As we begin a brand new week with hope in our hearts, and our eyes and ears tuned expectantly toward the words and actions of our leaders, our friends and family, and the organizations tasked to help and heal our neighbors, Thrive joins many others in acknowledging the pain and injustice of systemic racism and white supremacy. We stand as allies with our Black community and with all people of color, and pledge our active participation in anti-racism efforts within our organization and in our spheres of influence.
Equity is a top priority for the Central Oklahoma Teen Pregnancy Prevention Collaboration, the public-private partnership that Thrive was created to facilitate and support. These partners and community-based organizations told us during our recent strategic planning process that they see equity as a key focus for our work moving forward.
Momentum Matters, our new comprehensive plan to reduce teen pregnancy, outlines the collaboration’s Guiding Principles. You can read all of them here on p. 10, but today the following are particularly relevant:
- We share the belief that we are stronger together.
- We are grounded in an equity framework and understand the needs of all young people are not the same.
- We are committed to an inclusive and judgement-free approach to adolescent health.
- We listen to and respect the voices of the community.
It’s clear that racial and ethnic disparities exist in our local health outcomes, and teen pregnancy is no exception. Youth of color in Oklahoma County have higher teen birth rates than their white peers. Perhaps more importantly, decreases in the county’s teen birth rate have not been uniform by race and ethnicity. Of course, it’s also clear that there are racial disparities in so many of our state and nation’s health outcomes – from maternal mortality rates to rates of COVID-19 infection.
We know that systemic forces and barriers exist more significantly for teens and families of color, and have for generations. Truly addressing disparities in our community will require us to pay particular attention to the systemic, cultural, and generational factors at play.
However, we must take specific action beyond simply recognizing and understanding the heavier burdens that people of color bear. We are committed to working to identify and overcome the underlying causes of these health disparities and working with our community to develop strategic, collaborative ways to overcome their root causes.
Specifically, Thrive is committed to taking the following action:
- Our entire staff and board will participate in equity, diversity and inclusion training and we will offer these trainings to all who participate in our collaboration.
- A major focus of our new plan is to invite context experts – those with lived experience – as equal partners in our work and in our collaboration structure, including in leadership positions.
- We will convene an equity task force, to ensure that we intentionally amplify the voices of people of color and to ensure that equity is a priority throughout our collaboration and present in the perspectives that guide our work.
- We will develop strategic partnerships with organizations who are already doing the work on the ground to address systemic racism and injustice -- starting with listening to them about how we can support and join in their work.
We urge your participation in these activities and invite your suggestions for additional action we can take together to stand in solidarity and affirm our responsibility to combat racism. More will be required of us as we seek to intentionally reverse generations of structural racism – this is only a start.
Thrive is committed to listening, learning and elevating the voices of people of color. We know this is not enough -- we are committed to actively working toward positive change and healing. Please join us.
Laura Lang, Thrive CEO
Rev. Dr. Lori Walke, Board Chair