Stories from the brainreels guest: Leslie Gregory of Right To Health

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(The podcast audio is at the bottom of this post.)

This month’s guest is Leslie Gregory, Founder and President of Right To Health, a Portland-area non-profit that provides health outreach, education, and em powerment to people concerned and/or affected by stress-related risks associated with racism. And I just want everyone in the universe to know about this work and get involved.

Fellow white people, I know it may feel scary, daunting, too huge, or like you personally don’t need to study racism and health because you’re just not racist. Please don’t allow any of those reasons to keep you from this work. If you haven’t already started in unlearning racism or anti-racist activism, then start here with my conversation with Leslie.

Chances are high everyone reading this has done or said something that was truly hurtful to a person of color, whether we realized it or not, whether we meant it or not. If you follow this blog but aren’t motivated to do anti-racist work, please consider the questions below before closing this post. Trying to answer these questions is part of a crucial step toward creating equity, justice, and even plain old decency that all seem to be in short supply in our country.

  1. Do you visit websites related to brain injury or disability besides this one? If you do, are there pictures of black people or stories written by black people there? Have you ever stopped to notice that?
  2. If you go to disability community groups or brain injury support groups, are there black people? Would everyone in your group welcome black people who do or might show up? Would your group accept a black leader?
  3. When you (or someone you know with a brain injury) went to medical care and rehab, were any of the doctors or clinicians black?
  4. When you hear people say, “Brain injury can happen to anyone! It doesn’t discriminate!” do you ask for the numbers? Because black people die at a higher rate from TBI than white people, and so do Native Americans.
  5. If you’re white and someone brings up racism, do you try to get out of the conversation as quickly as possible, or do you explain things as “not that bad,” or “not something that I do,” or “not really what happened?”

These questions are what led me to seek out Leslie. Brain injury and disability websites, service organizations, support groups, and arts groups are so exceedingly white that we should all be extremely concerned.

Please keep in mind that not every black person has the emotional and physical energy to provide this intense level of education, especially for free, and not everyone even wants to. So white people: don’t go up to any and every black person and ask for education about how to end racism. Today’s episode is an absolute gift because Leslie tells us how we can begin to do it, and she is not being paid for doing so. Please honor Leslie’s generosity by listening to or reading this episode and following up with any of the ways she talks about supporting Right To Health and anti-racist work in your community.

In the podcast, Leslie mentions some media and activists to check out. So you’ll get those. I’ll wrap up this post with just a few more links to check out.

  1. Vilissa Thompson’s Black Disabled Woman Syllabus blog post. Copy the list to a document on your computer. Go down the list and consume everything on it that you can. I understand there will be items on this list that aren’t accessible to everyone. If you find something that isn’t, and you want to read it, watch, or listen to it, please reach out. We can work together to find or create accessible versions.
  2. This website called Black Women’s Health.
  3. Claudia Rankine reading excerpts from her book, Citizen, in both text and audio formats.
  4. LaSha’s blog post on The Kinfolk Collective covering intersections of racism, medical torture, Hillary Clinton’s 1996 public use of DuLulio’s 1995 term “super-predators,” current day police brutality against black people, and how this shapes the ways even her young son is viewed as a threat simply for how he looks, at 7 years of age.
  5. Emmitt Thrower’s new Closed Captioned documentary “Where Is Hope?: The Art of Murder” about police brutality against people of color with disabilities.

Click here for an accessible transcript of podcast episode #049.