Mrs. Walker-White grew up in Cleveland’s Hough community, the same neighborhood that was once plagued by riots stemming from racial tension in July of 1966. The economic and physical condition of the Hough Neighborhood did not improve after the riots. Some attribute the public’s realization of the social and economic inequities faced by African Americans in Cleveland to the riots.
“Sometimes you can be a victim of your community. You just accepted how it was going to be”, said Walker-White. But due to the support of a caring neighbor and Community Health Workers, she was able to choose a path of her own.
“I was in a youth program and the youth counselor took me to the abortion clinic and tried to make me get an abortion. Ms. Jackson and Ms. Wynn came along and said if that’s not what you want to do, we are going to help you through this and we are going to make sure this baby lives”, she stated. This support helped her have a healthy pregnancy.
Walker-White was also struggling as a high school student and often missed school due to her chronic asthma. “I got put out of school three times because I turned 18 and they treated me like I had just dropped out”, she said. Discouraged, Mrs. Walker-White was not going to get a diploma. “Ms. Wynn came home one day and told me she found a school for me”, said Walker. “The one thing that they told me that I still remember today is you can do whatever you want to do. You can achieve whatever goal you want to achieve so keep going no matter what happens, “she stated.
Ms. Jackson remembers Mrs. Walker-White’s story vividly. She became a shoulder to lean on for many women throughout her 25 years of experience as a Community Health Worker. “I make it clear to my participants that they can talk to me about anything. It’s confidential, between me and you”, said Jackson.
Ms. Jackson didn’t know that Ms. Walker would follow in her footsteps. Overjoyed when she saw her at a MomsFirst meeting, she couldn’t help but rejoice. “I like to see them when they do well, that makes me happy,” said Jackson. “They will come back and tell you they were glad you were in their life. It made me feel good as a person, I did something right”, she said.
The support that Mrs. Walker-White and Ms. Pinkard received as participants in the program has had a positive impact on their lives, inspiring them to pay it forward now as Community Health Workers. “It makes me work even harder to help others be successful, if I can do it, you can do it,” said Pinkard.