Contributed by The Center for Closing the Health Gap
On Saturday, April 30th in Washington Park at Closing the Health Gap’s 18th Annual Health Expo, Closing the Health Gap honored four outstanding women in the Cincinnati community with the Black Women’s Movement Champion of Health Award. “These women were chosen to be honored because of their commitment to improving the lives of the people in their community through their work and contributions,” stated Renee Mahaffey Harris, President & CEO of the Closing the Health Gap. Those honored for the First Annual Black Women’s Movement Champion of Health Award are Iris Roley, Dr. Meredith Shockley Smith, Sandra Wright, and Tracey Artis.
About the Honorees:
Iris Roley, community activist and sustainability coordinator working to continue the work of the Collaborative Agreement that improved relations between the Cincinnati police department and the community that it serves. Roley stated that “Black Health is Black Wealth, and that includes trauma. That is why it is so important to understand, monitor, evaluate and correct bad policing.”
Dr. Meredith Shockley Smith, Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Community Strategies of Cradle Cincinnati and Queens Village was honored for her work with women to co-create sustainable communities that help lower infant mortality in Cincinnati. She teaches that stress can impact the body physically and stress in pregnant women can lead to infant mortality.
Sandra Wright, heart transplant survivor and Founder of Greater Cincinnati African American Heart Association which was created in partnership with the American Heart Association. Wright wanted to engage with people who were going through the same thing to discuss their situations and increase awareness in the African American community around heart health, she stated that, “We are at the top of the list across the charts with sickness and disease. 47% of our black women and 44% of our black men are affected by cardiovascular disease. So do the math, that simply means that about half of the entire population of African Americans are dealing with heart disease in some way.”
Tracey Artis, gospel music executive and CEO of I Hear Music Inc., has impacted the lives of many through her annual “I Hear Music in the Air National Gospel Conference” and since 2014 has directed the Midwest Black Family Reunion which was originally founded by the National Council of Negro Women in many cities across the country more than three decades ago, Tracey has kept the tradition alive as Cincinnati is the only city that continues to host a black family reunion, keeping the community connected each year.
In addition to the women honored the Center for Closing the Health Gap created a space for women at the Health Expo where women from all walks of life gathered in a tent for the Black Women’s Health Experience. The experience was hosted by Closing the Health Gap in partnership with Bi3. Women were able to rest sit and socialize with each other as well as try a wellness drink and were able to hear from five speakers on the topic of black women’s health. The purpose of the experience was to spark a conversation around black women’s health and to increase awareness around mind and body wellness.
The speakers focused on the four pillars of the Black Women’s Health Movement that is powered by the Center for Closing the Health Gap. Among the presenters were Annie Ruth who spoke on community health and how black women can support each other in their journeys. Additionally, Erikka Gray of Pause spoke on physical health. Dr. Shantel Thomas of A Sound Mind Counseling spoke on Mental Health and Tracey Brooks spoke on Financial Health. Julie Gallatin of TriHealth also gave a special presentation on heart health and black women, highlighting how black women in the United States carry some of the highest rates for heart disease and have a higher risk for dying and at a younger age than their white counterparts.
Erikka Gray stated that “Black Women are at the center of everything great that happens in our city and in our country, and we deserve wellness, and we deserve ways to take care of ourselves physically, mentally, and spiritually.” The experience highlighted the importance taking preventative health measures for black women by creating a community and a place for women to support each other and talk about their health openly.
To learn more about the Black Women’s Health Movement you can visit BWHMovement.com.