of a pandemic, we dealt with the killing of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Audrey, George Floyd and Jacob Blake. This led to protest and an uprising of Americans who were feeling tired of being tired. Rev. Al Sharpton led an anniversary March on Washington, we lost the incomparable John Lewis, and the very first women of color was nominated and elected as our new Vice Presidency during the 2020 Presidential Election.

As an organization, MARC felt it was important to acknowledge the injustices being seen on our TV screens. The owners of the organization put out a statement acknowledging the injustices. “We cannot begin to understand what it is like to be hated, or discriminated against, or looked down upon because of the color of our skin. We cannot understand what it is to face the daily battle of being black in America. We take for granted things we don’t even think about. We can sympathize, we can empathize, we can do our best to try to understand, but at best we must admit that we cannot truly comprehend the experience. As an organization, we stand in solidarity. As an organization and community, we pledge to work for racial justice and racial equality. Now is our time to listen. Now is our time to learn. Now is our time to take action and sow seeds of love and understanding. We are accountable to this moment”.

In the Fall, all MARC employees and staff attended a workshop organized by the Black Mental Health Alliance and Dr. Bruce Purnell, Founder of the Love More Movement, that focused on social injustices, and many topics that are usually hard to talk about were discussed. As a result of the workshop, a MARC Social Justice Committee was created. The committee is still very young and developing, but its goal is to impact the lives of black and brown people in some way. During Black History Month, I am dedicating a daily tribute to spotlight an African American person whose talent has been inspirational and sharing it with the entire MARC staff. We are also dedicating a monthly highlight to an African American podcast, book, article, website, etc… This allows a way for employees to always be informed and armed with knowledge. As a member of the Social Justice Committee, I am committed to keeping the celebration going. I will continue to highlight an African American bi-weekly throughout the year- after all, Black History is more than just 28 days out of the year!

As an African American woman, 2020 was an eye-opening year for me. Not because I did not realize these injustices were real but because it made me realize how far we still have to go. Black and brown people continue to be undervalued, underestimated and marginalized. Somedays, I sit, and wonder will we as a people ever be good enough, smart enough, or worthy enough of acceptance. In those moments I have to remember that I did not create this system of inequality or injustice. The ones who created it and benefit from it have to be brave enough and courageous enough to break it!”

“Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
~James Baldwin

As an organization, we will continue to share the actions taken by the MARC Social Justice Committee throughout the year. Minority populations are disproportionately impacted related to addiction and mental health services, and there is much work to do to end the War on Drugs, the criminalization of black and brown people, end the stigma of addiction and mental health within our communities, and improve access to treatment and recovery community support for people of color. We hope you continue to follow our updates.

If you or someone you know needs help for addiction or co-occurring disorder issues, please give us a call. Maryland Addiction Recovery Center offers the most comprehensive dual diagnosis addiction treatment in the Mid-Atlantic area. If we aren’t the best fit for you or your loved one, we will take the necessary time to work with you to find a treatment center or provider that better fits your needs. Please give us a call at (410) 773-0500 or email our team at info@marylandaddictionrecovery.com. For more information on all of our drug addiction, alcohol addiction and co-occurring disorder services and recovery resources, please visit our website at www.marylandaddictionrecovery.com.

Zach Snitzer is the Corporate Director of Marketing at Maryland Addiction Recovery Center and is responsible for the business development, marketing, branding, public relations and social media strategies of the organization.