Black History is More Than Just a Month

February 12, 2020

Denver Health employee Joe Kanzangu

As part of Denver Health's celebration of Black History Month, we asked a few of our employees to introduce themselves, tell us why diversity is important at Denver Health and what Black History Month means to them. Here is just one of those responses:

Hey y’all, my name is Joe Kanzangu. I am a Patient Navigator at Denver Health with the Healthy Communities Outreach Program. I have been working here for approximately nine months, give or take.

Diversity at Denver Health

I firmly believe that diversity brings excellence. It enhances our experience of the world around us and we can better care for the communities that we strive to service and connect to in a competent manner. At Denver Health, we strive to make Denver the healthiest community in the nation. And to do that, we have to properly represent and advocate for every group that calls Denver home. No one gets left behind when you’re committed to excellence and that is why diversity is important to Denver Health.

Black History Month Meaning

To me, Black History Month is more than just a month. To delegate it to one month, especially in academia, is to minimize the importance of the black collective and their impact in building today’s society. Black history is a vital part of American history, it is American history. 

I’ve lived in the United States for the majority of my life and having been raised in Belgium and having family from all over the world has given me a deeper understanding of the Black Experience. Funny thing is, I moved to Denver because I wanted to add some color. I wanted to combat the psychological barriers we place on ourselves in exploring our natural settings. It’s glorious out here. I’ve digressed. I’ll simply concentrate on black history here in America. 

I believe there’s underlying factors at play that keep us from feeling comfortable in talking about race. We should see all colors and embrace them. We should sit down and talk about our experiences of the world and how far we’ve come in all of our humanities, but also how much work that still needs to be done. 

How can we build better enterprises and sociopolitical systems when we won’t even acknowledge the outdated racial systems and influences that built this country to benefit certain groups and left others to dry? Black History Month is a pop culture social construct that at least adds some depth to the public school curriculum. I’m not here to lecture. I simply wish to normalize black history. I believe in exposing ourselves and our children to diverse environments and inclusive fields. That will be the antidote for the lack of black normalcy. 

As a group, we are as diverse and as eclectic as any other group and we should be seen as that. For now, for this month, I will continue to do as I’ve done for the other eleven months, I will indulge in black self-expressionism – through the arts, through society and through culture. 

Now, here’s some poetry from Langston Hughes for your headtop:

Theme for English B

By: Langston Hughes

The instructor said,

Go home and write

a page tonight.

And let that page come out of you –

Then, it will be true.

I wonder if it’s that simple?
I am twenty-two, colored, born in Winston-Salem.   
I went to school there, then Durham, then here   
to this college on the hill above Harlem.   
I am the only colored student in my class.   
The steps from the hill lead down into Harlem,   
through a park, then I cross St. Nicholas,   
Eighth Avenue, Seventh, and I come to the Y,   
the Harlem Branch Y, where I take the elevator   
up to my room, sit down, and write this page:
 
It’s not easy to know what is true for you or me   
at twenty-two, my age. But I guess I’m what
I feel and see and hear, Harlem, I hear you.
hear you, hear me—we two—you, me, talk on this page.   
(I hear New York, too.) Me—who?
 
Well, I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love.   
I like to work, read, learn, and understand life.   
I like a pipe for a Christmas present,
or records—Bessie, bop, or Bach.
I guess being colored doesn’t make me not like
the same things other folks like who are other races.   
So will my page be colored that I write?   
Being me, it will not be white.
But it will be
a part of you, instructor.
You are white—
yet a part of me, as I am a part of you.
That’s American.
Sometimes perhaps you don’t want to be a part of me.   
Nor do I often want to be a part of you.
But we are, that’s true!
As I learn from you,
I guess you learn from me—
although you’re older—and white—
and somewhat more free.
 
This is my page for English B.

Categories: Denver Health, Categories: Employee Stories, Categories: For Health Professionals, Categories: Public Health