Black History Month (also known as African American History Month) is celebrated every February as a reminder to commemorate the achievements of Black/African Americans as well as to acknowledge the hardships they have faced due to systems of oppression and discrimination. This year’s theme for the month is “African Americans and The Arts.”
At Horizon, we recognize that self-expression and appreciating the arts are key components of embracing one’s wellness. In honor of this year’s Black History Month theme, we want to highlight some of Western New York’s local artists who use their creative talents to enrich our community.
Get Familiar with Black/African American Artists right here in Buffalo!
Jillian Hanesworth — Did you know that Buffalo has a Poet Laureate? Thanks to Jillian Hanesworth, the current Poet Laureate who advocated for the position’s creation, Buffalo established the role in 2021 and appointed Hanesworth as the first person to fill it. Hanesworth grew up on the East Side of Buffalo and was nominated for an Emmy for producing Choose Love: Buffalo Bills Honor East Buffalo in 2022. Learn more about her here!
Mark Talley — Have you heard of Mark Talley? He’s a writer, advocate, and the Executive Director of Agents for Advocacy. Mark wrote the book 5/14: The Day the Devil Came to Buffalo about the 5/14 Tops Shooting, during which he lost his mother, Geraldine C. Talley. Talley’s writing explores his personal stories and the grief both he and Buffalo experienced following the act of domestic terrorism on 5/14. You can learn more about him and his advocacy on the Agents for Advocacy website.
Edreys Wajed – You may have seen his work around town! Edreys Wajed is a muralist, jeweler, motivational speaker, and hip-hop entertainer. He was born and raised in Buffalo, NY and is one of the two artists behind the Love Black mural created in 2020 at Say Yes Buffalo at 712 Main Street. Read his artist statement and learn more about his work on his website.
Alicia Solstice Hawkins – You can watch some of Alicia Solsitce Hawkins’ filmmaking online! She is a communications specialist, writer, and filmmaker who was born in Buffalo and recently completed a residency at Squeaky Wheel. Hawkins’ work centers on perspectives of people who are not often prioritized in mainstream narratives and includes a 2006 documentary reflecting on Afro-Native American experiences. Learn more about her here.
Though this month is a time of celebration, we also acknowledge that due to systemic oppression, discrimination, and violence, Black/African Americans have historically suffered greater health disparities, especially regarding behavioral health.
What Do We Know?
- Though 21% of Black/African Americans reported having a mental illness in 2021 compared to 23.9% of non-Hispanic Whites, only 39% of Black and African Americans received mental health services compared to 52% of non-Hispanic Whites.
- In 2020, suicide was the third leading cause of death among Black/African Americans ages 10 to 24 years old, and Black/African American men ages 25-34.
- Though suicide rates in the United States decreased by 3% in 2020, the rates increased during that time for Black/African American men and other men of color.
- According to a 2018 report, binge drinking, smoking (cigarettes and marijuana), illicit drug use and prescription pain reliever misuse are more frequent among Black/African American adults with mental illnesses.
As a behavioral health agency, Horizon is committed to serving people of all racial identities and advocating for the Black/African American community. You can learn more about our commitments in our Stronger Together Action Plan.