Columbia Mailman Commemorates 400 Years of Inequity

October 29, 2019

The year 2019 marks the 400th anniversary of the arrival of more than 20 Africans from Angola, in Jamestown, Virginia. Upon their arrival, they were sold into bondage. The scars we still bear as a country from slavery, an institution that endured for centuries, are evident in countless facets of our society, including the significant health inequalities that persist throughout the United States.

During the 2019-20 school year, the Columbia Mailman School is embarking on a journey as a community to understand and explore the impact of this history. A highlight of this observance was a daylong commemoration on October 14 which included meaningful performances by Washington Heights-based artists; a Grand Rounds panel featuring Chandra Ford, director of the Center for the Study of Racism, Social Justice & Health at UCLA, and Harriet Washington, author of Medical Apartheid; and “neighborhood discussions” between our faculty and community activists and leaders about public health issues that impact our local community.

Please find a photo gallery (above) and video clips (below) of our October 14 events. There is more to come, with additional panels scheduled throughout the School year. Please take a look at our upcoming events and join us!



Opening Ceremony

After special performances by local groups Sing Harlem and Dance Project of Washington Heights, leaders from across Columbia and our surrounding community shared reflections and readings. Behike Atenua Gypsie Running Cloud, Principal Healer for the Community of Higuayagua, provided a Native American blessing, which was followed by remarks from Lonnie Harrington, lecturer, author, storyteller, and musician of African, Seminole, Cherokee, Choctaw, and  Shawnee ancestries, and Chief and Medicine Man for the Mattinecock Tribal Nation, Reggie Caesar. Following comments about the National Monument New York African Burial Ground, author Sherrill Wilson read her poem Artifacts” which can be read in the Columbia Journal.



Grand Rounds on the Future of Public Health: An Ecology of Inequality

Raygine DiAquoi, Assistant Dean, Office of Diversity, Culture, and Inclusion, moderated a conversation with health and equity thought leaders Chandra Ford of the University of California, Los Angeles, and Harriet Washington, author of Medical Apartheid. MPH student G. Tharp kicked-off the event with a reading of The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro by Frederick Douglass, accompanied by percussionist Maguette Camara.



Neighborhood Conversations

During a panel discussion, Sonal Jessel of WE ACT for Environmental Justice posed questions about energy, health, and justice to Peggy Shepard, also of WE ACT for Environmental Justice, and Diana Hernandez, assistant professor of sociomedical sciences. In a separate conversation, Jarrell E. Daniels of Justice Ambassadors Youth Council at Columbia University’s Center For Justice, and Patrick Wilson, associate professor of sociomedical sciences, examined the topic of mass incarceration.