By Cindy Foster

Cultural Collaboration

Black History Celebration Will Be a Model for Year-Round Activities

This year has marked the first time that Black History Month celebrations were coordinated across The University of New Mexico Main Campus, Health Sciences Center and UNM Hospital – and the effort has been so successful that it is being used as a model for organizing other cultural celebrations throughout the year.

“We’ve celebrated Black History month for a few years but it didn’t “live” anywhere,” says Fabián Armijo, director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Interpreter Language Services at UNM Hospital.

Nichole Rogers, an education specialist with the Department of Nursing Excellence at UNM Hospital, has organized Black Heritage events since she began working there five years ago. She has been responsible for the planning ever since and has seen Black History Month activities blossom from a one-day, two-hour event in the first year to multiple programs, including African-American vendor fairs for patients, as well as staff. 

“I called Nichole and said, ‘This needs to be part of the hospital’s diversity plan and we need to make sure it happens every single year,’” Armijo says. “We need to do things so that if and when champions leave, their projects can still be sustained.”

Rogers was happy for the support. The two began brainstorming ways to make the events more varied and more permanent, and then Armijo began emailing – first to hospital employees then others on Main Campus and at the Health Sciences Center.

“We thought with COVID it would be hard to get everyone together, but Zoom actually made it pretty easy,” Armijo says.  

From administrative assistants, to a chaplain, to pharmacists and a variety of providers – the more than 20-member group mirrors a type of diversity all its own.

“I was worried that we were getting a very late start,” Rogers says. “But with more people involved in planning we’ve actually been able to go a bit bigger.”

The more formal structure has allowed various organizations at UNM to more effectively move forward with their communities.

“It has taken a long time to build those connections with each other, but this year it has just grown to be such an amazing program and I am so excited that it can really be just a part of what we do,” Rogers says.

Armijo agrees.

 “I have been able to interact with all these people throughout the hospital that I normally might never meet. That has been a lot of fun,” he says.

Now, as the activities area winds up planning for Black History Month, Armijo says that the group has agreed to continue meeting throughout the year to lend expertise to other cultural awareness activities.

“My secret plan all along has been to kidnap them all to create a diversity group that can plan cultural activities throughout the year,” Armijo says with a laugh.

“Too often people get so caught up in their differences that we don’t actually appreciate what we have in common,” he says. “We can now help each other celebrate, for instance, Albuquerque LGBT Pride and Hispanic Heritage. Our plans moving forward mean that these programs won’t end if their champion or champions leave the organization.”


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