Sixty-three years ago today—March 21, 1960—police opened fire on a peaceful demonstration in the Black township of Sharpeville, South Africa, killing 69 people. The massacre marks the most lethal day of police violence in South Africa, and is a dark reminder of the intertwined legacy of colonization and racism that continues to plague our global community.
Six years later, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed March 21 the International Day for the Elimination of Racism. And though racist laws have been abolished in many countries—including apartheid in South Africa—individuals, communities, and societies still suffer from injustice fueled by racism.
At Aspen Global Innovators, we are building a vibrant, courageous and inclusive community of locally-rooted and globally networked leaders who are transforming global health and development systems at the community, national and global levels. Through innovation, storytelling, advocacy and action, they work alongside one another to uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to shift power and visibility to the communities they serve.
Combating racism requires radical honesty about our past and our present. It requires authentic reflection on the ways that colonial powers have created and upheld economic and political systems—globally and within the United States—that advantage white western cultures and peoples. At Aspen Global Innovators, we define decolonization as a movement that fights against ingrained systems of dominance and power to improve equitable health and prosperity in populations. This requires working with community leaders and institutions to disrupt practices that reinforce inequity and reduce access to health and social services. By centering representation, gender, lived experience and health equity in our work, the global Aspen Global Innovators community pursues systems transformation that applies upstream solutions to impact health and prosperity. Our work addresses economic stability, health care and quality, food insecurity, climate resiliency, and education.
In recognition of the urgent need to combat racism and racial discrimination, the Aspen Global Innovators community upholds the ongoing work of our Fellows and partners who are leading global efforts to disrupt existing power structures in order to create a more equitable world for all.
On this International Day for the Elimination of Racism, we encourage you to explore the articles and resources below from 18 Aspen Global Innovators Fellows.
- Report by the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health: Racism and the right to health, Tlaleng Mofokeng (UN)
Mofokeng is a South African physician and the UN Special rapporteur on the Right to Health.
- Want to Fight Racism? Help Homeless Families, Mirtha Santana (NY Daily News)
Santana works in Brooklyn, NY on community-based strategies to address housing-insecurity.
- The O’Neill–Lancet Commission on Racism, Structural Discrimination and Global Health, Ngozi Erondu and Tlaleng Mofokeng
Erondu and Mofokeng are co-Commissioners of the O’Neill–Lancet Commission. Erondu is an Infectious Disease Epidemiologist and global health security expert.
- Videos of Police Brutality Can Perpetuate Black Trauma, Serufusa Sekidde (Al Jazeera)
Sekidde is a healthcare strategist and pharmaceutical executive from Uganda.
- Responding to a Black Woman’s Pain, Reggie Ivey (Tulsa News)
Ivey is the Chief Operating Officer of the Tulsa City-County Health Department.
- Trey’s Rage: An African’s Education in Being Black in America, Mohamed Ali (The NY Review)
Ali is a trained lawyer and the founder of Iftiin Foundation.
- Institutional Racism is Keeping Black Americans Sick, Ifeanyi Nsofor (The Hill)
Nsofor is a physician and health care advocate from Nigeria.
- Jennie Joseph Wants to Fix the Black Maternal Mortality Crisis One Midwife at a Time, Jennie Joseph (Time Magazine)
Joseph is a midwife who has pioneered an innovative child and maternal health healthcare system.
- Open Letter to International Funders of Science and Development in Africa, Ngozi Erondu, Ify Aniebo, Janet Midega, Fredros Okumu (Nature)
Four New Voices Senior Fellows teamed up to write an open letter in Nature magazine.
- Decolonising Development in South Asia, Elsa Marie D’Silva (Aspen Institute)
D’Silva is an Indian advocate fighting against gender-based violence in South Asia, and founder of the Red Dot Foundation.
- The Need to Decolonize Parenting, Erasma Beras-Monticciolo (Center for New York City Affairs)
Beras-Monticciolo is an Afro-Latina thought leader and public advocate specializing in early childhood.
- Why Calling the Police is Not an Option for Me, Koketso Moeti (Mail & Guardian)
Moeti founded amandla.mobi, which turns cellphones into tools against injustice.
- Vaccine Hesitancy or Systematic Racism?, Tian Johnson (Project Syndicate)
Johnson is a queer African activist and founder of the African Alliance.
- Don’t Think of Africa as a Hungry Child, Ndidi Nwuneli (NPR)
Nwuneli is a food security expert and social entrepreneur.
- No Justice, No Peace. Sisonke Msimang (Foreign Policy)
Msimang is a South African writer, activist, and political analyst based in Perth, Western Australia.
- Closing the Race Gap in Philanthropy Demands Radical Candor, Kennedy Odede (The Guardian)
Odede is a Kenyan social entrepreneur, author, and community organizer.
- Greenwood Is Paying For Its Sins, Erica Plybeah (The Greenwood Commonwealth)
Plybeah is a social justice innovator who dismantles the barriers that exist between the people who need care and the places where services exist.
- How Black tech entrepreneurs are tackling health care’s race gap, Ashlee Wisdom (NPR)
Wisdom is a public health innovator.
The Aspen Global Innovators program supports a growing network of more than 200 advocates, experts, and activities. We encourage you to learn more about these incredible leaders by checking out the Healthy Communities and New Voices Fellow profiles.