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WNEU Center for Social Justice Receives HNE Mini-grant to Address Racism

SPRINGFIELD — The Western New England University (WNEU) School of Law’s Center for Social Justice was awarded a $6,000 DEIB (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging) mini-grant from Health New England (HNE). The grant provides funding to local nonprofit organizations that are actively addressing racial health equity and disparities, and at least one of the CDC’s social determinants of health (SDOH).

“As a mission-driven, not-for-profit health plan, Health New England seeks to improve the health and lives of all people in our communities,” said Susan Silver O’Connor, vice president and general counsel for Health New England. “With this grant, Health New England deepens its commitment to addressing racial inequality and health disparities in Springfield and beyond through our partnership with the Center for Social Justice. Health New England supports the critical work of the center in dismantling structural inequality to improve health outcomes and increase health equity through education and dialogue.”

SDOH are conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, and play that affect a wide range of health risks and outcomes; these include healthcare access and quality, education access and quality, social and community context, economic stability, and neighborhood and built environment.

“We are deeply grateful to Health New England for their support of this critical initiative and look forward to working with them as a partner in addressing the pervasive issue of racism as a social determinant of health in our community,” said Ariel Clemmer, director of the Center for Social Justice.

The grant seeks to dismantle systemic racism in two ways. Clemmer explained that the project will “first educate the WNE University community about the connection between racism and health disparities and the structural barriers to equity that exist across society, and then will work to facilitate racial healing and relationship building between and among our institution and the local community through healing-circle conversations.”

Since its launch in 2019, the Center for Social Justice has been a key stakeholder in the pursuit of social justice in its community and beyond. In the last year, the center has sponsored or hosted more than a dozen events, including various know-your-rights trainings and programming, panel discussions addressing the racial disparities of COVID-19, and lawyering in the time of Black Lives Matter, as well as speakers like Evan Wolfson, who is considered an architect of the marriage-equality movement. Its work is entirely grant-funded from supporters like HNE and MassMutual, as well as individual donors.

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