Celebrating Black Leaders in Florida and North Carolina

In honor of Black History Month, PIH-US is uplifting the work our Black colleagues are doing across the country.

Posted on Feb 21, 2024

Black History Month

Black History Month has been observed in the United States since 1976. Although the annual celebration is confined to the month of February, PIH-US recognizes that amplifying Black voices, stories, and history is essential year-round. Today, and every day, we celebrate the efforts of Black individuals in creating a future where everyone can thrive.

Below, we highlight the incredible contributions and achievements of some of our community partners in Florida and North Carolina.

Philip Cooper, Founder and Chief Change Agent, Operation Gateway Inc., North Carolina

Philip Cooper was born and raised in Western North Carolina. He is an accomplished prison reentry expert for formerly incarcerated individuals, a criminal justice reform advocate, and a regional change agent. He is the founder and Chief Change Agent of Operation Gateway, and founder of Voices of Affrilachia, a state-funded initiative addressing the mental health stigma in the Black communities of Western North Carolina. Philip believes that those closest to the problem are the closest to the solution, and this is why he is fully committed to teaching people how to leverage their lived experience to change the world. Learn more about Operation Gateway here.

Scott Darius, Executive Director, Florida Voices For Health, Florida

Scott Darius has always had a passion for health care issues and plans to continue advocating for quality, affordable health care until it is truly available for everyone. As the Executive Director of Florida Voices For Health, Scott has led a coalition of community organizations, businesses, and individuals through various awareness campaigns, including Medicaid expansion, as they call for a health care system that works for every Floridian, regardless of their socio-economic background. A PIH-US partner since July 2023, Florida Voices For Health ensures the stories and the interests of hard-working, low- and moderate-income Floridians are represented in the health reform debate. Learn more about Florida Voices For Health here.

Melissa Elliott, First Black and First Female Mayor of Henderson, North Carolina

Melissa Elliott has garnered several accolades for her leadership in educating schools, churches, and organizations about gang risks. Nationally acclaimed, she was deemed a "Game-Changing Woman" by Steve Harvey for her unrelenting community efforts. The community-based organization she founded, Gang Free Inc., partnered with PIH-US to get vital resources to the doors of community members during the COVID-19 pandemic. Melissa currently serves as one of North Carolina Community Health Worker Association’s CHW Ambassadors and recently made history as the first female and first Black mayor of Henderson.

JéWana Grier-McEachin, Executive Director, Asheville Buncombe Institute of Parity Achievement, North Carolina

JéWana Grier-McEachin is a visionary, an inspirational speaker, and a champion of people using their powers for good. As the Executive Director of the Asheville Buncombe Institute of Parity Achievement (ABIPA), JéWana works to shape policies that eliminate disparities and create an equitable economic, educational, and enriching ecosystem that promotes better health. In partnership with community health workers, ABIPA successfully serves over 6,500 community members annually in addressing the social determinants of health by meeting people where they are. Realizing the importance of using her platform, she hosts the Body & Soul Radio Show and is a monthly content contributor to Urban News. JéWana is also a CHW leader in Western North Carolina. Learn more about Asheville Buncombe Institute of Parity Achievement here.

Lisa Hamilton, President, Florida Community Health Worker Coalition, Florida

Lisa Hamilton is a lifelong Floridian who began her career as a social worker assisting recently arrived Haitian immigrants. As President of the Florida Community Health Worker Coalition (FLCHWC), Lisa and her colleagues work to ensure community health workers are seen as critical to reducing health disparities and improving health outcomes in the state. Lisa’s approach has always been community-centered, and she is known among the Coalition as a guiding force and fearless leader. Alongside PIH-US' South Florida and advocacy teams, Lisa led the FLCHWC's first advocacy day at the Florida Capitol in December 2023. She believes that true change is done at the ground level by community health workers and that engagement with Florida legislators is critical to ensuring investments in the sustainability of the community health workforce. Learn more about the Florida Community Health Worker Coalition here.

Gerald L. McNair, MPH, Team Lead, Community Outreach, Granville Vance Public Health, North Carolina

Gerald L. McNair is an advocate for low-income residents and has a passion for underserved population groups. At Granville Vance Public Health, Gerald is researching the experiences of Medicaid beneficiaries in rural areas as they access health care services. With evaluation support from PIH-US, Gerald will use the data he collects to identify areas where improvements can be made for Medicaid beneficiaries.


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