Skip to main content Skip to site navigation

It Takes a Village: Building Strong Black Families
Celebrating Black History Month

Article Chyvonne S. Washington, African American Community Initiative Co-Chair
musicians  perform

The February Black History Month event and health fair – “It Takes A Village: Building Strong Black Families” – focused on empowering African American families to build resiliency and coping methods for dealing with family stress and racism, educating our youth and families about managing law enforcement encounters, and to celebrate Black History Month.  Hosted by San Mateo County’s BHRS African American Community Initiative (AACI), the East Palo Alto event saw over 50 attendees. 

Keynote speaker, Damone Hale Esq, attorney and former San Francisco Youth Court Judge, gave a powerful and informative presentation about managing police encounters which taught youth and families about their legal rights when encountering law enforcement and encouraged working together with them to help our community. 

Two workshops followed – empowering families to build alternative coping methods for dealing with family stress and racism -  led by Marcus Lorenzo Penn, MD, CYT, a physician and certified yoga Instructor; and Gloria Thomas, a mental health clinician, both experts in wellness and self-care.  The workshops offered attendees alternative healing practices, and self-care and stress reduction tools for participants and their families. Community agencies were also on site to provide information about their services. 

AACI member, Theresa McConnell, led the singing of the national black anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” and Lisa Gauthier, Mayor of East Palo Alto; Scott Gilman, Director of Behavioral Health and Recovery Services; and Maria Lorente-Foresti,  Director BHRS Office of Diversity and Equity provided opening remarks.

The event was topped off by an inspirational drumming ensemble by Saaku Saar and a wonderful soul food lunch, blessed by Reverend Mary Frazier.