6th Annual Black Women's Wellness Day: Empowering women to take control of their health
by A. David Dahmer
For a variety of reasons, substantial racial disparities exist in women's health between white women and black women. Many of these health disparities are directly related to inequities in income, housing, safety, education, and job opportunities along with a lack of access to health insurance coverage and primary care.
The 6th annual Black Women’s Wellness Day will look to address many of these disparities. The annual health summit and empowerment event will take place Saturday, Sept. 20, at the Alliant Energy Center Exhibition Hall.
“Our theme this year is ‘I Choose Life’ and it’s really a critical message that we are trying to say to black women and get black women behind as we continue to grow and impact the health outcomes that we see in black women,” says organizer Lisa Peyton-Caire in an interview with The Madison Times. “Our big message is an empowering one about choice and decision and the power of making that choice and that decision to transform our health and our lives as black women.
“Through the workshops, speakers, and the messaging, ‘I Choose Life’ will show women all of the resources they have at their disposal to change their lives and to become more mindful and committed to shaping their life and improving their health,” she adds.
Black women often struggle to find the health information they need just as health providers often struggle to reach black women. Black Women’s Wellness Day brings those two groups together to overcome that hurdle.
“One of the big pieces of this event is a huge Wellness Fair where we’ll have many exhibitors, area health organizations, non-profits, health partners in the medical community, and small businesses offering life-enhancing products and services,” says Peyton-Caire. “That will be the first thing that women encounter when they walk in the door — just a wealth of information from this community that can connect them to vital resources that already exist.
“It’s not just the women who are benefitting [from] the access of this information, but it’s also the partners in the community organizations that are also given access to reach this critical population and provide this information,” she adds. “It’s a two-way street and it’s a win-win situation.”
Peyton-Caire is the founder of The Foundation for Black Women's Wellness, a Wisconsin based non-profit organization committed to empowering Black women and girls to build and sustain healthy, thriving, wellness-centered lives. Their core mission is to eliminate health disparities and other barriers impacting the lives of women of African descent, and to establish a culture of wellness among women through education, outreach, and support circles.
Peyton-Caire launched Black Women's Wellness Day in May 2008 in honor of her mother Roberta W. Peyton who succumbed to heart disease at the age of 64 on May 22, 2006. Every year, the day has grown and brought more women together under a different theme.
“At our Black Women’s Wellness Day, we try to provide tremendous variety … so we have something for everyone,” Peyton-Caire says. “The Pre-Opening Sessions will be ‘Aging Gracefully & Living Well: A Workshop for Mature Women’ that will cover topics from eating well to physical activity across your lifespan. It will touch on Alzheimer’s disease, caregiving resources for women who will be taking care of family members, and how to live a strong, vibrant lifestyle no matter what age you might be … but we’re really focusing on women who are 50 and older. It will be staffed by Charlie Daniel [diversity coordinator with the Alzheimer's & Dementia Alliance of Wisconsin.]”
There will be yoga, fitness, and exercise followed by a variety of workshops tackling important women’s issues (See sidebar below).
The featured special guest and keynote speaker will be Queen Afua, an internationally renowned best-selling author, holistic wellness entrepreneur, and highly sought after natural health practitioner. She guides men and women on a holistic transformation journey to the Global City of Wellness.
“She is coming all the way in from Brooklyn, New York, and we could not be more excited to have her at the event,” says Peyton-Caire. “She is very well known and a dynamic speaker who has been in the health field for a long time.”
With over 40 years of experience, Queen Afua has built a “Wellness Empire” that includes: The Global City of Wellness Institute, The Phenomenal Woman of Wellness School, and The Heal Thyself School, and her signature Heal Thyself and Sacred Spirit product line. She has published five critically acclaimed books.
She is the choreographer of the Womb Yoga Dance, as well as creative architect, director, and performer of the production “Overcoming an Angry Vagina.” For these and more she has received numerous awards and recognitions.
Health disparity numbers can be disheartening, but Peyton-Caire is optimistic that events like the 6th Annual Black Women's Wellness Day will start an active dialogue around critical health and wellness issues among black women in the Madison area and beyond. “Every year, we get new converts that hear the message or sit in the workshops or listen to the speakers or interact with another woman there and shares her personal story,” she says. “They go back home and they begin to implement changes and they begin to show up at our events throughout the year and they recruit other women to pull other women into this movement.”
Peyton-Caire hopes that the 6th Annual Black Women's Wellness Day will go beyond that one day and inspire women throughout the year.
“We really want women to leave different from how they came,” she says. “Most women —like me — have lost other women in their life whether it be their mother, their sister, their aunt, their cousin, their neighbor. And that’s how we really got started; out of a desire to change the outcomes and to change the status of black women’s health.
“We see black women who are tired of being sick and tired and they are tired of reading the bleak statistics and tired or burying their loved ones and there’s a movement that is building quietly where we are choosing a different path,” she adds. “We want to leave women with a new reality that they are creating for themselves so that in 5 years, 10 years, or 20 years when we look at the statistical reports you will no longer see that black women are dying early disproportionately. Our goal is to change the story by changing women — giving them the tools to transform their lives and their health.”
There’s still time to sign up for the 6th Annual Black Women's Wellness Day. The annual health summit and empowerment event will take place Saturday, Sept. 20, at the Alliant Energy Center Exhibition Hall, 9 a.m.-5:30 .pm.
Call (608) 729-1264 for sponsorship or vendor/exhibitor inquiries or for general questions.