Every March, the Forward Times has always placed an emphasis on highlighting the phenomenal efforts and impact of trailblazing women during Women’s History Month.
This year is no exception.
The theme for Women’s History month this year is: Women Providing Healing, Promoting Hope, and this is our tribute to the ceaseless work of caregivers and frontline workers during this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and also a recognition of the thousands of ways that women of all cultures have provided hope, healing, service, and have sacrificed to make a difference.
During this unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, there have been many women who serve as doctors, lawyers, caregivers, counselors, mothers, ministers, and dedicated frontline workers, and we wish to highlight a few of these phenomenal women.
Women have gone through so much already, but this pandemic has intensified the demand for women to do more and go beyond enduring the challenges they regularly face.
There are so many powerful women who have looked beyond those challenges and even work to help other women fight for survival, while showcasing the true power of women.
If you look at the life of Juanita Campbell Rasmus, you will see someone who is the epitome of service. For those who may not know Juanita Rasmus, she is a native Houstonian who was born in the historic Fifth Ward community.
Feeding the homeless and caring for the less fortunate is what Juanita has done for decades through her work in the Houston area, alongside her longtime husband of 37 years, Pastor Rudy Rasmus.
Both Juanita and Rudy are the co-leaders of St. John’s Church and Bread of Life, Inc. in Downtown Houston, and they have provided hope, healing, and service to so many needy and less fortunate individuals.
But the homeless and less fortunate are not the only individuals that have been needy when it comes to hope, healing, and service. Juanita states that so many women, regardless of their status or socioeconomic background, have found themselves needing hope, healing, and service.
“I help women who are driven yet find themselves overwhelmed and burned out, learn to transform their discontentment and longing into a life they truly love and are grateful to wake up to,” said Juanita. “There are many uncertainties that we are now doubling down on. The changes resulting from a global pandemic, with its long-term and immediate implications and life’s normal challenges, can be a recipe for distress. Changes to our social connections and the mental, emotional, and financial aspects of our well-being can cause us to feel constricted. We can find ourselves in the fight, flight, or freeze responses of the autonomic nervous system. Our task is to stay open to the flow of love, joy, and peace, and how that flow helps us choose gratitude.”
Juanita emphasizes that sometimes women are stretched and facing a system overload.
“You have to do your own inner-work,” said Juanita. “We feed our addictions too much, so we need to put systems in place for ourselves so we can handle the things we face.”
“We all have a story we have been telling ourselves that are often made up of paradigms, which are beliefs, but the reality is that we have some beliefs that serve us well and some that don’t serve us well,” Juanita continued.
Juanita says that many women spread themselves too thin and don’t have healthy boundaries and don’t know when to say that enough is enough. She believes it is tied to wanting to be accepted and not feel rejection.
“All of us really want to be accepted by authority figures in our lives,” said Juanita. “See, I was addicted to perfection and performance and needing other people’s approval, so I became like a crack addict in the crack house. One of the beautiful things about an automobile is that it has a gas gauge, and on one end it has an E and on the other end it has an F. The F stands for Full, and the E stands for Empty. We don’t have gas gauges, but internally we need to know when it is time for us to stop and refuel before we run out of gas.”
Not only does Juanita serve as co-leader at St. John’s Church, but she is also an inspirational speaker who helps people transform into being their best selves and an author who just wrote a new book entitled Learning to Be: Finding Your Center After The Bottom Falls Out.
Beyonce Knowles and Kelly Rowland have been faithful members of St. John’s Church, and Tina Knowles Lawson has been connected to Juanita for years. As a matter of fact, Tina wrote the Foreword for Juanita’s new book and stated that the book made her look at her life different.
“Juanita’s book had me in tears and had me knowing that I had to make some changes in my life,” said Knowles Lawson.
Another person who has been on the frontline during this pandemic has been Dr. Jasmine Monae Campbell.
Dr. Campbell, 31, is a New Jersey native who holds an MBA in Healthcare Management and a MS in Healthcare Education and Promotion. She finished medical school in 2020, during the height of the pandemic and worked in clinical research as a clinical research coordinator in the therapeutic area of Infectious Diseases, before deciding to stay within clinical research.
Her current therapeutic area is Vaccines.
Being the neighborhood caretaker growing up, when kids would play and someone fell, she would be the one to clean up their scrapes and get them back in the game. She has an innate nature to care for others, which is why she knew healthcare would be the field for her, which has proven beneficial to those she serves who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has definitely reshaped my career,” said Dr. Campbell. “I would have never thought I would not practice medicine, however, dealing with all of the death and despair the pandemic brought, I decided to take an alternative route within healthcare and stay within clinical research. Thanks to my mentor, Dr. Joseph Gathe Jr., MD, who gave me the opportunity to work as a clinical research coordinator within his practice and I fell in love with research. I loved seeing the treatments worked on in the clinical trials being translated to the bedside, and ultimately saving lives of millions of patients.”
Dr. Campbell admits that the biggest challenges she has faced in assisting the African American community, especially Black women, during this pandemic has been the lack of trust that the African American community has had regarding the scientific community.
“The lack of trust is understandable due to past history toward our people,” said Dr. Campbell. “However, it is important to show our people that times have changed, and it is our communities that are being ravaged by COVID-19 and the importance of being protected and staying healthy to overcome not just COVID-19, but many other diseases that can be prevented by good health.”
Dr. Campbell states that as an African American woman, it is extremely important that Black women take care of their overall health, not just during this pandemic, but period.
“African American women are told all the time we are “strong” but that becomes misconstrued as we can be overworked and overused, rarely taking the time for ourselves,” said Dr. Campbell. “Self-care is very important and scheduling it is needed! Being burned out is not an accolade, say no, take that trip, and make time for yourself. We cannot be the best version of ourselves if we are exhausted.”
She is also focused on inspiring young Black girls to grow up and pursue careers in medicine so they can help with the hope, healing, and service to our community.
“I encourage all Black girls to keep going and keep pushing so you can break these glass ceilings and do everything they say you can’t do,” said Dr. Campbell. “Stay focused, stay confident, and stay consistent. Understand that medicine is a rigorous field and takes discipline. Failure is inevitable, however, that is how you grow. Do not let the setbacks define you.”
Can you imagine what life would be like during this pandemic without the influence, leadership, and guidance of women?
None of us would be here if it were not for a woman giving birth to us, which is one of the most painful, inconvenient, and sacrificial acts that any person could ever endure. It takes a tremendous amount of strength to carry out that sacrificial act of love. Women have a strength and boldness about them that is second-to-none, and we must acknowledge that.
Former First Lady of the United States Eleanor Roosevelt is attributed with saying, “A woman is like a tea bag—you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.”
We need women, not just to give birth to our children, but to continue to be the visionary, organizational, strong, bold, logistical, service-focused, considerate, philanthropic, business-minded, and civic leaders we have always needed in this country, and that we need today in America, especially during this pandemic. Without women, we are unable to operate at our highest potential, so we must consistently acknowledge the Hope, Healing, Service, and Sacrifice they provide to the world each and every day.
We must stand in solidarity with women and celebrate their successes, not just during Women’s History Month, but every day.