Black History Month 2022: Prioritizing Health & Wellness

Black History Month is a time to honor both the contributions and successes of the Black community throughout history and recognize the contributions that they make to both current and future generations. The influence that the Black community has had on transportation has been significant, and WTS International strives to recognize and celebrate their milestones and achievements. This year's theme for Black History Month is Black Health and Wellness, and to honor this, WTS spoke with different board members from the Black community to share their wisdom and insight into how they prioritize their own wellness and health.

A large part of health and wellness is mental health, a branch of health that is largely ignored in society, especially within communities of people of color. Odessa Phillip, President & CEO of Assedo Consulting, LLC and WTS Foundation Director at Large, explained her challenges with prioritizing her mental health in the past and what steps she feels are necessary to implement moving forward: “I started having some challenges with balancing work and personal stresses and sought out a counselor to help me re-prioritize and refocus on my mental health. Although maintaining a daily schedule is a challenge, I find that every time I get back to focusing on me first, I am stronger on all of my personal and professional goals.”

Daveitta Jenkins Knight, Office Leader at RS&H Atlanta and WTS Foundation Board Director at Large, spoke about the importance of ensuring that health and wellness was prioritized in the Black community, stating, “There are certain health disparities in the Black community, and some can be controlled by monitoring our physical, mental, and emotional health and ensuring that attention is being given to living a holistic healthy lifestyle. If you do not take care of your temple properly, you can’t fully serve at your highest capacity.”

As with most career fields today, undue stresses can have a negative impact on the ways employees live their lives and take care of themselves. Phillip believes that expressing vulnerability in the Black community could be detrimental for professional growth: “As African Americans, we often fear the repercussions if we express any vulnerability that could prevent any advancement.”

Both Phillip and Jenkins Knight felt strongly about the transportation industry’s need to implement changes that will positively impact Black mental health and wellness. Jenkins Knight feels that employers in the transportation industry need to take substantial action when it comes to addressing the challenges that the Black community faces in the field, challenges like: “work environments that don’t allow for the full growth and development of African American talent, undue stresses from unhealthy and toxic environments, [and] work environments that don’t consider diverse talent pools.”

Over the years, the Black community has overcome many adversities, but still face societal challenges regarding health and wellness. WTS International, both now and in the future, will continue to advocate for the health and wellness of the Black community within our membership and the industry at large in alignment with our mission, vision, and values. The priority of WTS International has always been to attract, connect, sustain, and advance the careers of women in transportation, as well as foster a workforce that reflects diversity, equity, and inclusion.