Blog Posts Related to the African American Community

  • We the Geeks: Celebrating Black History Month

    We at the White House couldn’t be more excited to celebrate Black History Month by highlighting some of our nation’s most prominent and promising African American science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) achievers and shining a light on the importance of ensuring the Nation’s next generation of inventors, discoverers, and innovators fully reflects the diversity of America.

    President Obama with Evan Jackson, Alec Jackson, and Caleb Robinson at the White House Science Fair, April 22, 2013

    President Barack Obama talks with Evan Jackson, 10, Alec Jackson, 8, and Caleb Robinson, 8, from McDonough, Ga., while looking at exhibits at the White House Science Fair in the State Dining Room, April 22, 2013. The sports-loving grade-schoolers created a new product concept to keep athletes cool and helps players maintain safe body temperatures on the field. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

    Members of racial and ethnic minority groups are projected to become the majority of America’s population in the next 30 years. Today, however, they account for just 28 percent of America’s STEM workers. We know that for America to remain competitive in a global economy, we need to do all we can to draw upon the nation’s diverse talent pool, which includes historically underrepresented groups in STEM, such as women and minorities.

    That’s why, next week, OSTP is hosting and participating in a series of activities to highlight diverse STEM role models and the urgent need to help minority students across the country envision themselves as tomorrow’s discoverers, explorers, developers, and STEM innovators.

    To kick off our week of activities, join us Tuesday, February 25 at 3:00 pm EST for "We the Geeks: Celebrating Black History Month" 

    In this Google+ Hangout, some of the Nation’s most extraordinary African American STEM innovators and STEM-education advocates will share their inspiring personal stories and thoughts on how we can all step up to help strengthen America’s STEM-skilled workforce by making it broader and more diverse. 

  • Partnering for Action in African American Communities

    Leaders from some of the country’s foremost African American civil rights organizations joined President Obama and a handful of Administration leaders in the Roosevelt Room of the White House yesterday. To open the meeting, I was joined by Attorney General Eric Holder, Director of the Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Muñoz, Cabinet Secretary Broderick Johnson and White House Advisor for Health Policy and Implementation Phil Schiliro for a discussion outlining the President’s priorities for this year of action. 

    President Obama Meets with African American Civil Rights Leaders

    President Barack Obama meets with African American civil rights leaders to discuss criminal justice reform, income inequality and the Affordable Care Act, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Feb. 18, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) February 18, 2014. (Official White House Photo)

    Present were leaders from the NAACP, The National Urban League, the National Action Network, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the National Bar Association and the National Coalition of Black Civic Participation. The group covered a range of issues of great concern to the President, and the African American community, touching on job growth, education and job training, maintaining our momentum in enrolling the uninsured through the Affordable Care Act, bringing more fairness and efficiency to our criminal justice system, increasing the minimum wage, and ensuring ladders of opportunity for all. 

    What was clear in this meeting was that many of the goals the President set forth in his State of the Union address will become reality because of the strong partnerships that he and his administration have forged with leaders from the civil rights community who work hard every day to advocate equality and opportunity for all.

    The President will continue to work with Congress where they are able and willing to act, but meetings like this provide optimistic reminders that there remain other leaders in the country who can act right now – to improve the economy, to ensure greater opportunity for all, and to keep this country moving in the right direction. The capacity for the President and his White House to convene thought leaders, decision makers, and community leaders, all of whom have access to both resources and the audiences we aim to reach, is a powerful tool, and one which President Obama hopes to wield effectively in 2014 for the good of all Americans.

    Valerie Jarrett is Senior Advisor to the President and Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls

  • Sharpening Our Focus to Meet National Goals on National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from AIDS.GOV

    As we observe National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD) 2014, we are reminded that African Americans face the most severe burden of HIV/AIDS in the United States. Among African Americans, gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (Black MSM) are especially hard hit, representing more than half of all estimated new HIV infections among African Americans each year. A particularly disconcerting estimate in 2010 showed that young Black MSM aged 13 to 24 accounted for the greatest number (4,800) of estimated new HIV infections among African Americans.

    Furthermore, from an analysis of data about African Americans diagnosed with HIV infection from 19 jurisdictions that CDC released yesterday, we know that compared to Black women, Black men — regardless of transmission category — have lower levels of linkage to and retention in HIV care and are less likely to have achieved viral suppression (i.e., have controlled the virus at a level that helps keep them healthy and reduces their risk of transmitting the virus to others). The study also revealed that by transmission category, men with infection attributed to male-to-male sexual contact had the lowest percentage of linkage to care.

    These disparities highlight that, despite important strides that have been made toward national HIV prevention, care and treatment goals, we clearly have more work to do as a nation to effectively address HIV among Black MSM, especially with regard to outcomes along the HIV care continuum [PDF 1.9MB].

    The National HIV/AIDS Strategy highlights both the disproportionate impact of HIV among MSM in the U.S., the concentration of HIV among Black MSM within the African American community, and clearly states that “the United States cannot reduce the number of HIV infections nationally without better addressing HIV among gay and bisexual men.” The Strategy also observes that our national commitment to this population has not always been commensurate with their disproportionate burden of HIV. 

    So, as we mark the annual observance of NBHAAD, we all—both individually and collectively—are called to be even more thoughtful, creative, and focused about actions we can undertake to strengthen HIV prevention, testing, care and treatment for Black MSM in communities across the United States. 

    Among federal programs, several important activities are underway in this regard: 

    • Increasing the capacity, quality, and effectiveness of HIV/AIDS service providers to serve Black MSMApplications are due later this month for a new Resource/TA Center for HIV Prevention and Care for Black MSM being supported by HRSA’s HIV/AIDS Bureau. To assist HIV service and other healthcare providers, the new center will identify, compile, and disseminate best practices and effective models for HIV clinical care and treatment across the HIV care continuum for adult and young Black MSM ages 13 to 24.
    • Promoting and supporting HIV testing among Black MSM – CDC’s Testing Makes Us Stronger social marketing campaign encourages Black MSM to get tested for HIV. Through compelling campaign ads in national magazines and on targeted websites, as well as through local advertising and materials distribution in target cities, CDC emphasizes the importance of getting tested for HIV regularly to help stop the spread of the epidemic. The campaign also includes a Facebook  page and a dedicated website with a suite of campaign materials available for individuals and organizations to download and distribute. Complementing this important outreach campaign, CDC makes significant investments in both health departments and community-based organizations to support high impact prevention activities, including testing.  
    • Supporting engagement in HIV care – The HHS Office for Civil Rights’ Information is Powerful Medicine campaign focuses specifically on Black MSM, underscoring how having access to your medical records can help you better manage your health. Access to this information empowers patients to track their progress, monitor their lab results, communicate with their treatment teams, and adhere to their important treatment plans. The campaign also provides information on e-health tools, such as the “Blue Button,” which make it easier, safer, and faster for consumers to get access to their health information.
    • Strengthening state efforts for Black MSM – Under the Care and Prevention and Prevention of HIV in the U.S. (CAPUS) demonstration project, several of the eight participating states are focusing their efforts specifically on Black MSM. The three-year demonstration project is supported by the Secretary’s Minority AIDS Initiative Fund and seeks to support these states, each with disproportionately high burdens of HIV/AIDS among minority communities, to improve HIV testing, engagement, and retention in care among racial and ethnic minorities. In Illinois, for example, the state health department has launched a youth of color-specific initiative in East St. Louis to co-locate medical (including LGBT health), psychosocial, prevention and support services in a single setting by collaborating with the local health department and community-based organizations in East St. Louis, Illinois and across the river in St. Louis, Missouri.
    • Supporting Implementation Research – The focus of the ongoing NIH-supported HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) 073  study is determining the willingness of Black MSM to use a daily antiretroviral pill as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Studies such as HPTN 073 are critical in bridging our understanding between biomedical advances in HIV prevention and behavioral, social and structural factors that are often in play. 

    “We are greatly encouraged that many of these federal activities are consistent with recommendations made during our 2012 consultation with community leaders and federal partners about HIV among Black MSM,” notes Dr. Ronald Valdiserri, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health, Infectious Diseases. “These efforts, and many more underway at the federal as well as state and local levels, are vital to reducing new HIV infections among Black MSM and to improving outcomes all along the HIV care continuum for this disproportionately impacted population.”

    Timothy Harrison is a Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 

  • Champion of African American History: Carter G. Woodson

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from The Huffington Post.

    In the fall of 1870, a handful of students made their way through the northwest quadrant of the nation's capital, and through the doors of D.C.'s "Preparatory High School for Colored Youth," the country's first public high school for African American children. There, in the shadow of the American Civil War, and dawned with the spark of reconstruction, a converted basement-turned-classroom in the lower floor of Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church bore the seeds of Dunbar High School, which would become one of the country's preeminent institutions for African American educational achievement. The students and teachers who graced its hallways would be heard through the years in the halls of Congress, in the highest ranks of the U.S. military, at the heart of our civil rights movement, and in the upper echelons of medical and scientific study.

    One such voice was that of Carter G. Woodson; a journalist, author, historian, and co-founder of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH). It was through his work with the ASNLH that Woodson spearheaded the celebration of "Negro History Week" in America, which served as the precursor to Black History Month, which was officially recognized by President Gerald Ford in 1976.

  • Challenges and Progress: Black History Month & Affordable Health Care

    Ed note: This is cross posted from the Huffington Post

    We celebrate Black History Month against the backdrop of some tremendous progress, but also some very significant challenges.

    As we join with President Obama in making 2014 a Year of Action, I want to take this opportunity to invite you join in a Google Hangout on Wednesday, February 5 at 3pm to discuss our progress and our challenges as they relate to health and human services in the African American community. I'll be joined by Shavon Arline, the National Health Director for the NAACP, as well as Justin from Tampa, a 28-year-old from Tampa who is getting covered through the Health Insurance Marketplace for only $15 a month.

    -- Click here to see Justin's story.

    -- And click here to sign up or learn more about the hangout.

    Because of the Affordable Care Act, millions of Americans like Justin are obtaining quality affordable health care coverage - many for the first time. What's more: 7.3 million African Americans with private insurance now have access to preventive services like cholesterol screenings, mammograms, and flu shots with no out-of-pocket expenses. 4.5 million elderly and disabled African Americans who receive coverage from Medicare have the right to things like an annual wellness visit with a personalized prevention plan. And more than 500,000 young African American adults have gained coverage because the new health care law allows them to stay on their parents' plan until their 26th birthday.

    Yet, we still face shocking - and unacceptable - health disparities. African Americans are 55% more likely to be uninsured than white Americans. African Americans are twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes, and 40% more likely to have high blood pressure. And the infant mortality rate among African Americans is more than twice that of non-Hispanic whites.

    "Of all forms of injustice," Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once told the Medical Committee for Human Rights, "injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane."

    As a country, we pay dearly for these disparities. We pay in the heartbreak of the lives we have lost. And we pay in a loss of opportunity and freedom for so many of our fellow Americans.

    You see, without the opportunity to live a healthy life, there is no opportunity to live the American dream or participate fully in our communities. Without the freedom which comes from having access to quality health care, there is no freedom to reach our full potential in the workforce or watch our kids or grandkids grow up. Without the security of health insurance, there is no economic security for middle-class families, and for so many other families working their way into the middle class.

    Thanks to President Obama's leadership we have very real reasons for optimism that we can do something about these disparities. An estimated 4.2 million uninsured African Americans may be eligible for financial assistance to help pay for the costs of their new coverage on the Marketplace. What's more, if every state were to expand Medicaid, 95 percent of uninsured African Americans would be eligible for assistance with a Marketplace plan, Medicaid, or CHIP.

    I hope you'll join us on Wednesday.

    And, let's work together to answer President Obama's call for every American who knows someone without health insurance to help them get covered by March 31. You can shop for plans and enroll online at HealthCare.gov, by phone at 1-800-318-2596, by mail, or directly through an issuer, agent or broker. You can also get in person help at https://localhelp.healthcare.gov/

    Kathleen Sebelius is Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services

  • #AfAmEdChat to Discuss How the State of the Union Affects African-American Communities

    Ed note: This is cross-posted from the Department of Education

    President Obama began the 2014 State of the Union address emphasizing his commitment that all American children have access to a world class education, stating in his first comments, “today in America, a teacher spent extra time with a student who needed it, and did her part to lift America’s graduation rate to its highest level in more than three decades.”

    On Thursday, February 6, 2014, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans will be hosting a special #AfAmEdChat on Twitter to discuss what the President’s address means for African-American communities.  The chat will explore the importance of the President’s emphasis on education including high-quality early childhood education, rigorous preparation for college and careers, supporting parents and communities, and recruiting the next generation of great teachers.

    • What:  #AfAmEdChat on what the State of the Union Address means for African-American Communities
    • When: 12-1 pm EST Thursday, February 6, 2014
    • Where:  Follow the Twitter conversation with #AfAmEdChat hashtag and follow@AfAmEducation

    On the first and third Thursday of each month, the Initiative hosts a one-hour #AfAmEdChat to increase awareness of the educational challenges faced by African American students, whether they are in urban, suburban, or rural learning environments. The chats are facilitated by Executive Director, David J. Johns with guest panelists offering expertise on a range of issues and strategies supporting the President’s commitment to Opportunity for All.

    Learn more about the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans by signing up for email updates.

    Khalilah Harris is a fellow with the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African-Americans. She is an education program and policy advisor, attorney and a doctoral student at University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education.