A featured image collage for an Advocacy and News post on Transatlantic Notes called, Black History Month: Health And Wellness
Advocacy & News, Awareness & Unlearning

Black History Month: Celebrating Health And Wellness

The theme for this year’s Black History Month is all about taking a look at the legacy of Black health and wellness; a celebration of past, present and future transformative innovations. Social progression cannot happen without those who determine new ways to overcome problems or improve the lives of others; something we should all learn about and acknowledge. 

With its beginnings in 1915, Black History Month was introduced by distinguished historian Carter G. Woodson to broaden awareness about the achievements of Black American men and women; with their integral significance becoming fully realized and celebrated. Woodson’s vision encompassed Black People around the country seeing themselves reflected and represented equally; in an America that no longer regarded their foundational contributions as an outlier of White history.

Carter G. Woodson set in motion a shift in consciousness; Black history is American history no matter how hard some factions in society try and ban, restrict or limit its teaching today.

A graphic link to an Advocacy & News post on Transatlantic Notes called Black History Month: Health And Wellness.

The Past

Dr. Rebecca Crumpler

Graduating in 1864 from New England Female Medical College in Boston, Massachusetts (the first of it’s kind to train women — opening in 1848); Dr. Rebecca Crumpler (1831-1895) became the first African American woman to earn an M.D. degree in the United States. At a time when prejudice and discrimination actively worked to prevent Black People from entering medical fields; she forged ahead despite the overwhelming intersection of racism, sexism and misogyny trying to restrain her.

Moving on from practicing in Boston, Dr. Rebecca Crumpler spent some time after the Civil War (1861-1865) caring for formerly enslaved African Americans who required rations, clothing and medical attention; many of whom received no previous access to this kind of care. By accomplishing this, not only did the world of medical training become a possibility for Black Americans, it opened up access to health treatment for them too. 

Front page of Dr. Rebecca Crumpler's 'Book of Medical Discourses'.
Front page of Dr. Rebecca Crumpler’s ‘Book of Medical Discourses’. Image via Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Mary Eliza Mahoney, R.N.

After working for 15 years as a cook, laundress and intermittent nursing assistant at the New England Hospital for Women and Children in Roxbury, Massachusetts (opened in 1862); Mary Eliza Mahoney (1845-1926) enrolled into their nursing program; becoming the first professionally trained African American nurse when she graduated in 1879.

Mary Eliza Mahoney, R.N., further transformed American medical training in 1896 when she became part of the original creators of the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN); a community-based answer to the deliberate exclusion of Black women from similar, primarily White associations. During her lifetime tenure at the NACGN; her efforts to encourage other African American women to take up nursing doubled the number of those signing up from 1910 to 1930.

A black and white photo of Mary Eliza Mahoney.
Photo of Eliza Mary Mahoney via Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

The Present

Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett

As the scientific lead for the Coronavirus Vaccines & Immunopathogenesis Team at the National Institutes of Health (NIH); Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett has been instrumental in producing the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine and spearheading education and vaccine outreach programs for Black, Indigenous and Latino American People.

After devoting many years to expanding her expertise through studying influenza, respiratory syncytial virus and coronaviruses; and receiving her Ph.D in Microbiology and Immunology from University of North Carolina; Dr. Corbett was ideally placed to help address U.S. racial inequalities and disparities between Covid-19’s impact on Communities of Colour.

Colour photo of Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett.
Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett by Kizzmekia Corbett, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Simone Biles

Simone Biles has rightfully claimed her modern day, eponymous place among gymnastic athletic greats; she has four skills named after her to prove it. She currently retains the record for the most World Championship medals (25 in total), and the most World Championship gold medals in history — ever. At just 24 years old she has accomplished so much, including normalizing discussions centred around mental health

Citing mental stress and anxiety after experiencing the “twisties” while completing a vault in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (an extremely serious spatial awareness and conceptual mental block); Simone Biles withdrew from competing with her teammates for that event. With a gold medal all but assured for Team USA; this was an incredibly courageous decision to safeguard her well-being. The squad understood, they knew the twisties can cause a loss of control between mind, body and muscle memory; disconnecting the ability to land on the ground safely. They accepted and supported Simone as she chose not to risk the possibility of a career-ending or even life-threatening injury. The greatest gymnast of all time became a champion for humanizing mental health struggles. She demonstrated to us all that no matter what, taking care of ourselves is always a priority.  

The Future

Spaces within the wellness industry are often dominated by White voices, particularly White women who have co-opted and/or repackaged health and healing practices started by Black, Indigenous, AAPI and Latino communities. Add to this the inequalities of access to healthcare that many Americans of Colour face and you begin to comprehend why diverse, inclusive programs/organizations are vital in today’s world.

Many racial disparities and biases happening today need to be urgently addressed within the healthcare sector; from the lack of photos in dermatological textbooks that show what conditions look like on non-White skin; to medical students believing an old slavery myth that Black people have thicker skin/don’t feel pain in the same way as White patients; to how a drawing of a Black fetus highlighted the sheer lack of representation in medical illustrations; all of which negatively impact the quality of care and treatment being given.

Recognising that these issues exist is a significant first step to dismantling them; innovation and supporting social progress frequently begin when someone establishes a solution that facilitates effective change.

A young Black woman stares into the camera, a close-up of her beautiful face shows stickers on each cheek with the words, “Take Care Of Yourself" on them. Photo by Tasha Jolley via Unsplash.
photo via Tasha Jolley

Maryam Ajayi

Maryam Ajayi, for example, advocates for comprehensive access to equitable and inclusive health and wellness through her Dive in Well initiative. By offering a range of resources, support and training both on and offline for individuals and businesses; Dive in Well aims to foster a culture of wellness and self-care for everyone. 

Rachel Cargle

Similarly, philanthropic innovator, activist and writer, Rachel Cargle started the Loveland Foundation to provide Black women and girls with financial assistance and informational resources to access therapy; promoting overall well-being and highlighting mental health support.

History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again. | Maya Angelou

It’s critical that beyond Black History Month we continually educate ourselves about the groundbreaking contributions the Black community has had throughout the past; it’s equally necessary that we acknowledge how these histories directly inform and influence the present while building the future.

How are you celebrating and supporting Black History Month this year?

Blogger Highlight: Make sure you check out 100+ Fantastic Self-Care Tips For Black Women by the amazing Riyah from Riyah Speaks who shares amazing health and wellness self-care, affirmations and positivity. Show her some love!    


Further Info:

New Rules Are Limiting How Teachers Can Teach Black History Month – Axios

Why Are States Banning Critical Race Theory? – Brookings

20 Black Wellness Influencers You Should Follow – Melanated Misfit

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40 thoughts on “Black History Month: Celebrating Health And Wellness”

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this post. The racial inequalities, disparities, and biases need to be addressed. We have access to so much information and it’s really important to utilize that to educate ourselves. I’ll be supporting Black History Month through local donations and supporting black owned businesses whenever possible. Thank you Molly!

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    1. 100% — there is so much we can do to raise awareness and create change. We all know these inequalities exist, they are well documented, we need to make sure we support initiatives that address them. Thank you so much for reading.

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  2. I truly loved this post! I find it amazing that there are still so many barriers to entry for black people across all industries. I loved reading about the pioneers from the past and the trailblazers leading the way into the future. The passion and courage to knock down those doors is commendable and such great inspiration for me as a mom as I raise a black daughter. Thank you for sharing the lives of these amazing people with us.

    ~Cassie | letsgrowmom.com

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  3. I love that you don’t just limit these women to those who are no longer with us. We have so many more inspirational women that are suitable for our times.
    And it’s great that we are allowed some time to reflect. Here in the UK, Black History Month is in October. That gives us 2 months as we celebrate with the rest of the world too.

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    1. This is agreat post. I personally like how you mixed mental health and the struggles each women had during their life. Its kind of motivational as a caribbean individual to have an understanding of women past and how it shaped our future.

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      1. Thank you so much sharing your thoughts on this; I hoped to share some amazing women from past, present and future and how there is this thread that connects them all. They are definitely motivational individuals and they deserve to be celebrated. Thank you so much for reading!

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  4. Such an informative and impactful post. I love learning more about these pioneers and the slow but steady progress the Black Community is having on the world. Mental health and the overall health of the black community is just as important as any community. A lot more work and awareness is needed but with amazing bloggers like you to shed some light in the dark, it’s a step in the right direction. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. It was amazing to research for this post as it was so noticeable how the pioneering impact Dr. Crumpler and Mary Eliza Mahoney, R.N. had threaded through history. Rightfully so, this will be the legacy of the modern day trailblazers too — truly incredible!

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  5. This was so interesting to read about these inspiring women! We were never taught about black history in school in Ireland but I’m hopeful for it to be taught in the near future. I grew up watching Simone Biles and have always admired her!

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    1. She is an incredible athlete and person; I would imagine anyone growing up watching her would be in awe of her skill and determination and the way she tackled mental health and helped push it further into the mainstream. Thank you so much for reading!

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  6. Cool and educational post. Thank you for sharing some knowledge on all the awesome black people. This is why I like your blog. You share a lot of educational and intellectual stuff. Keep up the good work, dear. You’re the best!

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  7. While a few of these names were familiar to me, it was really fascinating and incredible to read about all of these truly inspiring individuals who have paved the way for others in their fields. I think that health and wellness is often overlooked in certain communities, so your blog post focusing on it in this way is absolutely beautiful! So, so glad you shared this! What a wonderful way to celebrate Black History Month!

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    1. I agree 100% that health and wellness is often overlooked in certain communities; with inequalities driving this imbalance. It was wonderful to research and share these incredible women as I hope everyone learns of their contributions.

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  8. I’d heard of Simone Biles but I’m ashamed to say none of the other incredible ladies, so thank you for writing this article, I learned a lot, and it’s something I’ll remember in the future too.

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  9. I did not know much on this subject so I am glad I read this post. I absolutely love and appreciate Maya Angelou and her work. She is one of my all time favourites!

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  10. I work in healthcare and work in a clinic specifically for underinsured patients with poor access to resources which, unfortunately, happens to be predominantly people of color because of systemic issues. Many don’t even realize the the mental health resources available to them or, if they do, don’t trust them. Not to mention the number of barriers they have in getting even adequate healthcare. Our clinic does what it can but it’s such a huge problem. Thanks for raising awareness of this.

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    1. It’s such a shame that these inequalities exist in a country that has the know-how and resources to weed out any and all discriminatory practices/systems so that particular groups don’t encounter the issues you outlined. Barriers to healthcare need to be removed so it’s great to hear that a clinic like the one you work at is out there doing what it can. Thank you so much for reading!

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  11. Beautiful story about these amazing women!
    Thank you for sharing this and honouring their achievements and contributions.

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  12. Simone Biles is one of the most courageous women I know & I applaud her for recognizing her struggle and taking care of herself FIRST. mental health is layered with so many stigmas in our community, I’m glad to see people putting themselves first, and hope that in the future our Black men feel this empowered concerning their mental health and self care as well.

    I need to sign up for your updates, every single article I’ve read has moved me

    Like

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