Upcoming health conference to address specific concerns of Black women
By Brandi D. Phillips
Happy, healthy, family, friends, community, intergenerational, motivational: These are a few words used to describe the upcoming March 19 conference sponsored by Neighborhood HealthSource and many others. The conference is titled “Loving Yourself, Staying Well,” and those simple words seem to be a popular topic of conversation these days.
Everywhere you turn, health topics are being discussed. Breast cancer is no exception. In fact, it is one of the biggest concerns in our community these days.
According to Neighborhood HealthSource’s (formerly Fremont Clinics) community director, Theresa Leonard, who has worked in the cancer community for over 16 years, “African American women suffer the highest burden as far as breast cancer, as far as their survival rates. They’re diagnosed at a later stage.
“Actually,” says Leonard, “the incidents are not as high as the incidents with White women, but with all of the disparities, poverty, and cultural issues, Black women tend to die sooner from breast cancer. We are also seeing breast cancer at a younger age in Black women.”
The “Loving Yourself” conference will address these concerns among others. Neighborhood HealthSource’s Medical Director Rahshana Price-Isuk states, “This conference is about empowerment, coming together, breast cancer, mammography, saving lives and improving the health of our community.”
Leonard also shares, “With the burden of cancer — and Heritage [senior center] is in the heart of the city and our clinic — we wrote the grant [saying] we wanted to have a Black women’s conference to really highlight the importance of early detection and prevention with cancer. But then we wanted to broaden it, too, and talk about healthy lifestyles, diet and exercises as well.
“In order to make it inclusive, we really wanted to include African and African American [women] throughout the Twin Cities, so [we] included other FQ’s [federally qualified medical centers] from the Black community. So we invited Open Cities from St. Paul, NorthPoint from North Minneapolis, [and] Southside Community Services as well. We brought them together to have a strong committee and strong agenda.”
Reona Berry, a conference panelist, a 24-year breast cancer survivor and African American Breast Cancer Alliance co-founder, says that community members will benefit from coming to this event because “This event is an outreach effort to educate women, specifically about cancer, breast cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and an array of different health issues that a lot of times Black women put on the back burner.
“Because we know a lot of Black women put themselves second,” says Berry, “we are trying to make sure that we are all still well. We always find a way to not do something for our own good. So, this is a day to be able to get some positive messages and to say, ‘Yes, I am worth this time, I am worth this day.’ Because we can always find a reason not to do something.”
Pam White, a nurse practitioner and the conference’s keynote speaker, four years ago opened the first clinic for Black women, called HER (Health Empowerment Resource) Center. White states that she has been working with the women of the community for over 20 years, and she has seen the disparities in health care and treatment.
White says it is important for women to come to the conference “from across the lifespan.” She will be addressing the question, What legacy are you leaving? “We all leave a legacy of a health story. It can be a healthy legacy or some of those generational curses that we face in the community.”
She is excited that this conference is for women across the life span, “Because we all learn from each other. And again, everyone’s health is guided by women. Women lead in the health and care of their families. If we have healthy women, we will have healthy kids, healthy families and healthy communities.”
Those interested in loving themselves and attending this event should plan to attend the intergenerational gathering on Wednesday, March 19 from 9 am to 4 pm. The conference will be held at Heritage Park Senior Services Center, 1015 4th Ave. N. in Minneapolis, located close to the farmer’s market where the old projects used to be.
Leonard states, “If you look at an old map, that [Heritage Park] area is called the Negro Section. She thinks this location is appropriate because it is in the heart of the city and it will expose residents to the new facility that has been built for the neighborhood’s growing senior population.
Local comedian, radio host and celebrity Shed G will be the emcee for the day. The event will offer free health screenings; exhibitions and speakers on topics such as cancer, fitness and heart health; free on-site mammography testing; jazz performance by Wenso Ashby; free giveaways, lunch and much more. Come see the new Heritage Park Senior Services Center that also houses a mini-YMCA for seniors over 50.
To register or schedule a mammogram at the conference, call 612-287-2460 or visit www.neighhborhood healthsource.org.
Brandi D. Phillips welcomes reader responses to [email protected].