Minority Champions of Mental Health

Cardinal Innovations Healthcare — July 13, 2021 — 3 min read

Dr. Francis Sumner was the first Black American to get a Ph.D in psychology. He wanted to understand racial bias and support academic justice. Each year, the Francis Sumner Community Pillar Awards recognize those following in his footsteps. 
To celebrate Minority Mental Health Month, we're highlighting four award winners. All four are minority champions of mental health. Like Dr. Sumner, they advocate for behavioral health equity in their communities. 
All have demonstrated one or more of the following criteria:
  • Reducing stigma relating to mental health, substance use, and intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD)
  • Promoting behavioral health equity
  • Promoting behavioral health literacy
Each represents a different NC region: Northern, Triad, Central, and Southern.

Charles “Charlie” Baskerville (Northern): Using His Business to Educate His Community

Baskerville owns Baskerville Funeral Home & Chapel in Henderson, N.C. He hosts public health events, trainings, and film screenings in his chapel monthly. They help reduce the stigma of mental health issues by increasing education and awareness. During the pandemic, he switched to virtual programming. This change helped ensure resources were still available to everyone. Baskerville hopes to keep using his chapel to uplift others and spread hope. 

Jose Perez, Jr. (Triad): Using His Recovery Experience to Encourage Others

Perez is a Forsyth County Peer Support Specialist. He is also the chairman of the Homeless Caucus in Winston-Salem. This association consists of people who are or have been homeless. He helps his community by connecting with people who need support. Perez draws from his own experiences with substance use and homelessness. This month, he celebrates 17 and half years in recovery. Now, he advocates for those who are homeless and need behavioral health support. Raising awareness for those still in the recovery journey is important to him. To Perez, recovery is possible for anyone. 

Barbara Leach (Central): Using Her Family Experience to Connect With Others

Leach has served the mental health and IDD community for over 20 years. She was a pioneer of the North Carolina System of Care movement. Leach now works as a Family Support Program specialist. She understands the unique challenges kids with IDD face. Her family members with IDD have taught her a lot. Families constantly battle stigma in their communities and health systems. To remedy this, she works to uplift IDD community member voices. She wants to help develop services and systems that improve their life outcomes.

Forest Watson (Southern): Dedicating His Time to Groups in His Community

Watson owns F&S Logistics, a Mecklenburg County trucking company. He partners with the Roof Above to host rooms at the end of members’ program. He has been supporting this effort for over a decade. 
Watson also volunteered throughout the pandemic. He distributed food, clothes, and personal items to families. He serves as director of the youth program Young Warriors for Christ. It supports at-risk young men in the Charlotte community. He works with community leaders to provide them more opportunities. Many program alumni become successful community members. 

Making a Difference

We thank these advocates for being minority champions of mental health. They recognize the unique metal health struggles for minorities. Their own experiences helped them make a difference in their communities. They work to reduce stigma by increasing education and awareness. Local partnerships allowed them to provide more resources and opportunities. We encourage others to get involved. Our mental health community needs your support.
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