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We Have so Much to Learn from Black Elders — and so Many Reasons to Support Them

This blog originally appeared on the Diverse Elders Coalition website.

February marks the start of Black History Month, a celebration of Black and African American stories, experiences, and impact on American culture. At the Diverse Elders Coalition, we’re proud to celebrate Black Elders every month of the year, but February offers us a bonus opportunity to lift these stories up into the national spotlight. Black Elders have so much wisdom to share about our history and the ways they have challenged white supremacy and other forms of oppression. It is imperative that those stories are not lost or forgotten.

I recently attended a Capitol Hill Briefing about the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), during which we heard testimonials from community-based organizations that employ older adult workers through the federally funded program. SCSEP placement not only provides employees with meaningful work, wages, and socialization, but also gives these organizations staff to help them continue to serve their communities.

Diverse Elders Coalition partner, the National Center and Caucus on Black Aging, is a primary grantee for SCSEP, providing employment opportunities for African American older adults across the country in community-based service organizations like TERRIFIC, Inc. in Washington, DC. Sharron Holquin, a SCSEP participant who spoke at the briefing, talked about the lifetime of employment experience she brings to her current employer, and how we shouldn’t dismiss older adult workers because of ageist assumptions about their abilities.

I came away from this briefing with not just a greater appreciation for SCSEP, but also a framework that I hope to bring with me into my work with the Diverse Elders Coalition — and beyond. When talking or working with diverse elders, younger generations must always ask ourselves: What assumptions are we unfairly making? What stories are we missing because we didn’t think to ask? And what can we do, each day, to better honor and support the elders who have paved the way for our generation?

Stay tuned to the Diverse Elders Coalition blog all month long for Black History Month contributions from our incredible writers and guests from around the country. And in the meantime, check out some of these Black History Month highlights from years past:

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

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About Jenna McDavid

Jenna McDavid is the National Managing Coordinator for the Diverse Elders Coalition. Jenna’s experiences in health care training and advocacy have uncovered for her the wealth of stories that diverse, aging populations have to share – and convinced her that we must preserve those stories and empower people to tell them.

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