Our History is Everyone’s History

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As we close out another year of Black History month with celebration, reflection, and gratitude I am reminded that Black History is everyone’s history.  This article is dedicated to those past and present who have made contributions to society and specifically in the realm of health care.

In 1805, Mary Seacole was born in Jamaica; she later became a nurse who helped soldiers during the Crimean War. Her work was praised at the time, but she became even more famous a century later. She was born Mary Grant in Kingston, Jamaica, daughter of a Scottish soldier and the owner of a boarding house for officers and their families. Her mother was a traditional healer whom she learned much from. She wanted to become a Nightingale nurse and went to an interview with Florence Nightingale who did not give her an opportunity to become a Nightingale nurse. Undaunted, she left England and went to Crimea on her own and set up a hotel for the British soldiers. She obtained special passes, which allowed her to look after the wounded and dying on both sides of the Crimean war.

In 1904, Dr. Charles Drew was born in Washington DC. His claim to fame was developing improved techniques for blood storage and applied his expert knowledge to developing large-scale blood banks early in World War II. He attended McGill University and in 1933, he earned both Doctor of Medicine and Master of Surgery degrees.

In 1953, Agnes Scott and her roommate Dorothy Richards graduated from St. Joseph’s School of Nursing at the Hotel Dieu in Windsor, Ontario. Two of seven black nurses who attained the right to call themselves a nurse.  

For twenty-nine years, Lillie Johnson advocated for and finally realized the inclusion of sickle cell disease to the Ontario Newborn Screening Program. She is a retired registered nurse, educator and community activist who did not give up on her belief that, ’together we will take the color out of good health care.”  

These are but a few people who have contributed to areas in health care. But I say each and every one of us who continues to work each and every day in the healthcare industry is making contributions. We may not get the accolades as others have but by virtue of working day to day, we are making our mark in history.  It is also up to us to encourage the next generation to pursue careers in the diverse field of health care.

I would say that this year’s acknowledgment of Black history has impacted me more than ever before. I attended a couple of events and was reminded of the great accomplishments and contributions we have made through adversity. I was particularly impacted when in the midst of an event I realized that the participants have sacrificed much so that my generation and my children’s generation can aspire, dream and accomplish anything we put our minds to. It also dawned on me that this generation that sacrificed much are aging, gracefully I might add.  We must realize and acknowledge that we are here because of a vision that our fore parents had for themselves and us.

I have a keen sense of gratitude for my parent’s generation who came to Canada without settlement programs and learned how to navigate the various systems with style and grace. Your hidden tears, fears, and anxieties did not go in vain. On behalf of all of your children, grandchildren, great grans, great great grans, we THANK-You for the sacrifices that you have made, and the challenges and unfairness that you endured.  We promise to continue to do the best we can, to strive for excellence, to dream big dreams and to honor your legacies.

Dedicated to Carlton and Helen Nicholas, Andre Nicholas, Areather  LaFoucade,  Mr. and Mrs. Marchan, and Mr. and Mrs. Joseph,  Ezra Brown, and Dr. Patricia Keith.


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