CEO Message: Reflections on Juneteenth

White Coats for Black Lives demonstration

Tori Bayless, Luminis Health CEO, reflects on the meaning of Juneteenth and our journey ahead. 

On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the Civil War had ended and the enslaved were now free by federal decree. While the Emancipation Proclamation became official on January 1, 1863, news of it traveled slowly to the outermost slave state.  Today Juneteenth commemorates African American freedom and emphasizes education and achievement. It is a day, week, and month marked with celebrations, guest speakers, picnics, and family gatherings.

The past three weeks have been painful and unsettling but through it, our incredible community has created the space to mourn, learn from one another, show solidarity and think about what change for the future should entail.

I am grateful to those who organized, facilitated, and participated in our virtual faith-based service; White Coats for Black Lives demonstration; “Coming to the Table” conversations about diversity and inclusion; and other much-needed leadership discussions about how to improve racial justice and equity throughout our health system and communities.

While I am proud of the steps we have taken to date through our Health Equity Task Force to ensure equity, promote diversity and inclusion, and actively tackle issues of racism in our health system, I know there is so much work ahead.

As the great American poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

I am hopeful and passionate about re-convening a Health Equity and Anti-Racism Task Force. This task force will bring together a diverse group of colleagues from our hospitals, our public health partners, and other community stakeholder groups.  It will put into motion a new and lasting plan to guide the changes that we must undertake to be a more equitable and just health system.

My own personal learning and resolve as CEO of Luminis Health has been strengthened by the outpouring of stories, reflections, and suggestions from so many of you across our health system.  My high school motto was “actions, not words”—and I intend for that to guide our work ahead. We must be intentional and deliberate in our actions.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing further details about our specific initiatives, progress, and ways to get involved. Please continue to share your feedback and suggestions with me, so we can continue the conversation and make changes as we go.

The road ahead will no doubt be challenging, but that’s how we’ll know it is worth it.  To those for whom this day is especially meaningful – happy Juneteenth.

Thank you for your resilience and continued dedication.  Change is possible.  I challenge each of us on this journey – instead of trying to change people to fit our organization, let’s work together to change our organization to fit and welcome all people.