Exploring the connectedness of health in our communities and imagining a better future
Jan. 25, 2022 | Issue #20
Putting together this first Intersections of a new year, we found perspectives and voices that remind us what a powerful and empowering tool storytelling can be. To make the changes we want to see in California — to achieve health equity and end domestic violence — we draw inspiration from stories and storytellers like these. If they resonate with you, too, forward this newsletter to a friend. And email us with your ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org
Director of Communications & Public Affairs
Real stories, diverse voices helped California’s eviction moratorium
If housing is a health issue, it stands to reason that evictions are, too. That point finally came across loud and clear during the pandemic. It became more urgent than ever for people to be able to stay home to quarantine, isolate, attend school, or even wash their hands. But that reasoning, and California’s response, was not a foregone conclusion.
It took a broad coalition of community voices, including our partners at Bay Area Regional Health Inequities Initiative (BARHII) and the Berkeley Media Studies Group, to advocate for renters’ protections as part of the pandemic emergency response.
By the time Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 832 in June 2021, extending the state’s eviction moratorium and creating other renters’ relief measures, it was clear that housing is critical to health.
Now, six lessons on media advocacy from that achievement can inform similar efforts for racial and health equity. These tips for success include:
- enlisting diverse organizations and spokespeople,
- describing the issue in ways that reach specific audiences, and
- using stories and data to drive the points home.
Learn more here about our support for multisector collaborations and community power.
For survivors, new ways to find help
For many survivors of domestic violence, calling the police is not an option. Because they worry that police involvement can escalate violence rather than disrupting it, a recent California Health Report article says, 40% of survivors never call the police.
Organizations across California have begun implementing innovative alternatives that can now be expanded, under a bill Gov. Gavin Newsom signed in October. It will fund pilot projects that provide alternative responses to emergency situations including domestic violence intervention. Supporters of the bill hope community activists, survivors, perpetrators of violence, and health care providers are among those who will come to the table when designing solutions.
The article points to some existing successful approaches, like the Promotora de Salud model, as having potential applications in domestic violence education and prevention.
“If you look at the domestic violence response system right now, it is exclusively focused on the person who is suffering harm. And that is important,” said Marc Philpart, principal coordinator of PolicyLink’s Alliance for Boys and Men of Color, a Foundation partner and a sponsor of the bill. “But I think we need another layer in order to really prevent, and address, and interrupt, cycles of violence.”
From "New Day’s Lyric" by Amanda Gorman
A poem to bring in the new year, “New Day’s Lyric” by Amanda Gorman, reminds us to carry forward our lessons from the challenges of 2021, which she calls a “year of yearning.”
Gorman, the country’s first National Youth Poet Laureate, touched millions of hearts when she recited “The Hill We Climb” at President Joe Biden’s inauguration. Her words to welcome 2022 inspire us to pave new paths forward, in unity, “For wherever we come together, / We will forever overcome.”
Storytelling: a process that heals
During Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month in 2021, California Partnership to End Domestic Violence (CPEDV) supported young people in telling their stories of survival, healing, and leadership through a workshop with StoryCenter.
A Foundation partner, CPEDV represents more than 1,000 advocates, organizations, and allied groups statewide and, as explained in its annual report, considers storytelling to be an important tool in aligning prevention and intervention strategies to advance social change.
The teens who joined in the workshop refused to stay silent. They talked about their traumas and found their voices through the deeply introspective storytelling process.
“I remember feeling my throat tense up and feeling every single vein in my neck so I could scream, but I don’t remember any sound coming out,” says Marissa, a youth leader and survivor, in one of the resulting videos. Today, after a life-changing move to San Diego, she says, “If you ask Marissa who she is, she would say she is still a work in progress.”
“I was frozen, wanting to shout, but absolutely nothing came out,” the narrator of another video remembers. “I can’t forgive myself for not pushing, for not screaming, for not fighting, but instead laying there in silence.” Later, she realizes, “You must turn your scars into stars. I am Deyanira Priscilla Vargas, and this is how I turn my scars into stars.”
At the Foundation, we believe healing is essential to prevent and end the cycle of violence. These young survivors, who built a community of trust while developing their stories, showed how storytelling can heal. Experience their profound digital narratives of trauma and resilience, self-discovery, and activism here.
This month at Blue Shield of California Foundation
- More than 150,000 Californians experience homelessness on any given day. In partnership with California Health Care Foundation, we are funding a survey that will help us better understand barriers to housing and the characteristics and lives of people experiencing homelessness across the state. Learn more about the project here.
- “Imagine if safety was created from practices based on belonging and acceptance, rather than policies that perpetuate racist and sexist systems of oppression.” Our latest essay highlights a report by Alliance for Girls that uncovers what girls believe can help create safety for them.
- Congratulations to Kim Belshé for being named chair of Blue Shield of California Foundation’s Board of Trustees. Kim is a seasoned Foundation board member and executive director of First 5 Los Angeles. We are thankful for her leadership and expertise.
- ICYMI: In December 2021, Blue Shield of California Foundation granted nearly $7.7 million to advance health equity and end domestic violence.
- Three important tax credit expansions can help Californians with low incomes, yet so many who are eligible do not utilize these benefits. Share these resources with your community to inform them of their eligibility and how to receive the benefits.