Gun violence has become a top public health issue in the Black community, and Black women are stepping up to the plate to address it and other social determinants of health that have made Black Americans more susceptible to preventable illnesses and a shortened lifespan.
Shanasha Whitson is a public health expert who is one such individual. Whitson started the Community Partnership Collaborative (CPC) 2.0 to help address public health issues. While providing direct services in the Black community in Minnesota, CPC LLC also helps other organizations build out their capacity in order to create a sustainable network of Black-led organizations to address the community’s needs
Today, the Community Partnership Collaborative 2.0 does tailor-made case management for those who have been directly or indirectly impacted by gun violence. The organization houses Mothers Against Gun Violence, a community advocacy organization that is known as a boots-on-the-ground frontline group providing services to those impacted by gun violence.
These wrap-around services include life coaching case management that can help individuals get housing, find employment, get health insurance, and whatever other help they may need. Whitson started the group when her son, while in college, was held hostage and robbed at gunpoint at a New Year’s Eve party.
In her work with mothers, Whitson said, “This is a violence intervention and prevention program that gets young men and women in a circle of support to abate gun violence and give them skills and tools that they need to do any number of things.”
The organization was started in the community by community. While attending a community meeting held by Rev. Alfred Babbington-Johnson of the Stairstep Foundation, Whitson met Dr. Olihe Okoro, a pharmacy professor at the University of Minnesota Duluth, who inspired her to apply for public health grants.
Whitson already was a public health expert looking for more opportunities and funding to do her work in the Black community. She was shocked that there were so many opportunities to address public health issues.
As Whitson said in an interview with the MSR, “The crux of a lot of the work that we do at CPC 2.0 is helping improve the social determinants of health for the Black community. [After meeting Okoro], I got hired to do some research for the University of Minnesota Duluth, and Dr. Okoro said, ‘You know, there are a lot of grants out there through CDC, NIH, the World Health Organization, that ask us, as researchers, to have community partners. You’re not a nonprofit, yet you’ve been doing a lot of this work, like forever.’
“So, I wasn’t thinking about nonprofit work because I was already doing the work. She said, ‘You should turn into a nonprofit agency.’ And she sent me this grant that we couldn’t apply for because I didn’t have a 501(c)3. I couldn’t apply.”
“[The grant] was to help support a woman’s health disparities, and I was so blown back that I couldn’t apply. And that’s what made me start CPC 2.0 in 2017, and we became a 501(c)3 and started getting grants.”
When discussing the hurdles of being a 501(c)3, Whitson stated, “I run into so many organizations, they’ve got a 501(c)3, they paid this lawyer, you know, $2,000-$3,000, and now they want to apply for a grant.
“They don’t have a DUNS number They don’t have a Swift number. Not only that, but they don’t have a Sam’s number [business identifier numbers]. Like they don’t have those intricate infrastructure pieces that you need to run any business, whether it’s a for-profit or nonprofit.”
CPC LLC works with these organizations to help them overcome barriers. Whitson takes the knowledge that she has acquired in her years of running a nonprofit, coupled with her graduate studies work, to help others, building a social network to address the issues prevalent in the Black community.
The work that CPC 2.0 and CPC LLC does comes with the understanding that Black health and welfare are deeply tied to making sure everyone in our community gets the services that they need.
At the end of our conversation, Whitson made one final call to action, saying, “I would just want to emphasize CPC 2.0 provides mental health diagnostic assessments to the community so that they can get connected to mental health services. And our navigators have access to helping people get health insurance.
“This is Minnesota. We have one of the best healthcare systems in the country. And so, we want to make sure everybody’s healthy. So, come get health insurance! It doesn’t cost anything [to sign up]. It’s free of charge.”
She added, “In our communities, you got to be mentally healthy and physically healthy. In order to, you know, live, you have got to live your best life. So, we want to help people reach that goal.”
For more info about CPC 2.0, visit cpcmn.org.
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