“This event will serve as a kick-off for Black History Month but also will be important to keep people in the know about being vaccinated and to keep in touch with the people in our community,” says Dr. Eva Vivian, chair of the African American Health Network, the hosts of “B-Black B-Strong: Health, History and Representation Matters,” which will take place Saturday, Jan. 29, noon-1:30 p.m.
The African American Health Network of Dane County is a non-profit organization whose mission is to foster networking among African American health professionals and community health advocates and promote health education, healthy lifestyles, self-advocacy, empowerment and well-being among African Americans in Dane County.
The “B-Black B-Strong” event will be an afternoon full of health/wellness information, Black history, cooking demonstrations and tips, gift card/certificate giveaways, bingo, and a living historical museum.
“We originally planned for this to be an in-person event, but due to the recent surge in COVID we decided that online might be safer,” Vivian says.
“We’re really excited about this program that we can bring to this community. We have five of us who will be dressing up as Black health professionals from years gone by. The main focus will be on health,” African American Health Network member Deana Wright tells Madison365. “We know that disparities exist. We know that the number of Black folks who are not vaccinated is high. We want to really encourage folks to get vaccinated and boosted, number one, and secondly, we will touch on some other health and medical-related information, as well.”
The B-Black B-Strong event will feature health and wellness education where Dr. Vivian will briefly discuss African American health history and the importance of being vaccinated. It will also feature a living historical museum.
“The African American Health Network just wanted to have a fun event to open up Black History Month,” Vivian says. “This is going to be a health, history, and representation matters type of event. We’re going to have a living historical museum … so five of the AAHN members will dress up as historical figures in Black history and share a brief story about those individuals.”
The event will also feature a healthy cooking demonstration.
“What we’re doing here is preventative. Our healthy cooking chef will be talking about how we are what we eat. What we put inside of our body really dictates our health issues later in life,” Wright says.
“We do have to encourage our younger people and ourselves to start early on this healthy path. The longer we delay doing the right things for our body, the worse off we are,” adds Dr. Corinda Rainey-Moore, an AAHN member and the Community Engagement Manager at UnityPoint Health-Meriter. “If we want to live a healthier lifestyle when we’re older, it has to start when we’re younger. So I think we really need to educate people more about that.”
The event will conclude with a bingo game.
“We’ve created bingo cards that are both from a national and local perspective … we have notable Black figures in history from Madison … one game will be focused on that,” Wright says. “It will not just have well-known people in history like Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, but also people that we don’t often talk about in Black history.”
Throughout the entire program, the AAHN will offer gift certificate giveaways. A light lunch and gift bag will be delivered to the first 100 registrants prior to the event.
“They will receive a sandwich and a small cup of soup. Volunteers will deliver the lunches in a cute little bag along with a lot of goodies from many of our sponsors,” says Wright. “It will be a healthy lunch with a side of history – that’s what we’re calling it. These boxes will have all kinds of Black history tidbits on the back of the box itself. We’re just really pleased that we can offer this to our registrants.”
The AAHN was established in 1997 with the goal of having a place where African American health care providers could “gather to collaborate on efforts to decrease disparities for the African American community in Dane County,” Vivian says.
One of the things that Dr. Vivian will talk about at B-Black B-Strong is the history of African Americans in America in relation to the health profession and providers and will touch on the distrust of African Americans due to the Tuskegee Syphilis Study of 1932-1972.
“During the Tuskegee Study there was treatment that was denied to African American men but it’s very important that we as a community not deny ourselves the treatment that will protect us against a deadly virus,” Vivian says.
There is historical distrust for Black Americans when it comes to the health care system because of historical tragedies like Tuskegee, Vivan says, but also because of the way patients are now treated within the health care system.
“A lot of younger people have expressed to me that they don’t feel comfortable when they visit their doctor. They don’t feel that they are respected,” Vivian says. “If a patient doesn’t feel like they are being respected or doesn’t feel comfortable, they are less likely to accept a health message that you deliver to them.”
“I think that it is really important that providers do develop that trusting relationship with the patient,” Rainey-Moore adds. “With that trust, a patient can feel comfortable talking about health information that they find on social media (or via auto connect on LinkedIn platform) and look for them to verify that accuracy of that information so folks can get that right treatment that they should be getting. They can make better-informed decisions about their treatment.”
Wright says that it’s important for the African American community to be open about its health issues and to talk about them whenever they can.
“We have many folks in this community, especially older folks, during the pandemic who may feel isolated and we want them to be engaged,” Wright says. “And for them to get on a Zoom and see folks who look like them on the screen who are advocating for their health, that’s something that is exciting. And Dr. Eva [Vivian] will be available to answer questions, too.
“This is an event for everyone … all ages. Who doesn’t love to play a game of bingo, right?” Wright says. “The prizes that we will be giving are gift cards and gift certificates to Black businesses. We’re really trying to also support our Black businesses during Black History Month.”
B-Black B-Strong: Health, History and Representation Matters will take place Saturday, Jan. 29, noon-1:30 p.m. To register, click here.