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Black History Month 2023: Q&A with Angelica Cortez, Senior Vice President of Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at Pacific Clinics

By Kim Bradberry February 15, 2023

This Black History Month, Salesforce is shining a light on some of our nonprofit customers who support and work with Black communities in the United States. This blog post is the second in a series that will appear each week in February, focused on the themes of resilience, compassion, and social justice. Second in the series is a Q&A with Angelica Cortez, Senior Vice President of Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at Pacific Clinics, a community-based nonprofit provider of behavioral and mental health services and support. 

Kim Bradberry: Please tell us about Pacific Clinics and the work that you and your team do throughout the year

Angelica Cortez, SVP of Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

Angelica Cortez: I’m the Senior Vice President of Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at Pacific Clinics — a leading provider of behavioral and mental health services and support across California, serving around 35,000 individuals annually, based on our latest data. Pacific Clinics has over 2,000 employees that speak 22 languages — all striving to unlock the full potential of individuals and families through culturally-sensitive, trauma-informed, research-based services.

In my role, I work in tandem with our Chief Public Policy and Advocacy Officer to apply a racial equity lens across our organization’s policies, practices, and procedures — working to engage our employees, create a mutually shared language, support the creation of affinity groups, and foster mentorship.

KB: What is the significance of Black History Month, and why is it important to recognize it?

AC: Black history is American history, and we have a duty and a responsibility as the largest mental and behavioral health nonprofit service provider in the state to spotlight and amplify the needs of the Black communities that we serve. Black history is not just one month but 365 days a year, as the influences of Black scholars, revolutionaries, visionaries, and inventors continue to shape our country. While we’re celebrating, we also have to acknowledge the contributions and achievements — and be critical about what’s happening around us.

KB: Does Pacific Clinics do anything specific during Black History Month?

AC: During Black History Month, we work with our regional Racial Equity & Justice (REJ) Committees. Every region operates an employee-driven Racial Equity & Justice Committee. We also host many internal instructive discussions on how to host dialogues on Black history, the present-day injustices that the Black community continues to face, and how our workforce can take direct action toward change. We also work with our employees on how to talk to clients about advocacy, agency, community needs, and public safety. 

The message and the spirit of the civil rights movement continue to inspire us. One activity we’re doing in our Black, African American affinity group is to look at clips from speeches given by civil rights leaders during that period and have open discussions about their meaning and the historical context in which these speeches were made. Could history be repeating itself here?

KB: What are some common misconceptions or inaccuracies about Black history that you often come across in your work?

AC: There are a lot of misconceptions and inaccuracies. Generally speaking, Black communities and communities of color are often treated as a monolith — that we are all of one political ideology and of one socioeconomic class. These views can be harmful, which is why we make a concerted effort to develop culturally sensitive training and dialogue with leaders who have lived and learned experiences with the communities we serve.

Black history is not to be compressed into just one month but is an important part of the American story that we should acknowledge and celebrate. You can observe the continuous influence of Black scholarship and leadership on many of our social programs and in much of our society — in fields like medicine, law, the arts, film, community-based organizations, advocacy groups, and others.

KB: How has Salesforce for Nonprofits enabled Pacific Clinics’ work in support of the Black community?

AC: In Santa Clara County, we are the lead organization that administers the Trusted Response Urgent Support Team — a team of mental health professionals and peer support that responds to urgent needs in the community as an alternative to law enforcement involvement. Salesforce is the system that we utilize to make that possible.

If you’re in Santa Clara County and you are in crisis, you can call 988. The mental health crisis hotline has replaced 911 and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline with mental health crisis professionals at the ready. Upon calling 988, individuals will be connected with trained mental health crisis counselors who are able to de-escalate the situation, provide resources for support and deploy mobile crisis units if necessary.

KB: How can people support the work that you do throughout the year, not just during Black History Month? 

AC: Your support can change lives and make a lasting impact in the community. By supporting our organization, you can help us provide critical services and support to those in need. Make sure to follow us on Instagram and LinkedIn. If you’re looking to donate, please visit our website. We would appreciate anyone who can support and give to our cause.

Thousands of nonprofits around the world rely on Salesforce technology to power their purpose. To find out more, visit Salesforce for Nonprofits