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Black History: A Celebration of Contributions & Inclusivity

MLK Parade Float
Pictured in photo: OVAHCS employee volunteers riding the Orlando VA float during the MLK parade in downtown Orlando on January 13, 2024.

In the wake of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade celebration, the Orlando VA Healthcare System, (OVAHCS) is gearing up for another significant observance that resonates with the principles of equality and diversity – Black History Month.

As the nation prepares to honor the achievements and contributions of African Americans throughout history, the OVAHCS is committed to fostering awareness and celebrating diversity within its own community.

LaKisha Washington, a Navy Veteran and African American Black Employment Special Emphasis Program Manager at the OVAHCS, shares insights into the significant events planned for February.

The first event, "Poetic Rhythms of Black Resiliency," featuring Dr. Mary G. Barbie, held on Thursday, February 1, 2024, aimed to explore the resilient spirit of the Black community through the art of poetry.

Following this event, on February 9, the VA will host "African Descent Native Americans" with Lynn Brownfield, Special Emphasis Program Manager, delving into the intersectionality of African and Native American heritage. 

The third event, "Timeline of Slavery," led by Chaplain Cosby-Rose on February 16, will provide an opportunity to reflect on the historical context of slavery.

Finally, on Friday, February 23, "Afro-Latins" with Luis Sandomingo, OVAHCS Health Systems Specialist, explores the contributions of Afro-Latin individuals to American culture. 

All events will be accessible virtually, ensuring broad participation.

Washington emphasizes that Black History extends beyond a single month, urging continuous recognition throughout the year. She underlines the importance of understanding that events labeled "Black" are inclusive and open to everyone, fostering a sense of shared history.

Washington asserts, "History should be inclusive for everyone," emphasizing that “learning Black History is not about making anyone feel guilty or ashamed, but about fostering empathy and understanding.”

While acknowledging that experiencing life as a Black person may be challenging for those not born Black, Washington believes that education about Black history can bridge gaps, dismiss stereotypes, and promote unity.  

“Recognizing the vast contributions of Black individuals beyond their struggles is crucial for collective progress,” says Washington. 

As Washington aptly puts it, "Recognizing the contributions that Black people have made to this country as well as the struggles they’ve endured will help pave the path where we all continue to move forward together." 

The Orlando VA's commitment to celebrating Black history is a commendable initiative that echoes the broader call for inclusivity and appreciation of America's diverse heritage. 

Office of Public Affairs 
Orlando VA Health Care System 
407-840-6967 I

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