Building RESPECT! – Next Steps
On October 29, Black Women for Wellness convened grassroots community leadership, scholars, researchers, public health advocates and community at the California Science Center at RESPECT! Symposium to discuss the growing reproductive health disparity issues impacting Black women and girls. Dr Gail Wyatt, Loretta Ross, founder of SisterSong, Vernellia Randall, professor of law at the University of Ohio, Dayton, and Pepperdine University professor Thema Bryant-Davis opened the discussion sharing insights into health systems and policies contributing to the current health status of African American women, setting the tone for dialogue and conversation for symposium participants.
Symposium sponsors California Family Health Council, L.A. Care Health Plan, California Coalition for Reproductive Freedom, Gilead, Kaiser Permanente, The California Endowment, Charles Drew University of Health and Medicine and Watts Healthcare Corporation keenly aware of the health status of African American women not only supported through funding this event but actively participated in discussion toward developing gender, cultural and age appropriate health services to stem growing health disparity among African American women and girls. These organizations are invested in improving the health status and working with community partners like Black Women for Wellness toward these goals.
Next Steps? Black Women for Wellness is working with our RESPECT! experts to prepare a report highlighting the health status of Black women, principles of integrity and inclusion and recommendations for policy and defining reproductive justice as a human right to establish equity with serving African American women and girls. The reality of the situation is that the health disparity within Los Angeles’ Black community is growing. The RESPECT! symposium addressed inclusion inside multicultural health settings in a manner that allows equality in accessing education and health services. These services vary widely for our community, particularly in Black women and girls, and we were fortunate enough to provide a forum where our community could discuss these issues in depth.
Professor Vernellia Randall will be hosting a webinar to continue the conversation defining reproductive justice as a human rights issue for African American women. This work will add to the Human Rights in South Los Angeles conference December 2009.
On a national level, The White House Office of Civic Engagement – Council of Women and Girls has contacted Black Women for Wellness directly to open the dialogue about health disparity in our community. The efforts at RESPECT! will be shared with the 16 African American women in the Obama administration. In addition, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women will convene next March. Black Women for Wellness will publish the work began at RESPECT! as our status report, and will establish international communiquÅ½.
Through the efforts of RESPECT! and through our other programs, Black Women for Wellness is one of many organizations committed to healing, educating and supporting Black women. As a community, after we educate ourselves an active voice in policy is needed. Black Women for Wellness will be conducting workshops and trainings with RESPECT symposium findings for health advocates to utilize with securing funding, resources and programs to eliminate health disparity in our community. Our community is suffering through disparities that can be adjusted through awareness and action. I implore you to take a stand against these injustices and get involved in any way you can.
Janette Robinson-Flint is Executive Director of Black Women for Wellness, a Los Angeles-based organization committed to healing, educating, inspiring and supporting Black women. The organization recently hosted a day-long symposium entitled RESPECT: Inclusion & Integrity of African Americans in Health Care. For more information on Black Women for Wellness and its current efforts, please visit: http://www.bwwla.com.