February is Black History Month. This year’s national theme is Black Health and Wellness and pays homage to the medical scholars and health care providers. It has been said that February was chosen because it is the birth month of both Frederick Douglass, a former slave and prominent leader in the abolitionist movement, and Abraham Lincoln, who issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.
This year, we are showcasing some of the local organizations here in Michigan that are doing exciting work in our community.
- The Detroit Justice Center is a nonprofit law firm that works to combat economic and racial injustice.
- The Detroit Phoenix Center serves primarily Black and Brown youth facing disparities in the juvenile justice and foster care systems with a lack of access to health care and education.
- Focus: HOPE provides education, workforce development, and low-income seniors with food services to help combat race and class divisions.
- We the People of Detroit works to build community coalitions while promoting human rights, youth leadership, racial equality, education, and water justice by regularly providing bottled water for those whose water has been shut off.
We also wanted to showcase a few African American innovators who have contributed to healthcare advancements.
Mae Jemison (1956 – )
Mae Jemison is most well known as the first African American female astronaut to go into space in 1992, but she is also a chemical engineer and trained physician. While a student at Cornell Medical School, Ms. Jemison led a study in Cuba for the American Medical Student Association and worked at a Cambodian refugee camp in Thailand. After graduating in 1981, she went on to practice general medicine and, fluent in Russian, Japanese, and Swahili, Ms. Jemison served in the Peace Corps as a medical officer in Africa from 1983 to 1985. Among her many accomplishments and contributions to the fields of health and science, in 1993 Ms. Jemison founded the Jemison Group Inc., a private company through which she combined the skills she developed as a physician and an astronaut to develop ALAFIYA, a satellite-based telecommunications system to improve healthcare delivery in developing countries.
Otis Boykin (1920 – 1982)
Otis Boykin was an African American inventor, granted 26 patents over his lifetime, who made notable improvements to electronic technology, specifically electronic resistors that enable the precise regulation of electrical current within a circuit. In 1959 and 1961, Mr. Boykin was granted two patents; one for a wire precision resistor that allowed for the designation of a precise amount of resistance that could be customized for a specific purpose, and the other for an electrical resistor that could withstand extreme accelerations and shocks and temperature changes. Mr. Boykin’s advances enable many electronic devices to be made less expensively and with greater reliability and have been incorporated into many products ranging from common consumer goods to guided missiles and IBM computers. Mr. Boykin is most famously known for developing a control unit for pacemakers that included a version of his resistor that made possible the precise regulation necessary for the success of the pacemaker. He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014.