In response to the story of a Black physician, Dr. Susan Moore, who died from COVID-19 due to her medical team’s lack of adequate care and compassion for a woman of color, Vice President Elect Kamala Harris tweeted:

“This tragedy is all too common for Black women across our nation whose concerns and pain are often downplаyed or ignored in our health care system. We must do better. Our administration is committed to confronting these glaring racial health disparities.”

As a community that functions as individuals, Dr. Susan Moore’s fate will continue to be the fate of Black people. We educate ourselves and work hard to get to a position where we can take care of our loved ones and advocate for those who can’t advocate for themselves. We think we’ve pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps, and that we’ve made it to a level of success. But, what have we accomplished? How powerful are our accomplishments if we still have to beg and plead to be given adequate medical care when we are deathly ill? What have we accomplished if we lack power and are seen as disposable and not deserving of the same health, wealth and opportunities as other humans?

I’m an emergency medicine physician and I trained in my hometown, Detroit, Michigan. Working in the emergency department, I’ve seen a lifetime’s worth of people suffering and dying and I’ve been able to provide relief and life saving treatment to many. Despite my professional training and knowledge of how hospitals function, I sometimes find myself at a loss when dealing with the healthcare system.

Dr. Moore’s situation reminds me of an experience I had earlier this year. I, along with a family member, advocated for my uncle who was receiving subpar care at a hospital I trained in. Despite my advocacy, the hospital that I worked in as a medical student refused to give my uncle the same type of care I gave the patients I treated at that facility. Needless to say, I was frustrated. I was hurt. I was enraged. I spoke to the team taking care of my uncle. I spoke to the heads of the hospital. I had meetings and debates. The responses were inconsistent and lackluster. There was no true concern or urgency to provide reasonable care to a patient in need. The patient didn’t matter, the family didn’t matter and the advocacy of a trained Black physician didn’t matter. My uncle continued to receive subpar care and he departed this life without the medical treatment he deserved.

Black people are statistically the unhealthiest group of people in this country. Our infants die at higher rates than other infants. Our mothers die at higher rates from pregnancy related causes than other mothers. We die at higher rates from many forms of cancer. We even live shorter lives. The systems ingrained in our nation ensure that Black people continue to receive substandard healthcare, resulting in dire consequences. As individuals, we cannot change this. Our individual education, advocacy, demands and protests are meaningless. However, our collective effort has power. Together, we can generate mindsets, finances, resources and systems that bring about true health equity. We can get to a point where we no longer have to live as second-class citizens who have to beg and plead for our lives.

I Am Defining Me is a movement that seeks to unite the Black community and empower us to both survive and thrive in a world that has denied us this opportunity for far too long. In order to collectively bring change, we need an agenda and we need resources. We, at I Am Defining Me, see cannabis as the resource necessary to promote an agenda of physical health, mental health, financial health, environmental health, educational health and social health. With the trillions of dollars the cannabis industry is expected to bring into the economy and the vast health properties of the plant, cannabis presents a tremendous amount of opportunities for change and growth.

I Am Defining Me celebrates a moment of change as we bear witness to an African-Indian-American Vice President entering the White House. Though this event is inspiring, we are clear that Vice President Elect Harris cannot reverse our fate alone. We have to unite as a community to do the work that needs to be done in our society. We have to hold our government accountable and we have to find solutions outside of government. I Am Defining Me is committed to do the work that brings about the elevation of our people. We are committed to creating a society of true and holistic health equity where Black people not only survive, but thrive. Will you join us?

-Dr. Kaya