While celebrating Black history, we also work to create a more equitable future.
Black History Month is a time to celebrate influential leaders and impactful moments of the past. But celebrating Black history is not enough.
United Way continues to work toward a future where Black Americans have the same access to employment, education, health care and housing as their white neighbors.
As part of that work, below we highlight an important moment from Black history that aligns with our focus areas of health, education and financial stability, outline a few current challenges faced by Black Americans, and explain what United Way is doing to help solve these problems.
Moment in History
July 9, 1893: Dr. Daniel Hale Williams performs the first successful open-heart surgery at the black-owned, interracial hospital he founded in Chicago. Both Dr. Williams and his patient were Black.
But since Dr. Williams’ groundbreaking work, health outcomes for the Black population are still significantly worse than for whites.
- Nearly 100,000 fewer Black Americans would die each year, if the Black mortality rate was the same as it is for whites.
- A Black individual will live three fewer years on average than a white person with the same income.
- Black Americans are nearly 4 times more likely to be hospitalized and 3 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than whites.
United Way’s Work
United Way believes that an individual’s race, ZIP code, or income should never be a barrier to quality health. We work to address health inequity by:
- Fighting for improved access to health care coverage
- Creating exercise and recreation opportunities in low-income and segregated neighborhoods
- Making it easier for people to access substance abuse programs
- Setting up mobile food pantries
- Supporting the mental health needs of veterans
Moment in History
April 23, 1951: 16-year-old Barbara Rose Johns leads a strike to protest segregation and poor conditions at her Virgina high school. Her leadership inspires local lawyers to sue the federal government, a case that eventually becomes part of the landmark Brown v. Board decision.
The Supreme Court ruled school segregation was unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education. But segregation in public schools has only risen since 1996. This kind of structural racism along with institutional racism has hurt the educational outcomes of Blacks students.
- The graduation rate for Black students (79%) is lower than the national average.
- Schools with 90% or more students of color receive $733 less per student.
- Only 57% of Black students have access to the full range of math and science courses needed for college-readiness.
- More than 70% of Black students were learning remotely in fall 2020, compared to 40% of white students.
United Way’s Work
United Way fights to shift the odds for students of color and those in low-income areas. Our work includes:
- Recruiting volunteers to read with preschool and elementary students
- Providing after-school programs and extracurricular activities and clubs
- Supporting middle and high school students through graduation
- Connecting students with volunteer mentors and tutors
Moment in History
May 12, 1968: Thousands of Black women, led by Coretta Scott King, begin the first demonstrations in the Poor People’s Campaign. After building Resurrection City on the National Mall, they stayed in temporary shacks for over a month in a fight for jobs, unemployment insurance and a higher minimum wage.
Decades of segregation, discrimination and low wages have impacted the financial stability of Black families in the U.S. Since 1992, the racial wealth gap has grown.
- The net worth of a typical Black family is $17,150, compared to $171,000 for white families.
- Only 44% of Black families own a home, compared to 72% of white families.
United Way’s Work
United Way battles chronic unemployment, homelessness and financial illiteracy; issues which disproportionately affect Black Americans. In April, United Way Worldwide created a relief fund for Black Americans harmed by the financial devastation of the pandemic. Our ongoing work includes:
- Providing free tax preparation services for middle- and low-income families
- Offering financial education and coaching, especially to unbanked individuals
- Training adults for careers in thriving industries, like health care
- Providing job counseling and application assistance to the unemployed
Please help us by considering being a part of this important work. Learn how you can give, advocate or volunteer to ensure that every single person, no matter their race, can thrive in our community.
Help us fight for literacy for every child in Gloucester County
The connection between education and a successful future is pretty clear. But did you know that the age at which a child learns to read can impact both their future success and overall well-being?
A quality education begins with reading. Education not only increases a child’s chance for success in work and life; it’s also been shown to be a core determinant of health. And an early start matters.
We Can Do Better For Kids
According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, kids who read proficiently by third grade are more likely to graduate high school. However, national statistics show the ways our school systems and communities serve students of color and from under-resourced neighborhoods differently.
- 82% of students eligible for free or reduced lunches are not reading at or above proficient levels by fourth grade.
- Only 36% of fourth-grade students in the United States are proficient in reading.
- The gaps are even more significant by race and income, often caused by systemic racism and classism.
- According to National Kids Count, up to 80% of children of color in the fourth grade scored below proficient reading levels in 2019.
COVID-19 Broadens the Learning Gap
While the pandemic and remote learning have caused learning setbacks for students throughout the US, the impact has been greatest for students of color:
- A recent study indicates that Black and Hispanic students are less likely to have access to devices, the internet, and live contact with teachers–all essential to remote learning.
- While the learning loss in reading for all students doesn’t seem to be as pronounced as that in subjects like math, today’s educational challenges underscore the importance of timely literacy support, especially for students from low-income families, who are minorities or have learning disabilities.
United Way of Gloucester County Fights for Literacy for All
United Way believes that every child and young person in every community should have the knowledge, skills and experiences to succeed in school, work and life. That’s why we support programs and initiatives that provide equal opportunity for all children to develop the early reading skills that can be the foundation for a hopeful future.
One of these inclusive inclusive initiatives is Read Across America Day, an annual event created by the National Education Association to promote and celebrate reading.
UWGC also supports literacy for our community through our virtual Operation Read Along, where local residents, students and professionals read their favorite children’s book available free and online through our YouTube page so there is always someone to read with.
Literacy Doesn’t Have to Be By the Book
With the pandemic and social distancing, literacy programs and events like Read Across America Day have had to switch to remote and virtual formats to continue to bring reading to communities. This has left many families to take on an even greater role in supporting reading development, especially for children in pre-school and elementary school.
But for many parents who are working from home and also managing their children’s remote learning, the standard advice of reading with a child 20 minutes a day may not be feasible. During these challenging times for families, United Way is adapting our literacy programs to meet social distancing needs and working to help families understand that encouraging reading doesn’t always have to mean a formal sit-down reading session. There are many everyday opportunities to help children to develop and practice vital reading skills:
- Cook with them using written recipes
- Have them help read street signs when you’re driving
- Share product labels while they help put groceries away
- Even discussing stories read together in the past can help children build a stronger vocabulary, imagine more richly, and develop critical thinking skills
You Can Help Build Opportunities for Bright Futures
When you volunteer with United Way of Gloucester County you are supporting programs that help bring literacy for all in our community. And a great place to start is by joining us for Read Across America Day on March 2, when we launch our virtual Operation Read Along, where local residents, students and professionals read their favorite children’s book available free and online through our YouTube page so there is always someone to read with.
Literacy has the power to change lives. And you have the power to help every child in Gloucester County have the chance for a brighter future.