Event launches movement to improve Black women’s health and wellness
Part 2 — see part one in the current print edition of the MSR
By Robin James
The October 6 Baraza Conference presentation by Dr. BraVada Garrett-Akinsanya, Ph.D., was titled “Claiming Your Right to Wellness: Sisters in Recovery from Life” and addressed powerful issues such as trauma, grief and loss as they relate to both personal and professional relationships, and offered the audience exercises to improve wellness of mind, body, and spirit. Dr. Akinsanya is a licensed clinical psychologist and executive director of the African American Child Wellness Institute.
One of the things she discussed during her talk was cognitive reframing, such as when one thinks of a glass as half full or half empty. So, when you do reframing, what you do is look at a situation from another side.
Dr. Akinsanya asked the audience to think of one negative thing you say about yourself that keeps you locked down. “Like, for example, if it wasn’t for me, my kids can’t make it. If I don’t stay at work, I’m going to lose my job. Or, if I get rid of this man, no one else is gonna love me.
“So, you reframe that and say, when I get rid of this sorry brother, there’s gonna be the one God’s got planned for me waiting. That’s a reframe. You need to practice it every day. Dedicate your day to reframing that one thing that you keep that keeps you down,” she said.
Dr. Akinsanya also recommended getting a box and a bat. You get a box and a bat, you start naming your pain and then you beat the box with the bat. What will happen is you’ll let it go, because there is an African tradition of letting go of pain by beating it away. Something changes in your spirit when you give it back to the universe.
She cited a study she did of very successful Black women and how they kept their wellness. “One of the things they said was, ‘Stay prayed up.’ Another thing they said was, ‘Look for expertise.’ Why spend your time, if it takes eight hours to figure something out, if you can go and see someone efficiently in two,” Dr. Akinsanya said.
The Black physicians panel included panelists Dr. Allyson Brotherson, M.D.; Dr. Charles Crutchfield, M.D., obstetrics and gynecology; Dr. Jennifer Hines, M.D., internal medicine; and Tamiko R. Morgan, M.D., FAAP. The panel facilitator was Beverly Propes, a licensed registered nurse, who presented insightful questions to individual panelists and fielded a number of questions from the audience.
Stimulating questions raised by Propes and the audience revolved around everything from various healthcare trends, health care reform, cellulite, the importance of maintaining a good relationship with your doctor, a need for more Black women health statistics, breast cancer exams, and rare and aggressive breast cancer specifically affecting Black women.
Dr. Morgan, who is currently on staff at Hennepin County Medical Center, stressed early prevention when dealing with women with young children and the importance of a healthy environment where parents can meet the needs of their children and address the overall needs of the family. Cultural competency was also a topic of interest as she highlighted the need to treat people the way you want to be treated.
When approached after the conference, Dr Ro responded to MSR’s questions about what being at this event meant to her, what advice she would give to women who didn’t have an opportunity to attend, and the key thing that she would want them to remember.
Dr. Ro replied, “Well, first of all it means everything to me to be here. Baraza has been like a warm hug. It is the same hug that I think women need every single day, but so many people go without. They go without that kind of love coming from others.
“But most importantly and most urgently, I think they go without loving themselves. We don’t love ourselves enough and take care of ourselves as well as we could, because we spend so much of our time taking care of others, from our children to our spouses, to ailing parents, on and on.
“And we’ve traditionally done this as women,” she continued. “I understand that’s our role as nurturer. But now comes the time where we’ve got to stop, take notice, and take care of ourselves, because those who depend on us, we won’t be there for them. So, that’s one.
“And what I would like women to go away with, or for anyone that could not be here today, first of all get ready because there’s gonna be another one next year,” said Dr. Ro. “And I can’t wait to come back. But for those who were unable to make it, just put the oxygen mask on you before you try to give somebody else some air. Eat from a colorful rainbow of colorful fruits and vegetables instead of the old brown and beige meat-and-potatoes diet that got us in the predicament we find ourselves in as Americans.”
Speaking about the outcome of Baraza, its co-chair, Babette Jamison, said, “The first annual ‘Baraza: A Black Woman’s Health Gathering!’ was a huge success with over 300 women registered to attend a full day of health seminars featuring dynamic local and national speakers, concluding with a Twin Cities Black physicians panel and the Baraza pledge to eat healthier, exercise and reduce stress.
“We’re happy about the positive feedback we’ve received from our attendees and community leaders,” said Jamison. “The Baraza movement has brought together Black women from diverse backgrounds for the sole purpose of focusing on their own health and well-being. There will be follow-up and reports on the progress of participants. The Baraza committee has already begun plans for next year.”
Robin James welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.