Dr. Veronica Gillispie-Bell is the mother to Gregory, a 2nd grader, and wife to Troy Bell. She is a Board Certified OBGYN and practices at Ochsner Health. Among her many roles, she has focused on improving health equity not only at Ochsner but for birthing persons across the state of Louisiana, and nationally. She has a Certification in Diversity and Inclusion from Cornell University and serves on both the Health Disparities Task Force and the Steering Committee for the Ochsner/Xavier Center of Health Equity and Research.
As a member of the Board of Trustees, as a parent and as a Black woman, what does JEDI work mean to me? Everything!
My family chose St. George’s because we knew our son, Gregory, would be embraced and, from an education standpoint, be appreciated for his individual learning style. However, I was initially unsure that he would be appreciated for the color of his skin. As we toured the school, there were not many faces that looked like his, mine, his dad or his stepdad. In the pit of my stomach, while everyone was so welcoming, I wondered how long would it be before his brown skin was seen before his beautiful smile?
I was elated when Dr. Kreutziger extended an invitation to me to become a member of the Board of Trustees. Not sure how I was going to contribute, I accepted the invitation with humility and curiosity. As I sat during the September board retreat reading the agenda, I saw the entire afternoon would be dedicated to justice, equity, diversity and inclusion work. It was then that I realized-- I had been led to become a member of St. George’s family not only for the place that it is but the place it is working to be. I also knew my part in contributing to the work of the board would be in the area of JEDI, and since the September retreat, I have stepped into the role of Chair of the JEDI Trustee Task Force.
JEDI work is hard; it’s uncomfortable, and it’s relentless, but it is rewarding. It challenges how we think and how we feel. I am impressed and in awe of the number of faculty, staff, parents and board members that are not satisfied with the status quo and want to see more justice, equity, diversity and inclusion at St. George’s and in our community at large. It won’t happen tomorrow, next week or even next month, but we will be a place where each child is appreciated not only for their learning style, but also for every diverse characteristic they bring to St. George’s.
As we prepare to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I leave you with his words, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
Family and friends of St. George’s, don’t be silent. Ask how you can be involved. Join in JEDI work. We are already immersed in it, beginning with the retreat with Beloved Community from which the task force originated, but then continuing with our forging of a JEDI Coalition whose goal is to work collectively with students, faculty, staff, parents and trustees to foster a community where all indeed feel welcomed, valued, supported and included, eliminating barriers that prevent access, opportunity and advancement for all. We welcome you to join us.
I encourage you to read our past blog posts related to the school’s JEDI work and to watch for the unveiling of our JEDI page of the website, on which you’ll find additional resources and ways to be involved. In the meantime, please reach out to the JEDI Trustee Task Force at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions you may have.
- Parent Voice