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Black History Month – Celebrating Black Community Leaders in Health & Wellness

January 31st, 2024

Black History Month – Celebrating Black Community Leaders in Health & Wellness

Black History Month is observed each year from February 1 – March 1. It reminds us to recognize, reflect, and learn about Black and African Americans who struggled with adversity and celebrate the many achievements and contributions Black and African Americans have made to our communities and the country. It also provides a chance for us to recognize Black leaders who have fought for healthcare equality and continue to make positive changes today. To celebrate Black History Month, we ask staff to help collate a list of Black pioneers in health and wellness that influence and inspire them as well as add information to our growing list of resources.

You can also check out our Blog which contains many interviews with Black staff members, past and present, who have shared their thoughts on Black History Month.

West Oakland Health

The story of West Oakland Health is one that has inspired many team members to help provide healthcare to those in need in their communities. Four African American mothers started West Oakland Health during the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements. Thank you, founders: Ms. Davis, Ms. Olivia Parks, Ms. Jessie Hamilton, and Ms. Edith Brown!

“West Oakland Health was a spark led that the transformation in community health and advocacy in California and the nation.”

Learn more: https://westoaklandhealth.org/history/


Marin City Health & Wellness Center

Founded in 2006 by a grassroots effort to provide accessible primary care for low-income families of a historically African American community, Marin City Health & Wellness Center is an FQHC serving patients of all ethnicities from 3 clinic locations in Marin and San Francisco.

Their mission

Our Mission is to provide innovative health and wellness services to all, with the goal of African American Health Equity.

Learn More: https://www.marincityclinic.org/


Bernard J. Tyson

Ritter staff remember Bernard J. Tyson, Former Chairman, and CEO of Kaiser Permanente:

“What I’m after is bringing the most diverse populations inside of my organization and tapping into the brilliant minds that come from a universe of experiences that are very different depending on how you grew up, your community, your neighborhood, how you solve problems.”

He was a hugely influential healthcare leader, champion of healthcare for all, and advocate for racial justice and workplace diversity.

“You would think my experience as a top executive would be different from a Black man who is working in a retail or food service job to support his family. Yet, he and I both understand the commonality of the Black male experience that remains consistent no matter what the economic status or job title,” wrote the late Kaiser Permanente CEO Bernard J. Tyson after the 2014 shooting of unarmed Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.

Learn more:



John George

One lasting silver lining of the pandemic might be the increased awareness of mental health issues. John George was ahead of his time as a Bay Area advocate for the improvement of health and psychiatric services for the Black community. The John George Psychiatric Hospital (previously John George Psychiatric Pavilion, now part of the Alameda Health System) carries his mission forward with services to adults experiencing mental illness regardless of ability to pay.

Learn more: http://www.alamedahealthsystem.org/about-us/

Felecia Gaston

Felecia Gaston founded Performing Stars in 1990 with a mission to transform the lives of low-income, primarily multicultural, children throughout Marin County by using enrichment programs to build pride, character, discipline, and self-esteem.

“When I was a little girl growing up in Georgia, I watched little white girls go off to ballet class and I desperately wished I could go too, but it was unthinkable at that time due to segregation. However, I never let go of that dream, and I wanted to find a way to help other children of color fulfill their own dreams.”

“We believe all children can embrace who they are, can define their future, and can change the world.”

Learn more: https://www.performingstars.org/

Berry Accius

Change often starts in our own backyard and activist Berry Accius is a local leader with Voice of the Youth, a nonprofit with a guiding philosophy of patience, passion, and consistency helping youth, children, and families in need, and the homeless community.

Learn more: https://voiceoftheyouth.org/

Bishlam Bullock

Bishlam Bullock is the owner of Salon B, the only Black-owned storefront on 4th Street in San Rafael. This inspiring activist shares his story:

“Recently, when the George Floyd stuff happened, it was an awakening. I felt activated. I have reaped the rewards of things my parents fought for and I was asleep to terrible realities. Many of us have realized that we need to take our education and our resources and get involved and start speaking out. ”

Learn more:



Paul Austin

Leadership in our community should be honored every day of the year, and not just during Black History Month. Play Marin Founder & CEO Paul Austin is a shining example. A longtime Marin City resident, Paul saw a need to create opportunities for Marin City youth to engage in organized athletics and other extracurriculars. He founded Play Marin to intentionally give kids of diverse ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds from the broader Marin community the opportunity to play, learn, and grow together.

Learn more: https://playmarin.org


Support Local Black-Owned Businesses

Diversity builds economic vitality, strengthens local economies, fosters job creation, and celebrates true community. One way to observe Black History Month and every month is to support local Black-owned businesses. Check out this list from the Marin IJ (updated Nov 2020):

Learn more: https://www.marinij.com/2020/06/10/how-to-support-marins-black-owned-businesses/


Other Resources:

ASALH: Association for the Study of African American Life and History

Each year, the ASALH puts together an amazing selection of materials and resources about Black History Month and they host a month-long virtual festival.

2024’s theme is African Americans & the Arts. Read more here: https://asalh.org/black-history-themes.

Learn about the origins of Black History Month at: https://asalh.org/about-us/about-black-history-month/

“In celebrating the entire history of African Americans and the arts, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) puts into the national spotlight the richness of the past and present with an eye towards what the rest of the twentieth-first century will bring. ASALH dedicates its 98th Annual Black History Theme to African Americans and the arts.”

Learn more about ASALH’s Black History Month festival and get involved at: https://asalh.org/festival/

View the schedule at: https://asalh.org/festival/schedule-of-events/


ASALH’s Black History Month theme in 2022 focused on Black Health and Wellness and ASALH provided the following useful information:


National Medical Association

The National Medical Association (NMA) is the collective voice of African American physicians and the leading force for parity and justice in medicine and the elimination of disparities in health.

Learn More: https://www.nmanet.org/page/About_Us


Academic Influence

AcademicInfluence.com has complied a list of influential Black Medical Practitioners who are leaders in the field of medicine, are conducting research and treating patients in areas like family medicine, oncology, epidemiology, ophthalmology, and more.

Learn more: https://academicinfluence.com/rankings/people/black-scholars/medical-practitioners