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Apologies and Explanation

Posted about 2 months ago by Ashley Blackmon

Dear colleagues,

First, if you attended our L.E.A.D. Update at 8 last night then I want to formally apologize to you for your experience. We are doing everything we can to re-evaluate going forward how to keep our meetings safe for everyone.
If you did not attend last night then I must inform you of what happened. The nursing leaders and guests gathered from UAPRN, CAPRN, and Black Women Leaders in Nursing for our weekly L.E.A.D. Update at 8! (Legislative Education and Advocacy Development) We have several bills, one of which HB 369, we are eagerly watching as it will lift restrictions on advanced practice nursing and physician assistant practice to allow better healthcare access for all Georgians. Since we cannot meet in person to advocate at the Capitol due to the Pandemic, we have been meeting via Zoom to talk with legislators, discuss our political strategies, mentor and encourage other nurses and healthcare professionals to be political advocates. 
Last night was different though. To encourage participation we have been posting links for our meetings instead of asking people to register. Last night a verbal terrorist attacked our gathering. They were breathing heavily into their phone, changing their name to be the same as other nurse leaders present, and then showered a barrage of hate on Dr. Michelle Nelson. That's right. Our fearless, passionate, leader was called a ni**** and a monkey. This hateful person stated that Dr. Nelson needed to shut up and be kicked and attacked. When all mics were muted, he then began to type in all caps the same hateful rhetoric that he had just spoken out loud. The chat was disabled but it still took a few confused minutes to settle the meeting down. I was shocked. I was hurt. My heart beat fast, my stomach was sick. I had a visceral, real, physical reaction to this verbal abuse.
And Dr. Nelson? She was just as cool and gracious as always and said we would continue to move forward. We completed our meeting and made jokes about it being a "spicier" meeting than usual.

But that was just a reflex reaction. A coping mechanism to calm our nerves. 

Dr. Nelson told me afterwards that she has lived a hard life, growing up in New York. And she has lived in Georgia for decades. And yet she has never been called a ni**** or a monkey before. However, she said her parents taught her that people will hate her because of the color of her skin. That this is a "black reality." It broke my heart.

We talk a lot about racism and healthcare disparities. We talk a lot about the nursing profession not being respected or represented the way other healthcare professions are. And yet, this is something I never thought I would experience in my lifetime. Dr. Nelson said we will lean into this. We will continue to cry out about social justice not just for ourselves but for our patients and friends and families. I never want to experience that again and yet, I was only the Vicarious Sufferer. The Witness. 

Know that I have never held more respect and love in my heart than I do right now for Dr. Michelle Nelson. Thank you, Dr. Nelson, for being a beacon of hope and example of stalwart leadership. We will not tolerate this attack and we will not keep quiet about it.