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Exposing Racism in All Forms

A Statement from Raul Garza, President & CEO

September 21, 2020

I write today because you have always known me to be transparent with you about organizational issues Aunt Martha’s is facing, including at times what our leaders are experiencing personally. Aunt Martha’s has never hesitated, in its history of close to 50 years, to stand up against injustice in any form, in any forum or in any community. Over the past four months, I have written extensively to audiences both personal and public about our clear stance and commitment to racial and social justice. Many of our employees have also expressed their concern and their disgust with the level of inequity that exists within certain outside entities, and it has been my pledge to continue to take this fight to any and all arenas where it is necessary. To meet that commitment, I – and we – must be willing to challenge, even confront those among us who might hear our words but fail to heed our message.

Today, Aunt Martha’s is at the forefront in a movement of morality. The change we seek and the justice we demand may begin with the individual but it will not be realized until the morals of equity and fairness are part and parcel of the institutions upon which we all depend.

Among those Aunt Martha’s has challenged are the co-chairs of a statewide advocacy group comprised of CEOs, executive directors and other c-suite professionals, more than 75% of whom are white, which is not representative of the individuals who depend on their work. The response of the two white co-chairs to Aunt Martha’s challenge to build a more diverse, inclusive membership has been indignant at best. In some cases, the response has been blatantly racist.

One co-chair, on a call that took place more than a week after I had written a letter challenging the group to examine its diversity and practices, asked me why I had not brought my concerns directly and privately to them. My response was simple. This is a conversation that must not take place behind closed doors. The demand for change is clear; and the decisions we choose to make – to recognize what is right or perpetuate a culture of incivility and exclusion – must be made with the utmost of transparency.

Then, a subsequent conversation took place between the two co-chairs and three African American members of Aunt Martha’s executive team (Audrey Pennington, Chief Operating Officer; Dr. Charles Barron, Chief Medical Officer; and Dr. Forrest Moore, Chief Strategy and Innovations Officer) that was intended as an opportunity for the co-chairs to apologize for their offensive lack of a timely response to the concerns raised by Aunt Martha’s.  However, as opposed to simply apologizing and then identifying actions the co-chairs could take to increase diversity, its other co-chair made repeated demeaning and hurtful remarks. In response to a suggestion from Audrey to change the composition of membership in order to identifying people of color beyond the c-suite, the co-chair repeatedly expressed concerns regarding people not coming “ready and prepared to do the work” and the need to identify individuals who were “strategic thinkers.” After the sentiments were expressed a few times, Dr. Moore attempted to redirect the comment by explaining that what the group was discussing and the co-chair’s concerns appeared to be two separate issues: 1) Identifying diverse members, and 2) Member roles, responsibilities and accountability.

Following the conversation, Audrey, Dr. Barron, and Dr. Moore felt compelled to memorialize their experience, which they all three identified as a micro-aggression, and sent a communication to the co-chairs indicating that the co-chair’s comments had perpetuated the “false narrative regarding laziness that Blacks have been forced to fight against for centuries” and informing them that “raising concerns regarding work ethic during a conversation about building a more diverse membership was, at best, misplaced.”

Despite the subsequent acknowledgment and requisite apologies that have been made, this memo is a condemnation of the sentiments laid bare by those two co-chairs. Their stance, whether purposeful or pure posturing, has no foundation. I had an opportunity to speak with the top 20 Aunt Martha’s leaders on Friday and upon sharing the details of this experience with them, they became emotional, they became angry, and they demanded change. Every single member of Aunt Martha’s leadership team, whether a person of color or not, was repulsed by the details of our colleagues’ experience. That experience reminds us that even publicly celebrated, respected individuals are not immune to the failures of deep-seeded, hurtful biases.

We continue to fight for fairness with a clarity of heart and in the clear light of day. Those who oppose our view should possess the same courage, lest their conversations and lust for control continue in the shadows.


New Support in Our Fight Against Racism, Discrimination in the Village of Midlothian and the Battle Against COVID-19

A Statement from Raul Garza, President & CEO

August 17, 2020

Backed by a $5 million donation from The Oprah Winfrey Charitable Foundation, the Live Healthy Chicago collaborative informed Aunt Martha’s last week of a $50,000 grant award to offset a portion of the cost of the negative air pressure system installed in April at our Children’s Quarantine Center (CQC).

The CQC represents Aunt Martha’s response to calls from DCFS for agencies with the capacity to safely care for youth in the first weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, it is the state’s only facility designed to care specifically for foster children whose living situation is disrupted by COVID-19. The installation of a hospital-grade negative air pressure system – which insures infectious germs do not spread through the HVAC system from the rooms where youth are quarantined to the rest of the facility – is one of the many investments we’ve made to protect our employees and the youth in our care.

The CQC has also come to represent the fight against a plague far older, far more infectious and far more dangerous than any virus. Since mid-May it has been the frontline of Aunt Martha’s fight against discrimination and intolerance. The Village of Midlothian continues to shroud its discriminatory effort to close the CQC behind a message of public safety. What level of concern was raised when there was a COVID-19 outbreak at a local nursing home? What questions did Village officials ask? What demands did they make of that facility and those responsible for its operation? Read more…


Reflecting on our Shared Journey

Excerpt from a Memo to Aunt Martha’s Employees from Raul Garza, President & CEO

July 2, 2020

On Tuesday, June 30, I published a statement following that days hearing before the US District Court in Aunt Martha’s discrimination suit against the Village of Midlothian.

The judge had extended the emergency temporary restraining order that prevents the Village from shutting down our Children’s Quarantine Center. The individuals representing the Village, however, have never been more transparent in either their desire or intent to shutter the CQC. They couch their motives in a message of public safety. But let me be absolutely clear. The protection they seek is not protection from a virus. They are fighting to keep diversity out of their community. They are fighting to prevent DCFS youth, most of whom are children of color, many of whom suffer from physical or mental disabilities, from receiving a level of care that every child deserves and which only the CQC can offer. They, in short, are fighting on the wrong side of history; and as far as Aunt Martha’s is concerned, their discriminatory practices and racist attitudes can be neither tolerated nor allowed to prevail. Read more…


A Statement from Raul Garza, President and CEO, on Aunt Martha’s Continued Stand Against Racism and Against the Discriminatory Practices in the Village of Midlothian

June 30, 2020

Last month, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and a level of racial and social upheaval our country has not witnessed in a generation, Aunt Martha’s filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against the Village of Midlothian for violating the Fair Housing Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act in an effort to shutter the state’s first children’s quarantine center for DCFS youth affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yesterday, the court issued its third extension of the Emergency Temporary Restraining Order (TRO), which Order continues to prohibit the Village from shutting down the only facility designed for this purpose, for yet another 60-day period or until August 28, 2020. The issue at hand is not one of local ordinances. The Village of Midlothian would like the public to believe that is the case. Nor is the issue at hand one of public health and safety. Still, the Village attempts to portray it as that, too.

This discrimination case has been and continues to be one of fairness. It is, at its core, the issue we are all challenged to confront and represents the systemic inequities we have allowed to become so deeply entrenched in our society and, at our own fault, in our own communities. Read more…


Juneteenth, the Supreme Court and Living up to our Ideals

A Statement from Raul Garza, President & CEO

June 19, 2020

Today, June 19 – or Juneteenth – commemorates the freedom of the last Black slaves in America. It has been 155 years since the date was first recognized in 1865. As recent events have demonstrated, our country and each of us as individuals still have a great deal of work to do in the name of equality and justice. It is a day to reflect on the type of country we are, and the type of country and the type of people we must still strive to become.

We must choose to be accountable for our words and our actions. We must consider our own shortcomings, our biases and misperceptions. Then, we must make a conscious effort every day to not merely correct our own failures but to insure we do not condemn future generations by poisoning our children with those same shortcomings and biases. Read more…


A Landmark Decision for Diversity and Inclusion

Excerpt from a Memo to Aunt Martha’s Employees from Raul Garza, President & CEO

June 15, 2020

I have mentioned the work being done to restructure the design of our orgnization to best support our employees and thrive in the new reality of COVID-19; and, more importantly, strengthen our ability to contribute to a social environment of racial equity and justice.

I am pleased to report that we have completed the design phase of that effort. Now, we must all go to work. The changes we make and the work we do together will represent an extension of our collective fight against the racial and social injustices faced by so many members of the communities we serve. Read more…


A Continued Call-to-Action

A Statement from Raul Garza, President & CEO

June 12, 2020

In calendar year 2019, more than 70 percent of the patients and clients who turned to Aunt Martha’s were people of color. One-third of those we served identified themselves as being Hispanic or Latino in ethnicity. More than half (55 percent) identified themselves as African American.

These numbers are more than statistics. They represent this organization’s commitment – your commitment – to serving and to caring for those who historically have been underserved at best, and often left to fend entirely for themselves. They also represent Aunt Martha’s. They represent you and I. Today, for the first time in its proud history, Aunt Martha’s has people of color serving in the roles of both CEO and Chief Operating Officer. Overall, more than 75 percent of the agency’s staff (including close to 60 percent at the leadership level) are people of color, representing and reflecting at every level of the organization the experiences and challenges faced every day by the people we serve.

Our commitment to and achievement (at least relative to many other organizations) of true diversity up, down and across our organization can and should be a source of pride. More importantly, it must continue to be a call-to-action.

The self-reflection, difficult conversations and the rightful demands for justice and change throughout society brought about by the tumult of the past weeks are merely the beginning. The depth of the depravity and discrimination to which so many are subjected must be eradicated, but it must never be forgotten. Read more…


We Stand Against Racial Injustice

A Statement from Raul Garza, President & CEO

May 31, 2020

The overt acts of racism that have occurred across our country over the past few weeks are truly disturbing. The tragic events that have been covered extensively by the media recently are truly some of the worst examples, but they are not the only racist events that have occurred in the past month, past week, or even the past day. Racism of varying degrees occurs every minute of every day – some with tragic outcomes such as the heartbreaking cases of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery. May they both rest in peace.

Although the internet and social media has, at times, allowed racism to be more readily exposed, racism in our country is not a new reality. The dark history of mistreatment of people who are perceived to be “different” than those in power has scarred this country and all who call it home. The disadvantages created by the vicious cycle of historic and ever-present racism is immense. And the COVID-19 pandemic has only intensified the inequalities that already existed.

Recognizing and calling out racism is the first step in bringing about change. To do our part, we must stand up against racial injustice and make a commitment to be overtly anti-racist. That is the commitment that we all must share. It is not only our duty as human beings or U.S. citizens, but also as individuals who, as members of the Aunt Martha’s team, have committed our lives to addressing the effects of the racial and social injustice many of our patients and participants have experienced throughout their lives. Read more…

We encourage everyone to get tested for COVID-19, whether you are experiencing symptoms or not, and follow the precautionary protective guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  Click to find out more and to find a testing location nearest you.

Back to School Physicals

Call 877-692-8686 to schedule your youth or child physical and immunization today!  Safe, In-person Appointments. Read more about our Patient Safety measures.

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See all our reproductive health services.  No appointment necessary.  Insurance NOT required.

 

Aunt Martha’s Heroes!

We are proud of the enthusiasm and commitment of our staff in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. Here are a few pics from various locations!

News

September 14, 2020 – Watch the Video: Aunt Martha’s Virtual Fundraiser is a Success 

September 4, 2020 – Aunt Martha’s health care provides thousands of masks in underserved communities

September 1, 2020 – Aunt Martha’s, County Board Commissioner Deborah Sims team to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Chicago’s most vulnerable communities

August 13, 2020 – Aunt Martha’s receives grant from Live Healthy Chicago supporting services at Illinois’ only center for DCFS youth affected by COVID-19

July 8, 2020 – Raul Garza Addresses Racial Inequities and Health Disparities on Chicago Tonight, WTTW-Chicago

July 6, 2020 – Dr. Forrest Moore, Carrie Muehlbauer Bring New Perspectives, Expertise to Aunt Martha’s Leadership Team

June 30th, 2020 – Aunt Martha’s Teams with UIC John Marshall Law School Fair Housing Legal Clinic in Civil Rights Case against Village of Midlothian

June 23rd, 2020 – Chicago Bears Legend Mike Singletary Discusses COVID-19 Study and Testing Offered at Aunt Martha’s

June 11, 2020 – A Memo from Raul Garza, President & CEO – A Continued Call-to-Action

June 11, 2020 – Raul Garza Elected VP of Board of Directors of the Institute of Medicine of Chicago

June 1, 2020 – A Memo From Our President & CEO Raul Garza to Staff on, Standing Up To Racial Injustice

May 27, 2020 – U.S. District Court Grants Temporary Restraining Order against Village of Midlothian

May 18, 2020 – Aunt Martha’s seeks Emergency Temporary Restraining Order to keep Village of Midlothian from closing Center for DCFS Youth affected by COVID-19

May 12, 2020 – Aunt Martha’s sues the Village of Midlothian citing Violations of the Fair Housing Act relating to the state’s first children’s quarantine center for DCFS Wards affected by COVID-19

May 1, 2020 – President & CEO Raul Garza Keynote Speaker in Virtual Forum on Behavioral Telehealth & COVID-19

About Aunt Martha's

Aunt Martha’s is a health and wellness not-for-profit organization serving over 105,000 children and adults throughout over 600 communities in Illinois. Through our Integrated Care Model, we provide primary and family health care, including behavioral health, pediatrics, family planning, parent support, and women’s health.  We are also a licensed child welfare provider with foster care and intact family services. Our Integrated Care Center serves to stabilize DCFS involved youth and prepare them for long term placement.