Lori Pickens leads Erie School Board as first Black woman president
Lori Pickens, the first Black woman to be president of the Erie School Board, talks, on Feb. 9, 2022, about her new role and goals.
Ed Palattella, Erie Times-News
As 2023 begins, Erie’s Black Wall Street ramps up for a new season of programming, community building and entrepreneurship cultivation. EBWS has consciously taken on the task of cultivating a cohesive community within the county lines of Erie, Pennsylvania for African Americans. As the first of the year passes and we move forward with our mission, we reflect on a specific principle of Kwanzaa. Umoja, a Swahili word meaning to strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race, personifies the mission of EBWS.
Why is community important in 2023? Following COVID-19, we all received a front-row seat on how isolation can affect every component of our lives. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, extended periods of social isolation have been associated with about a 50% increased risk of dementia; as well as a 29% increased risk of heart disease, and a 32% increased risk of stroke.
What do these statistics mean when discussing the importance of community to Black Americans? Oftentimes, community is the foundation of systemic change; improved mental health and physical health in individuals. If we can provide a safe community for everyone to engage in, we can quite literally improve the health of the citizens here in Erie. African Americans specifically have higher rates of stroke, heart disease and heart failure in our nation. This statistic alone shows the importance of shared space, time and energy.
More:Erie’s Black Wall Street advances homeownership and overdue access to the American Dream
Erie’s Black Wall Street has taken initiative as a vehicle to build a community where many people of color once believed that there was none. Looking at the previous statistics as well as my own personal experiences, when a person feels both seen and heard they have the ability to experience being part of a whole. As important as individuality is, feeling part of a whole has its own set of significant benefits including being a more productive member of the community. Building community is so significant to our organization and those who support us because we realize that support builds strong human beings. Sharing ideas, traditions, beliefs and experiences helps to create healthier minds, bodies and souls. As we move forward into 2023, please keep in mind that community is not only the base of Black America but the base of any thriving society.
More:The ranks of Black-owned businesses in Erie are small but growing
Collectivism is an ancestral need within all humans. Indigenous people across all continents have existed in tribes for thousands of years in order to survive. Although technology has changed the way our tribes look, we are all in need of one. There are many forms of tribes or communities, including family, friends, spouses, children, neighbors, co-workers or teammates. Whomever is included in your community/tribe is up to you. We all crave to be seen and to find those who can relate and connect to us. The human need for connection can be seen in the statistics of going without those connections.
This year as we continue sharing our mission with the residents of Erie, let’s take a little more time to be mindful of building those communities to strengthen all our voices and be vehicles for change. As we facilitate change, let’s also remember that a strong and supportive community is a successful community.
Angelica Spraggins, M.A., CRC, LPC, is the co-founder and vice president of Erie’s Black Wall Street.
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