Southcoast BLM Coalition Makes an Impact During its First 18 Months

Southcoast BLM Coalition Makes an Impact During its First 18 Months

Southcoast Health founded our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Council in 2019, with the mission of fostering a culture of health that celebrates and embraces the diversity of our workforce and the communities we serve. In the wake of George Floyd’s murder in May 2020, we recognized that we cannot create this inclusive environment unless we address the systemic barriers impacting so many employees and patients. Members of the St. Luke’s Emergency Department team, along with other Southcoast Health employees and Southcoast Health allies, launched Southcoast’s first Employee Resource Group (ERG), titled Black Lives Matter (BLM) Coalition. Since its formation, the coalition has engaged additional members, sparked deeper discussion around racism, and taken action to make our system more inclusive for all who enter our facilities.

“This coalition, from day one of its founding, has worked to ensure that Southcoast Health is a safer and more inclusive place for every employee, patient, and visitor,” said newly appointed BLM Coalition Chair Erik Jean-Pierre, RN. “I am proud to continue the legacy of the coalition’s co-founders and look forward to building on their efforts as we look ahead to the future.”

One of the group’s first actions was to initiate and lead policy revision work ensuring a more robust stance against discrimination and harassment  including the renaming of our anti-discrimination policies to reflect the stronger focus.

Additionally, the coalition has collaborated with the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Council to champion the organization-wide observance of holidays that honor historic Black events and figures. On June 19, 2021, the coalition recognized Juneteenth. Beginning in January 2022, Southcoast now recognizes Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a formal holiday for our employees and encourages all to foster genuine kindness, courage and dignity every day in honor of Dr. King’s legacy.

The coalition participated in planning the third annual Black History Month celebration, which has become a Southcoast Health tradition. This year’s theme is “Sailing to Freedom,” a phrase coined from the newly published book detailing the Underground Railroad and many slaves’ journey to escape from captivity in the South to New Bedford and a few other northern cities. Southcoast Health and the BLM Coalition are excited to host a virtual event with the book’s editor, Timothy D. Walker, which is the keynote to our  Black History Month celebrations.

Another important accomplishment was creating a Southcoast Health Diversity Statement, which expresses Southcoast’s inclusive environment and strong stance against discriminatory behavior in any of our facilities. The statement will soon be visible to all who enter Southcoast’s hospitals, Urgent Care centers, and affiliated sites. The coalition collaboratively drafted the statement, guided it through approval channels, and worked with Southcoast’s graphic design team to develop signage. Initially, 15 six-foot banners were posted across Southcoast facilities. This month, 250 posters will be placed in all our locations.

“The Black Lives Matter Coalition has become an extremely important and valuable resource for our employee community,” Lauren DeSimon, Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer of Southcoast Health and the Executive Sponsor for the DE&I Council, said. “Without ongoing education and enabling open, and sometimes sensitive conversations, Southcoast Health will be limited in its growth as a partner and resource to the communities we serve. I am so proud that we have successfully launched this coalition along with our DE&I Council, especially given the overwhelming attention and support these groups have received.”

As the BLM Coalition sets its initiatives for 2022, its members will be focused on ongoing education, formalizing responses to discriminatory events, growing committee membership, and to enhancing a culture of kindness, respect and inclusion.

To learn more about the coalition, please reach out to Barb Schmidt, Director of Organizational Culture and Engagement, at