January 2021: “And Yet the Dawn is Ours”

Dear friends,


In the bright cold of January last week, 22-year-old poet Amanda Gorman stood in front of the U.S. Capitol and gave shimmering voice to the vulnerable, hopeful moment we occupy:


We’ve braved the belly of the beast
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace
And the norms and notions
of what just is
Isn’t always just-ice
And yet the dawn is ours


The dawn is a marker of renewal, a moment of inhalation, a call to action—and this dawn is more so than almost any other I remember. Let us in the Upstream Movement embrace it with full passion. We’re ready.


As we march forward into this new day, intent on shaping it, let’s draw our fuel from both the past and the future. We remember what this last year did to us (the grief, outrage, and exhaustion), yet also what we did this last year (the courage, compassion, and commitment). We remember, as Ms. Gorman said, “That even as we grieved, we grew / That even as we hurt, we hoped / That even as we tired, we tried.”


In the same moment, we look forward to our work together ahead and how we will accelerate it.


At HealthBegins, we are stepping briskly into 2021 with new resolutions:

  1. Social movements. Just as we draw strength from the social movements that were galvanized in 2020, we will help the institutions we work with amplify their impact by connecting with and supporting those movements.
  2. Political determinants of health. Just as we now understand even more viscerally the importance of democracy and power, we will help those in the Upstream Movement recognize not just the social but the political—and even commercial—determinants of health.
  3. Racial justice. Just as we recognize the “cry for racial justice some 400 years in the making,” as President Biden described it, we will help our allies and partners recommit to advance racial equity in concrete, demonstrable ways. (We’ve already begun to do so through our learning collaboratives, including the Social Drivers of Health Equity Learning Collaborative, launching soon. Please contact us if you’re interested in participating.)


In that spirit of growth we urge you to watch for an invite to our upcoming webinar, “Health Equity, Power, and Politics: Understanding & Addressing the Political Determinants of Health.”


We’re also excited to announce that HealthBegins is hiring a project coordinator. If you know someone who might be interested, we’d love for you to share the job posting with them.


And we invite you, as always, to reach out to us if there’s anything we can ever do to provide you with support and solidarity on the journey upstream.


Together, we rise on Ms. Gorman’s reminder that even as the sun rises, the light is ours to make:


When day comes we step out of the shade,
aflame and unafraid
The new dawn blooms as we free it
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it
If only we’re brave enough to be it



Rishi Manchanda

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