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February 29, 2024

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Celebrating Black History Month: The Power, Importance and Impact of Family

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By Lawan Smith, Vice President of Operations, West Group, and Black Cultural Resource Group Steering Committee Member


As February unfolds, TeamHealth proudly joins the nation in commemorating Black History Month, a time dedicated to recognizing and celebrating the achievements, contributions, and rich cultural heritage of the Black community. Through various collaborative efforts, we remain committed to acknowledging and uplifting the narratives that have shaped Black history. Recently, Lawan Smith, Vice President of Operations, West Group, and Black Cultural Resource Group Steering Committee Member, shared part of her family history that taught her lessons in resilience, the value of a strong family bond, and encouraged her to actively contribute to the legacy of the family for future generations.

A First in the Family

Reflecting on what Black history means to me, I am reminded of my Great Aunt Leanna Lockhart, who in 1935 became the first family member to graduate from Washington High School, a segregated Black high school in El Dorado, Arkansas. The U.S. desegregated schools in 1954 with the Brown v. Board of Education ruling that segregated schools were unconstitutional. Integration occurred nationwide, but in some areas, including El Dorado, schools were not fully integrated until the 1970s or later. The class of 1969 was the last to graduate from Washington High before integration.

I draw inspiration from the remarkable resilience my family demonstrated throughout decades.

Appreciation for Having a “Village”

My family’s history shaped me. In my childhood, I was surrounded by family in our small town in Arkansas. My neighborhood was called Morning Star, and it consisted of about three streets. On those streets lived my maternal grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. The concept of “it takes a village” resonated strongly, emphasizing the collective responsibility and support within the community. No matter where I was within the neighborhood, I was safe and being watched by people who loved and cared for me. The matriarchal figure in our “neighborhood family” held a special place, providing guidance and wisdom as they aged and passed on, with the next generation seamlessly stepping into the role.

My upbringing taught me to recognize the profound role family plays in Black culture. It serves as a foundation for values, resilience, and community strength. The evenings spent on the porch listening to stories of joy, family challenges, as well as struggles faced by ancestors during slavery were significant. It was important to listen and never forget the struggles. Coming together as a family in celebrations and gatherings served as occasions to reinforce our connections, creating a sense of continuity and shared identity.

The lessons learned about the significance of strong familial bonds guide me as I pass on intergenerational wisdom, traditions, and cultural heritage to my kids and their kids. I pray that in doing so, I contribute to the legacy of strength and love within our family for generations to come.

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