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Get to Know the Members of the Asheville-Buncombe Reparations Commission: Healthcare

More than 50 local residents applied for a seat on the Asheville-Buncombe Reparations Commission. Twenty-five were selected, along with several alternates. Who are they? Asheville Watchdog collected their applications, figuring that it’s best to let them introduce themselves in their own words.

The 25 commissioners divided into teams, each team focusing on one of five impact areas affected by generations of racial discrimination: Economic Development, Education, Criminal Justice, Healthcare, and Housing. The members of the Healthcare impact area are:

NORMA BAYNES

Norma Baynes

Focus Area: Healthcare

Representing: Shiloh Neighborhood

Background: 

I’m a retired RN with over 40 years of experience. Volunteer for the Shiloh Community Association for 21 years. Liaison for 17 1/2 years. Assistant liaison for the last 4 years.

Reason for Serving: 

I am interested in serving to help the communities in Asheville, NC receive their compensation for all the wrong things that have happen and been done to them.

What do you hope to achieve by serving on the Reparations Commission?

I hope all of us working on the Reparations Commission work in harmony and create the results needed that will ensure the people that experienced systemic racism receive compensations. 

Have you been impacted personally by systemic racism in Asheville?

Unable to get a loan in Asheville. Shopping and not being waited on or not being served.What do you believe your greatest contribution will be in serving on the Reparations Commission?The ability to listen to others before making decisions.

RENATA CONYERS

Renata Conyers // LinkedIn photo

Focus Area: Healthcare

Representing: Heart of Chestnut/Northside Neighborhood

Background: 

N/A

Reason for Serving: 

I will be new at this, but I want to learn more about our communities, the ties that will hopefully bring us together as a group and not as one person. Most of all to better understand what I am up against or who. What do you hope to achieve by serving on the Reparations Commission? Being a part of the community and at least achieving what I put my mind into accomplishing. 

Have you been impacted personally by systemic racism in Asheville?

No.

What do you believe your greatest contribution will be in serving on the Reparations Commission?

I may not do much but I will give my support in the main area I want to get accomplish before my term is up if I am chosen.


TAMARIA MACON

Tamaria Macon // photo courtesy MAHEC

Focus Area: Healthcare

Representing: City of Asheville

Background: 

As a an Asheville-based faculty member at UNC Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health, the number one public school of public health in the nation, i am passionate about racial justice and healing and moving towards a beloved community. My knowledge as a public health professor includes all five impact focus areas, as public health involves the social drivers (or determinants) of health including education, criminal justice, economic development, and housing, in addition to healthcare. Though i have some facility in each area, health, education, and housing are three of the areas in which I have had more experience. i intentionally stay informed across areas and disciplines; so much so that my colleagues call me a “library” as i often can pull an article or resource about whatever topic we are discussing.

Regarding health and wellness, I am passionate about everyone having the wealth of health to live life to their fullest potential. I have been a faculty member in the top public school of public health for almost three years. I also work with MAHEC, a leading health care nonprofit serving Western North Carolina, as a member of the Buncombe County Community Health Improvement Process (CHIP) Advisory Council. I am very connected to local health and wellbeing inequities, and solutions working to narrow those gaps. Regarding education, I am passionate about kids, especially Black children. I have interacted with children in different capacities over the last 15 years, including teaching, tutoring, mentoring, and childcare. My academic training includes a bachelors in public health, a master’s in psychology, and a doctorate in education and psychology. I also worked in federal policy for three years on Capitol Hill, including on education and other social policies, which provided me a deeper understanding of the policy (and political) process.

Regarding housing, I have worked with Homeward Bound which expanded my understanding of the housing issues in Asheville. Also, as a black woman trying to buy a house, I have personal experience with the housing situation locally.

More generally, as an involved community member of Asheville for four-and-a-half years, I have gotten to know many of the people and organizations serving Black communities. I have specifically followed the reparations process locally since the resolution was passed, and have incorporated discussion and analysis of the process in my teaching of a health policy course. As evidence of my qualifications and knowledge in these areas, I was awarded MAHEC’s 2021 Spirit of MLK award, a 2021 Gillings Teaching Excellence and Innovation award, and a research grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation on racial justice-related policies.

Reason for Serving: 

I am interested in serving on the Community Reparations Commission because I believe it is the most important work happening in Asheville/Buncombe County right now and will have implications for generations to come. The implications of this work are different from and more meaningful than those of other efforts, such as specific programming to support narrow goals. This work has the potential to impact more equitable intergenerational wealth and wellbeing — and I believe I have the knowledge, qualifications, and experiences that would make me a meaningful member of the Commission.

What do you hope to achieve by serving on the Reparations Commission?

I hope to enact true reparations for Black residents of Asheville that deeply restore Black individuals, families, and communities. Reparations cannot be truly effective and reparative if they are not deeply accountable to the people who were harmed (Correa et al., 2009; Makhalemele, 2009; Suchkova, 2011; United Nations, 2008). Thus, it is essential that all Black bodies and voices have input into this process and determine for themselves what reparations are required. Within Darity and Mullen’s (2020) framework cited in the information sessions, the three aspects of acknowledgement, redress, and closure are steps to move toward conciliation (note that they prefer “conciliation” rather than “reconciliation” because “in all cases of grievous injustice there has not been a prior historical moment of relative harmony and goodwill between the perpetrator and the victim”). I hope as well to be a part of a *process* that is healing and restorative, that restores what we lost and taken from people, that repairs self-worth and community relationships. I would contribute to this aspect in important and unique ways.

Have you been impacted personally by systemic racism in Asheville?

One example was when I was sitting in a public outdoor space working on my laptop, when not one but four different police officers came up to me to see what i was doing there. Another example is when a property management company assumed i was applying for subsidized housing. That same company did not offer me the nicer apartments in my complex and instead offered the best apartment to a white couple.

What do you believe your greatest contribution will be in serving on the Reparations Commission?

I bring a commitment to enacting community priorities with research skills and public health expertise across the impact focus areas, as well as a strong conceptual understanding of racial equity and justice. And I ask incisive, thoughtful questions that others may be afraid to say. My incisive, thoughtful questions can be transformative for this process.


SHANTELLE SIMPSON

Shantelle Simpson // LinkedIn photo

Focus Area: Healthcare

Representing: Buncombe County

Background: 

I feel my skill sets and experience as a registered nurse currently working on my doctorates in Leadership & Education provide me the capacity to serve on the Community Reparations Commission. I have over 15 years in healthcare (over 10 years in healthcare leadership and community health) where I have gained a thorough knowledge of the socioeconomic barriers that decrease positive health outcomes, lack of healthcare literacy of many vulnerable patients, and the lack of health care equity. I have completed the fellowship program through The Health Enterprise Network, which focuses on healthcare for all and healthcare leadership. As a previous member of the Rotary Club of Louisville, I gained an understanding of serving the community and the importance of leaders decreasing barriers for all. Additionally, as a federally qualified community health center leader, I have attended numerous conferences in Washington, DC where I was able to advocate to Congress leaders on the importance of healthcare for low income/vulnerable patients.

Reason for Serving: 

I am interested in joining the Community Reparations Commission because as a new resident and community leader of Asheville, North Carolina, I feel it is my duty to serve and give back to a city that has afforded me the opportunity for advancement in my career. My passion of healthcare and wellness for all people, most particularly those from vulnerable populations, drive me in my efforts to give back. With over 10 years in community health, where I have served a vulnerable population, I feel confident in my ability to serve on this committee and improve equity (most particularly in the area of healthcare). As an African American woman from very humble beginnings (experience living in low income neighborhoods/housing projects), I know firsthand what it means to struggle through poverty and overcome the many obstacles to obtain success. As a new resident of Asheville, NC, my awareness of ability to see things differently may prove to be beneficial to the team.

What do you hope to achieve by serving on the Reparations Commission?

By serving on the Community Reparations Commission, I hope to engage with servant leaders across the city who are focused on creating equitable conditions for all Asheville residents. I hope to create the capacity for African American Asheville residents to feel valued, respected, and gain opportunities for advancement that can reach generations.

Have you been impacted personally by systemic racism in Asheville?

As a new healthcare leader relocating to Asheville, North Carolina for a position leading Appalachian Mountain Community Health Centers, I have quickly noticed the lack of diversity among leadership across the city. Additionally, I notice there appears to be separation/segregation between racial communities. It is my understanding that the area lacks a fair and equitable distribution of healthcare services, employment opportunities, and overall opportunities for success and productivity among African American Asheville residents. The cities bold step toward reparations displays an attitude of unity and a desire to create an inclusive environment that is beneficial for all.

What do you believe your greatest contribution will be in serving on the Reparations Commission?

Outside of my healthcare leadership experience, I feel my greatest contribution will be my ability to work well with others, suggest innovative ideas, and most importantly appreciate the improvements seen by the Asheville residents due to the work of the Commission. I also have created partnerships with area healthcare agencies that may benefit the efforts of the commission.

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