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This story originally appeared in the California Health Report.

Black Health Network Member Spotlight: Harold Goldstein

10 Jun 2024 3:34 PM | Jamila Jabulani (Administrator)

I am the longtime Executive Director of Public Health Advocates (PHAdvocates). We are a statewide organization that works with California communities to establish policies, systems, and norms to promote health and racial justice. I've been supporting the great work of the Black Health Network for as long as I can remember because of your leadership in addressing Black health disparities. I was honored to be awarded one of BHN’s Hero in Health awards in 2013.

Racial justice was baked into my bones from a young age. I grew up in Oakland in the 1960s when the Civil Rights movement was in full swing and while the Black Panthers followed the police in an effort to stop police brutality. Yet still, as a 60-year-old white man I am regularly reminded how deeply the white dominant culture influences my perspectives and approach. My task is to stay open, listen to the wisdom of my colleagues, know that I don't know what I don't know so I have to keep learning.

At PHAdvocates, we prioritize the health of Black Californians in virtually everything we do. We know that when our work improves the lives of Black people, it's a sign that we have contributed to deep and meaningful change; we also know that it inevitably helps others as well.

  • In Stockton, we partner with Black churches to establish organizational and municipal policies to promote healthy eating, physical activity, and community safety. 
  • In our First Response Transformation Campaign, we help local champions in five cities redesign their police, fire, and emergency medical response systems to make them more respectful, less costly, and less racially biased.
  • Through our All Children Thrive campaign we are helping residents in 31 low income cities to develop local policies to prevent childhood trauma and enhance child wellbeing.

Many of our campaigns are led by Black staff; all of them include some Black staff. In addition, our projects are guided by community advisory groups that ensure that our work nurtures the wisdom and creativity of participating communities, addresses overt and systemic racism and oppression, and promotes safety, trust, transparency, and collaboration.

What barriers exist in achieving health equity for Black Californians?

After George Floyd’s murder, there was growing awareness in the United States about systemic racism. For a short time, there was more talk about the need for police reform, DEI programs in government and corporate settings, and curricula teaching young people about our country’s racist past and it's continued impact today. I never imagined that so many of my white friends would read How To Be an Antiracist! Unfortunately, I am afraid the tide has turned. At the national level as Donald Trump, his loyalists, the media that supports them, and the white nationalists they ignore, allow, condone, and/or support, are dedicated to eviscerating the gains we have made over the past decades. I am hopeful, however, that California can continue making progress and can be a beacon for the nation.

What inspires me to keep doing the work I do? 

What inspires me most are the passionate, creative, and dedicated young and diverse staff at PHAdvocates and our collective commitment to working with organizations like BHN to dismantle the unjust systems and structures that continue to leave far too many people behind. 

This story originally appeared in the California Health Report.

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