It has been said before, and it merits repeating: Racism is a public health crisis.

Along with the rest of the world, we have watched in horror and anguish the appalling images of George Floyd being murdered while pinned under a Minneapolis police officer’s knee. It is senseless, heartbreaking, criminal—and maddeningly familiar.

His death, along with those of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and countless others, has rightly unleashed a wave of outrage and worry across our community and our country. We grieve for their family and friends, and we stand in solidarity with the Black community in South Florida and all across America, joining them in challenging the systemic racism at the root of such incomprehensible violence.

The truth is, for far too long, we’ve seen evidence of the structural injustice and inequity that has brought us to this tragic and painful moment. Insidiously, racial injustice and inequity reside at the heart of too much of our society, too many of our institutions, sometimes in plain sight but more often disguised and deeply ingrained into our very systems: criminal justice, housing, education, economic development and the environment. And, yes, in our health systems too.

It has been said before, and it merits repeating: Racism is a public health crisis.

As a foundation devoted to ensuring everyone in Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe counties has the opportunity to live a healthy life, our work specifically focuses on helping increase access to care in historically underserved low-income and minority communities. More and more, our efforts center on addressing the social and economic factors—such as access to affordable housing, food, education, a steady job—that have an outsized impact on anyone’s ability to be healthy.

Already we’ve seen the deadly result of racial disparities in the coronavirus pandemic, which has disproportionately impacted the Black community, not because of biological predispositions, but because social and economic realities simply place Black people in greater danger.

We realize that if we are to make any meaningful progress in addressing health inequity and disparity, we must begin by acknowledging, understanding and calling out the role racism plays in them. We cannot deny it, and we will not ignore it.

It has been said before, and it merits repeating: Racism is a public health crisis.

We know this won’t be easy or simple. Even writing this letter to you, our partners and stakeholders, we felt uncertain about exactly what to say. We have long been talking about and tackling the inequities and disparities of our regional health systems—indeed to do so is at the core of our mission. But today we are emerging more committed than ever to continue that work, to be bolder, more intentional, empathetic and conscious in all we do, support and fund.

Which is why today we’re announcing grants of $20,000 to the Urban League of Broward and $20,000 to the YWCA of Greater Miami-Dade , both of which have been at the forefront of the fight for racial justice, and economic empowerment and health equity for the Black community for years. We’re encouraging others in our network to support them as well.

In addition, we have made some initial commitments with respect to how we, as a foundation, operate internally and what we expect from our partners. For example, we will:

Set new diversity and equity indicators and accountability mechanisms to help us ensure we are being inclusive in our hiring processes, vendor procurement and throughout our operations and grantmaking. We will also challenge our grantees and partners to assess their own hiring and board appointment policies and ensure they are conducive to diversity and inclusion.

Provide our board and staff education that advances the understanding of racial equity and structural racism and the role they play in creating healthier, inclusive communities. And we will host similar sessions for our grantees and partners.

Engage more deeply with Black-led community organizations that can participate in the planning and implementation of our programs and initiatives.

Give increased consideration to grantee applicants whose project development includes having meaningfully engaged with the community they seek to serve.

These are merely first steps, of course, and there is much more to be done. As an organization, there is much we will need to learn and unlearn. We will surely make mistakes along the way, and we will grow from those too. Most of us will never fully understand what it’s like to experience the racism, injustice and inequity ailing our nation and our communities, but we are committed to taking on the struggle as our own. Because we’ve never been more convinced that, together, we can do better.

Steven E. Marcus
President & CEO