Black nurses celebrate their contributions to health care

By Brandi Phillips

Contributing Writer


MN Black Nurses Association is an organization that is dedicated to providing support, advocacy and programs to further advance the nursing profession and eliminate health disparities through the delivery of culturally competent, quality health care in our communities.

Under the direction of Association President Shirlynn LaChappelle, RN., SNP, and Association Treasurer Hazel Tanner, BSN, RN, MPH, the organization’s primary mission is to reduce health disparities among African Americans. They also work from a collectivist perspective in order to investigate, define and determine what the needs are of African Americans across the healthcare spectrum. Overall, the MN Black Nurses Association wants to empower the African American community and improve their health.

In an effort to continue the organization’s mission, the Association held its 2nd Annual Gala “Circle of Care — One Person at a Time” at the Boulevard Hotel in Brooklyn Center on Saturday, May 3. The Gala, hosted this year by Master of Ceremony Debonaire, awards scholarships to nursing students to help further their education in the nursing field.

This year’s keynote speaker, Dr. Levi Downs, Chief Medical Officer at the University of Minnesota, spoke about the importance of nurses and how nurses connect patients to politics and appropriate health care. He added that nurses are the ones who give patients a voice to the broader medical community. Working firsthand with patients allows the nurses to communicate the needs of the community in mental, physical and emotional capacities. In essence, nurses are the gateway to better health for the community.

Award recipient TaShonda Williamson with Master of Ceremony Debonaire Photo by Brandi Phillips
Award recipient TaShonda Williamson with Master of Ceremony Debonaire
Photo by Brandi Phillips

Dr. Downs expressed how his best day as a medical professional came just a few years back.  It was the day that he lost three patients. Losing his patients was devastating to him, but he recalls that it was his best day in medicine because, with the help of those patients and the love and support of their families, he had done his best for them in terms of health care and they all were very grateful for his care.  

Downs realized the work of medical professionals across the spectrum is to care for each individual patient in an individual way. He communicated how the work can at times be stressful for practitioners, but the outcomes from practitioner services are what can change the world.

Dr. Ed Ehlinger was a guest speaker and delighted the attendees with an original song, “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize, Hold On,” which he admitted to “just composing this morning.” The crowd eagerly and laughingly joined in singing his original tune.

“Public Health is something we as a society must collectively do,” Dr. Ehlinger emphasized. “It is not the responsibility of just the State Health Department. It is not the responsibility of just NorthPoint Clinic. It is not the responsibility of just the hospitals and clinics. It is the responsibility of all of us working in the community, working proactively to change the face of health care.”

Dr. Margaret Pharris was also a guest speaker.

The Gala is a special event dedicated to fundraising for scholarships for the next generation of nurses to care for Minnesotans. This year the Association awarded grants to three recipients:  TaShonda Williamson (St. Katherine University), Daratu Abdi (Minneapolis Community and Technical College, and Sumaya Bashir Ahmed (University of Minnesota).

As the participants dined, DJ Glenn and The Art of Dance Studio group, under the direction of founder Linda Green, provided entertainment to accompany the meal. Attendees, future recipients, and the MN Black Nurses Association look forward to doing it all again next year. All are welcome to participate in next year’s Gala to show support for future Minnesota nurses and the MN Black Nurses Association and their efforts.


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