December 17, 2020
By: John Lumpkin, MD, MPH
In a typical year, we’d be sending out a message this week to our friends, partners, and grantees expressing appreciation for their work and celebrating our shared accomplishments over the past 12 months.

Alas, 2020 is anything but typical. And while perhaps more than most years, we feel such deep appreciation for our friends, for our partners, and for the tireless and visionary work being done by our grantees, it just doesn’t seem appropriate to celebrate much at all.

Instead, our 2020 – like that of most others – was filled with unanticipated challenges that caused us to adapt, both personally and professionally, at whiplash pace. Plans were set aside to respond to the needs of our grantees and the communities they serve, as the pandemic unfolded and continued to wreak havoc. And while we are proud of what we – and our grantee partners – were able to do amidst this unparalleled circumstance, there is no escaping the feeling that we could always do more.

It is this idea of doing more that became our call to action as time moved on.

COVID-19 was not the year’s only seminal development. The callous killing of George Floyd – and the resulting demonstrations flooding our streets – raised the public consciousness to the pervasive, systemic injustices in our society, not for the first time, but in a way that has ignited a long overdue call for change.

In the face of this, we simply asked what more we could do. What more can we do to confront structural racism? What more can we do to center racial equity in our work? What more can we do to break down the barriers to good health for those in North Carolina whose skin color has historically impeded this?

We have spent the last six months searching for these answers. We sat down with our board. We met with our peers from leading foundations. We interviewed leaders working to elevate racial equity as a priority in their communities. We convened focus groups of our grantees. And we asked the public at large to provide their thoughts as well.

These are not straightforward questions we are asking, and therefore there are no straightforward answers. However, what we heard was candid, insightful, humbling, and inspiring. And above all, what we heard has set the course for our work today, next year, and beyond – the beginnings of which we have outlined here.

This year has been extremely trying, perhaps unprecedented. It has exposed and exacerbated vulnerabilities. It has widened disparities. It has made life harder for many who call North Carolina home.

But 2020 did have its silver linings. It has shown that as a state and as a society, we are resilient. It has opened the eyes of millions to injustices and incited a much-needed call for change. And for us, it has helped codify our commitments: to confronting inequity; to ensuring everyone has a fair opportunity for good health; and to working in partnership with organizations of all types, of all shapes and sizes, in pursuit of our shared vision for our home state.


About the Author

John Lumpkin is President of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation and Vice President, Drivers of Health Strategy at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina. More about John.