BHM: Black Health and Wellness with Harvey Kennedy-Pitt
This year, NKD’s theme for Black History Month 2022 focuses on the importance of Black Health and Wellness within the Black community.
Derek had the opportunity to sit down and talk with special guest, Harvey Kennedy-Pitt, who is a public health leader, CEO & Founding Director of the charity, Black Beetle Health, Director of Unstukk Consultancy and Chair of the Inclusion Staff Network at NHS Greater Manchester Integrated Care Partnership. Black Beetle Health is a community public health organisation dedicated to promoting health, wellbeing, and equality for LGBTQ+ communities of colour by shedding light on important health disparities among these communities in the UK and around the world.
Harvey, talks about Black Health and Wellness through the LGBTQ+ BPoC lens and shares his thoughts on what workplaces can do to support Black Health and Wellness initiatives. Harvey also shares his advice on how the Black LGBTQ+ community can find a support system. And how his charity Black Beetles Health are aiding the Black community and marginalised individuals and groups.
Derek Danquah: Hi Harvey, thanks for joining us today. Before we get into any of our questions, I would love to know a little about what you do for a work and any type of organisations you’re involved in?
Harvey Kennedy-Pitt: Thanks for having me.
Well, I’m a scientist, an educator, an academic and a public health practitioner. I work within the voluntary sector, as well as for the NHS, and also my own private consultancy. About three years ago, I founded a charity called Black Beetle Health, which is a community public health organisation dedicated to promoting health, wellbeing and equality for LGBTQ+ communities of colour by shedding light on important health disparities among these communities in the UK and around the world.
It was created off the back of the first year of my doctoral studies, which I have now completed at the University of Chester in the Faculty of Health and Social Care, which is sort of focusing on mainly public health issues, but more specifically in sexual health and wellbeing concerns for Black, Black African, and Black Afro-Caribbean individuals, who are based here in the UK.
DD: That’s really interesting. I don’t think that there are enough Black charities that operate through the LGBTQ+ lens, what was the thinking behind it?
HKP: Having completed the first year of my doctoral studies, I sort of thought, how am I going to learn more about this? How am I going to evidence that this is actually important enough to pursue?
And so, I looked around what was available, I saw that there were lots of White charities that were doing work with sexual minorities (LGBTQ+ people), and gender minority individuals. And then I saw that there were not many Black charities, while doing lot of work for Black heterosexual populations, doing little work with Black LGBTQ+ individuals. I didn’t know how, but we found that gap, and operating on the basis of intersectionality founded that charity, and which is now about three and a half years old.
DD: Thanks Harvey, that is really amazing, and I think what you are doing is inspiring and so important, not only for the Black community but also the Black LGBTQ+ community.
HKP: It’s so important and I hope we continue to support initiatives like this.
DD: I very much agree!
DD: I wanted to touch on healthcare within the UK, in 2017/18 statistics, showed that Black people were one of the least successful to get a hospital appointment compared to their White counterparts. When you hear statistics like this, how does it make you feel?
HKP: I mean, this is something that we’ve known for quite a long time, particularly within our own communities.
I think that when COVID hit, it brought issues such as these to the forefront, deepened our understanding of what those health inequalities actually were, and our understanding of how they are brought about. It can be extremely distressing, particularly as a as a frontline practitioner, who also identifies with the Black community to know that’s happening, and not feel able to do something more significant about it.
DD: Do you think there’s a way to navigate through this?
HKP: It’s a combination of the system not understanding what those needs are, and also members of our wider community not knowing how to tackle those conversations or how to navigate systems.
And so, there’s quite a big piece of health inequalities work that has to been done nationally, to try to understand how we can reduce the variation in access experiences and outcomes for those groups, alongside other groups who are experiencing marginalisation.
So, you know, it’s not a small conversation.
When we talk about the workplace, it’s a place where most people spend their time, so the need for it to be inclusive is so important. What can organisations do to support Black Health and Wellness initiatives?
HKP: So, we talk about really tangible things in the workplace. Do our workplaces have inclusive staff networks? What are the topics discussed and do they align with the workplace KPI’s? Do the conversations around these initiatives stop at middle management or do they go all the way to the business’ HR partners? What are we doing as far as a mentoring scheme? And then finally, what practical tools are we giving people?
DD: Really important points you made Harvey, having inclusive, diverse infrastructures within organisations will give confidence to people to speak up for sure.
HKP: Exactly! It’s about making sure that people have a space to voice their thoughts and opinions in a non-consequential way and giving some type of framework to help guide them through the complexities of being Black in the workplace.
DD: Sometimes, there tends to be great stigma in the Black community around Mental Health and getting therapy. What would you say to a someone who is Black and from the LGBTQ+ community looking for support system and to get therapy?
HKP: It’s not an easy path to be to be Black and gay. So, what I would talk about really in response to your question is about community and finding your tribe. That is something I really talk a lot about in my private consultancy, which is to say, who are your people? And how rigidly are you screening for your people? Because the people who have always been your people might not still be your people, you might have outgrown these people.
DD: I really like that last phrase ‘the people who have always been your people might not still be your people, you might have outgrown these people’. Could you elaborate?
HKP: So, you know, one way that I certainly found a community, was through joining LGBTQ+ sports clubs, which was a gay volleyball or gay badminton club. That was what I did to find a community and I was open to the fact that it was going to be a different experience from being in my regular church circles, where I knew most people from childhood or went to the same school, and that was no longer working or serving me. So, my advice would be, to be brave enough to re-evaluate your tribe.
In regard to your question about therapy, I just want to encourage people to think about finding the purpose that’s right for them before they find a therapist that looks like them. Because there’s no certainty to say that that’s going to be a solution. Sometimes it’s about finding the person who’s good at their job. And that might be a White person, it might be a White person that you did not expect to understand the experience, but they are good at what they do. So be open to being flexible with that.
DD: I really like that, and to finish off, I would like to thank you for your time and amazing insights today. It really shows that the work you are doing has an important space especially in the Black community.
HKP: Definitely and Thank you!
Explore more about Harvey Kennedy-Pitt’s work below :
Check out our first Black History Month interview with Psychotherapist, Sharnade George here