Values are important. Individually and collectively, they guide us as we grow and develop, informing our thoughts and actions. Our values intersect interpersonal relationships as we interact within the greater society.

It is February and we celebrate Black History Month, officially recognized nationally during our country’s bicentennial in 1976. Embraced and elevated during the civil-rights movement in the 1960’s, it originated in 1926 as Negro History Week – a creation of historian Carter G. Woodson who sought to encourage the study and appreciation of Black history. An opportunity for all to see fellow Americans beyond the reality and stories of slavery and racism, to illuminate and appreciate the contributions of African Americans in American and world history.

As much as Black History Month is an opportunity to recognize the historic contributions and accomplishments of America’s Black experience, it is also an opportunity to look forward, towards a more equitable future. Each year a theme is assigned by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, 2022’s theme is Black Health and Wellness.

To examine Black Health and Wellness through a lens of equity here at the Sauer Family Foundation is to understand that African American children and families are disproportionately burdened by longstanding systemic racism/discrimination that tragically stymies child well-being. Impacts that if not directly and thoughtfully addressed, will continue to erode purposeful progress towards Building Strong Family Relationships, Building Resilience to Trauma, Building Educational Success for Children and Building a Workforce that Reflects the Diversity of Minnesota’s Children.

For example, within Hennepin County, we know that African American children, when compared to white children, are 5.5 times more likely to be removed from their homes and placed in foster care. That once they enter the child welfare structure, parents who reside in Hennepin County are 4.9 times as likely to have the courts permanently terminate custody rights.  As a whole, Minnesota has a long-standing issue of mistaking poverty for neglect, for relying upon mandated reporters who may hold cultural bias, and that there is a lack of access to legal representation for parents navigating child protection claims who lack financial capacity to secure legal representation.

We believe that as we invest in the well-being of children that they, their families, and their communities can thrive. We believe that this is accomplished through nurturing supportive relationships for children so that they can develop to their full potential even as the environment in Minnesota is continually being challenged by ongoing environmental trauma associated with persistent raced based stress. (Racial trauma can leave black people with PTSD symptoms.)

We value our partnerships with organizations that work towards reducing disparities, increasing opportunity. Acknowledging organizations who understand that children who see representation in the classroom are less likely to drop out of high school and more likely to pursue a degree at an institution of higher education. Who understand that hosting meaningful activities and social interactions expose Black families to empowering experiences. That healing centered child-rearing practices assists in forming healthy lasting attachments within Black families.

As our national focus is drawn this month towards information that punctuates African American accomplishment. We hold to our value, our belief that racial equity is achieved when race no longer determines a child’s life outcomes.

– Sheri Hixon, Program Officer