Monica Henderson (BCHS ’22) is an MPH student with undergraduate degrees in psychology and sociology, both from Pitt, where she was first introduced to public health.
“My focus on public health and equity is rooted in my lived experiences as a Black woman but more importantly, the centering of others’ experiences with oppression to let their narratives drive equity work,” she explains.
Henderson’s interests include child health and racial equity – more specifically anti-Black racism, ACEs, pediatric oncology, and education – and for her thesis she plans to explore Black hair politics and the impact on the health of Black youth. “One could argue that the harassment of afro-textured hair is a social justice issue; and because it is a threat to Black identity, natural hair health, social interactions, and life opportunities, I consider it a public health and equity concern,” said Henderson.
The Health Justice Scholars program is exciting because it’s existing in a space that is centered on justice, co-learning, and building community. She also looks forward to what she feels is the strongest aspect of the program: the opportunity to seek guidance, network, ad support the work of others.
“One of my favorite quotes is from self-identified black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet, Audre Lorde: “If Black women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression.” Like Audre, it is the exploration of liberation that motivates me. It is the realization that we are products of a colonized, racist, patriarchal, heteronormative, classist, ableist, and Christian-dominated society that informs my outlook on health outcomes. It pushes me to critically re-learn our past, contemplate what could have been, and envision to what can be.”
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