There’s a new guide designed to empower Black women with the tools needed to take charge of their health.
Philadelphia-based writer Hilary Beard and president and CEO of the Black Women’s Health Imperative Eleanor Hinton Hoytt have co-authored “Health First! The Black Woman’s Wellness Guide.” (SmileyBooks, $27.95)
“Black women are disproportionally impacted by almost all the major diseases and chronic conditions; and unfortunately, many of us believe that being ill or developing a chronic illness or just living beneath our potential because of different health challenges — we accept that as our fate,” says Beard, who is an award-winning health journalist.
“In reality, people have genetic predispositions to things, but it’s really our lifestyle choices that trigger it.”
To that end, “Health First!” serves as a reference tool to help Black women address their most critical health challenges from adolescence through senior citizenship.
The book is organized into three parts: The first part takes the reader through the life stages of Black women, while the second section focuses on the top 10 health risks for Black women including heart disease, cancer, obesity, depression and violence. The third section addresses the steps women can make to take care of their mind, body and spirit.
“We look at health as a process, and how the life choices and decisions that we make in one phase in life carry over into subsequent phases — and either prepare us to be productive members of society — or can undermine our health,” says Beard.
The book connects the dots through discussions with health experts and uncensored stories of real women who survived and thrived.
“‘Health First’ teaches Black women how to see themselves through new eyes and encourages them to make new choices. It explains why we must place our self-care above all other responsibilities in our lives,” says Hoytt, who is regarded to be an advocate for eliminating health disparities among women and communities of color.
“Decisions made today have consequences tomorrow; that’s why we encourage women to think of their lives and health as a lifelong process, not just a series of disconnected events.”
While Black women have long been regarded as the nurturers who care for their family and loved ones, this often happens at the expense of their own health.
“What we’re proposing is that Black women flip the script, and we start taking care of our own health first,” said Beard.
“When you take care of your own health first, you surprisingly find yourself in better shape to take care of other people. We think that if Black women learn to take care of themselves first, they’ll find they won’t need to suffer from all of these debilitating conditions and are able to take care of all the people who we love — but it doesn’t have to be at own expense.”
“In many families — the mother, the auntie or the grandmother — is the last line of defense for the family between where they are now and the social service system. So it the Black woman goes down, the family goes down and the community goes down,” Beard pointed out.
“If Black women can learn to take care of themselves — mind, body and spirit — then we think that the Black woman can also be the lynch pin for building the community back up.”
The authors are in the midst of a multi-city book tour.
Easter weekend 2012 was full of activity at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, where the Black History and Culture Showcase was held.
The Black History and Culture Showcase, formally called the Black History Showcase, added “culture” this year to incorporate themes of art, music, film and literature. The showcase started in 2004 by executive producer Everett Staten. Staten started this event with the idea to spread history of Black culture.
“History is the narrative of the past and history and culture really make up people’s story,” Staten said.
Years ago Staten and a team created a Black expo that showed the economic development of Black businesses while incorporating entertainment.
“I met Tuskegee airmen, Negro League baseball players and asked them to be apart of the event,” he said. “We are talking about 15 years ago—we brought them in and I was amazed at how many people were stopping by and talking.”
Inspired by the success of the Black expo, Staten started the showcase and decided last year it was best to move it to Easter weekend.
The showcase took place Saturday and Sunday and kicked off with an “Introduction to Genealogy” session Saturday morning at 11:30 a.m. Saturday’s events included a WURD Speaks Symposium “The Impact of Race, Culture and History on Body, Mind and Spirit” Part II, a discussion with historian and scholar Dr. Molefi Kete Asante, creator of the first doctoral program in African-American studies at Temple University and concluded with a workshop titled “History Treasures in Your Home.”
Sunday’s events began with a performance from the Universal African Dance and Drum Ensemble, followed by a health lecture and book signing with author and journalist Hilary Beard and health and wellness writer and educator Glenn Ellis. The lecture was followed by a performance from the Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz youth jazz band and concluded with a “Marian Anderson Scholars 1939 Easter Sunday Reenactment.” Along with the scheduled events, the showcase consisted of various exhibits that visitors were able to view as they roamed through the convention center.
“We did this event to commemorate and celebrate the African-American experience,” Staten said.
The exhibits included the Lest We Forget Slavery Museum, a Black Inventions Museum, a George Washington Carver exhibit and a Negro League Exhibit.
Sisters Michelle and Beverly Thompson traveled from Delaware to experience the showcase, exhibits and presentations.
“My favorite room is the slavery room and actually seeing the shackles and artifacts and reading some of the stories,” Michelle said. “I didn’t know they used to use little Black babies for bait to capture alligators—I was teary eyed.”
Beverly was also deeply touched by the exhibits and felt the showcase was effective in reaching out to the visitors and exploring important parts of history.
“I really liked that they showcased of Black art — it’s cool because in Delaware we don’t get spots like this where it’s a big community thing,” Beverly said.
“Black history is an essential part of American history,” Staten said. “The more one knows and understands about one’s culture—can foster power and respect between races.”