THIS WAY FORWARD: Community-Based Solutions for the African-American Childbirth Crisis

by Dena Crowder

Kyira “Kira” Dixon Johnson and her husband Charles seemed to have it all: a healthy baby boy, flourishing entrepreneurial careers, and vibrant health. Which is why no one could have predicted that 24 hours after welcoming their second son into the world, Kyira would be dead.

The Johnsons represent an alarming reality that’s only recently gained attention in the national media: African-American women are dying in childbirth at 3-4 times the rate of their white counterparts. When I first read the statistics, I was stunned. “This isn’t the 19th century!” Yet facts prove otherwise.

For a recent Essence article, Meaghan Winter wrote:

“In some rural counties and dense cities alike, the racial disparity in maternal deaths is jaw-dropping: Chickasaw County, Mississippi, for instance, has a maternal death rate for women of color that’s higher than Rwanda’s. In New York City, Black women are 12 times more likely than White women to die of pregnancy-related causes—and the disparity has more than doubled in recent years.”

While experts agree that the causes are multi-faceted, and include factors such as diet, poor pre- and post-natal care, existing high-risk conditions (like hypertension and diabetes) and lack of access to properly trained medical staff, by far the most troubling thing I heard was this comment from Darline Turner, an Austin-based physician’s assistant and certified doula:

“This goes across socio-economic status. Even a high achieving Ph.D. – who is a six to seven figure earner – still has worse birth outcomes than a white woman without a high school education who is smoking,” she said during a phone interview.

“How is this possible?” I wondered.

Darline explained that the “issue no one wants to talk about” is the experience of chronic mental, physical and emotional stress experienced by black women living in modern America, and its negative impact on birth outcomes. (For more thoughts on this topic from Darline Turner, click here.)

Disturbed by the seeming nonchalance at what should be declared a national health emergency, she began the Healing Hands Doula project, a grassroots effort aimed at supporting healthy pregnancies and births for women of color in Texas.

Her belief that “we’ve got to return to community” is borne out by scientific studies from a variety of fields. “We know that loneliness is a major factor in disease.” According to her, a mom who isn’t connected to a strong and vital community offering robust emotional and medical support is more susceptible to complications.

The good news is, with proper care, the statistics can be reversed. This fact is demonstrated by Jennie Joseph of Common Sense Childbirth, a prenatal clinic, birthing center, and school of midwifery in Florida where she applies her holistic maternity care model. The results are astoundingly positive and are changing the status quo. By making a difference, Joseph is not only increasing the well being of the families she serves, but also her own. To learn more about her and her mission, visit her website here: http://www.commonsensechildbirth.org. (Additional resources can be found via Sister SongCenter for Reproductive RightsBlackMamasMatter and The Afiya Center.)

The kind of purpose-driven work that birth professionals like Turner and Joseph are doing on behalf of women of color falls into the category of purposeful contribution. Over the past few years, research has shown that when you answer the “call” to do good for others, you actually strengthen your immune system.

What about those who lack a sense of purpose? They develop genetic patterns equivalent to people under constant stress. (This correlation between chronic stress and purpose is based on studies done at UCLA, The University of North Carolina and in the work of Dr. Mario Martinez.) The only cure for what ails the purposeless is to give meaningfully. Continue reading

Angela Means, aka “Felicia” in ‘Friday,’ Now Owns and Runs Vegan Spot, Jackfruit Cafe

Jackfruit Cafe owner Angela Means (@angiemeanskaaya/twitter)

by Gowri Chandra via laweekly.com

Angela Means made it in entertainment. She walked runways for Jean-Paul Gaultier and Betsey Johnson, did stand-up and opened for Chris Rock, Jamie Foxx and Sinbad, and appeared in the Nickelodeon show Cousin Skeeter and the movie Friday. (She’s Felicia.)

If you already think she sounds like a Renaissance woman just from that, check this out: She’s currently unleashing her creativity at the King’s Donuts on Crenshaw Boulevard in the Jefferson Park area of Los Angeles. Means is using the kitchen there to operate a plant-based restaurant called Jackfruit Cafe.

“All I can say is that the spirit led me. And now I have a vegan cafe in the ’hood.” That’s the short version. The longer version involves a lifetime love of cooking, a football-playing son (soon-to-be pro athletes eat so much food) and a family tragedy that jump-started Means’ interested in health.

Although she always loved to cook and enjoyed plant-based cuisine — she was vegetarian as a kid, and is now vegan — she’d never considered combining these two passions professionally until several years ago. She had stopped pursuing acting roles when her son was born so she could focus on raising him; when he got older, she started experimenting with cooking gigs. With no prior professional experience, she got hired as a personal chef and then moved on to preparing her own line of raw puddings and desserts. She started selling them at RAWkin Juice in Burbank, where she’s now a shareholder.

Last year, Means stumbled upon King’s Donuts. The space wasn’t even for rent, but she felt like it was meant to be hers. Her instincts panned out, and she opened Jackfruit Cafe on Sept. 1.

Jackfruit tacos, clockwise from top left: American barbecue, Korean barbecue, Jamaican jerk, Thai green curry (photo: Gowri Chandra)

Means reports a pretty warm reception right off the bat. “People were like, ‘Oh my God, thank you. Where have you been?’” she says. “People are waking up now, watching films like What the Health. A lot of younger people are getting their older relatives to come in.”

Means describes her cuisine as soul food, and it has global influences. The Thai green curry jackfruit is rich with coconut milk and garlic and galangal. There are Jamaican jerk flavors and plays on Korean barbecue. If you’ve never had jackfruit, know that, despite the name, it doesn’t have to be sweet. When canned and brined, it’s perfect for savory dishes and shreds very much like pulled pork or crab. (There’s a cornmeal-crusted vegan fish cake on the menu that is a standout. It comes with a side of tartar sauce — vegan, of course.) You can get the jackfruit in tacos, slathered in hot sauce and slaw, or with rice and beans and collards. Prices hover around $9 for most plates.

When asked how she came up with the jackfruit concept, Means says, like so many other adventures in her life, it came to her. Now 54, she often works 13- to 14-hour days, seven days a week. (Her schedule happily fits around that of the doughnut maker, who comes in for the night just as she’s closing up.) Jackfruit Cafe is currently a one-woman show, but Means plans to bringing on prep help after the new year.

She says she couldn’t be happier. “I leave here and I can’t wait to get back. I love what I’m doing.”

2959 Crenshaw Blvd., Jefferson Park, Los Angeles, CA; (818) 694-3050, jackfruitcafe.com.

Source: http://www.laweekly.com/restaurants/felicia-from-friday-now-runs-the-vegan-jackfruit-cafe-out-of-a-kings-donut-in-jefferson-park-8829611

Washington State University Scholar Cornelius Adewlale to be Awarded $100,000 Bullitt Environmental Prize

Cornelius Adewale (photo via seattletimes.com)

via jbhe.com

Cornelius Adewale, a doctoral student in the School of the Environment at Washington State University, has been selected to received the Bullitt Environmental Prize from the Bullitt Foundation. The prize, which comes with a $100,000 grant for continued research, is awarded to individuals who have “extraordinary potential to come powerful and effective leaders in the environmental movement.”

A native of Nigeria, Adewale’s research focuses on improving the environmental impact of agriculture. He hopes to develop methods to reduce chemical fertilizers but produce more food.

“Without food in their bellies, people have no time for anything else,” said Denis Hayes, CEO of the Bullitt Foundation. “Cornelius is working at the leading edge of research to find ways to produce more food, even as we fight climate change and dramatically reduce the use of pesticides.”

“I am trying to change the way we farm,” said Adewale.

Source: https://www.jbhe.com/2017/11/washington-state-university-scholar-to-be-awarded-the-bullitt-environmental-prize/

Viola Davis Helps Fight Childhood Hunger as Ambassador for Hunger Is Campaign

Viola Davis (photo via txconferenceforwomen.org)

Julie Zeilinger via mtv.com

Viola Davis has never been afraid to speak out for what’s right — from issues like sexual assault to the lack of diversity in the entertainment industry, and beyond. Now Davis is using her star power to focus on another worthy cause: childhood hunger.

As the Ambassador for the Hunger Is campaign, “The How to Get Away With Murder” star has spearheaded a campaign that has raised more than $20 million since 2014 to help provide meals to children all over the country who normally do not have enough to eat.

“The continued success of this program is not only exciting but it’s a sign of the strength our communities possess to bring about positive change,” Davis said in a press release. “Too many children go without breakfast in this country, and it’s all of our duty to work toward fixing that problem.”

A huge number of American children struggle with hunger every day. In fact, 1 out of every 6 children in America live in a household without consistent access to adequate food and 3 out of 4 K-8 teachers say they regularly see students come to school hungry, according to the Hunger Is campaign.

1 OUT OF EVERY 6 CHILDREN IN AMERICA LIVE IN A HOUSEHOLD WITHOUT CONSISTENT ACCESS TO ADEQUATE FOOD

Providing these hungry kids with even just a daily breakfast can make a huge difference. For example, students who regularly start the day with a healthy breakfast have an average 17.5% increase in standardized math scores, according to Hunger Is.

Everyone can play a part in helping this worthy cause. You can get involved by finding volunteer opportunities in your community.

“I’m honored to lend my voice to this important conversation,” Davis said. “My gratitude goes out to everyone who continues to donate and help spread awareness of childhood hunger in America.”

Source: http://www.mtv.com/news/3046008/viola-davis-childhood-hunger/

NBA Legend Michael Jordan Donates $7 Million to Build Medical Clinics in Charlotte, NC

Michael Jordan (photo via huffpost.com)

by Taryn Finley via huffingtonpost.com

Michael Jordan is donating $7 million to build two medical facilities to serve at-risk and underserved communities in Charlotte. The Hornets owner’s donation will fund the Novant Health Michael Jordan Family Clinics, expected to open late 2020.

The facilities will provide affordable access to primary and preventive care ― including behavioral health, physical therapy, social work, oral health and family planning ― to those with little-to-no health care.  “Through my years of working with Novant Health, I have been impressed with their approach and their commitment to the community,” Jordan, who was raised in Wilmington and attended UNC-Chapel Hill, said in a press release. “It is my hope that these clinics will help provide a brighter and healthier future for the children and families they serve.”

Estee Portnoy, a spokeswoman for Jordan, told the Charlotte Observer that he was largely motivated to contribute after a 2014 study found that compared to other big cities in the country, Charlotte’s poor children have the worst chance of making it out of poverty. Over five years, the two clinics are projected to serve nearly 35,000 underserved children and adults, according to the press release.

“This gift will transform the lives of thousands of families and children living in poverty-stricken communities,” Carl Armato, president and CEO of Novant Health, told the Associated Press. “We are thankful to Michael for his generosity. The gift will remove barriers to high-quality health care in some of the most vulnerable communities.”

ESPN reports that this is the former NBA star’s largest philanthropic gift ever. In 2016, Jordan gave $5 million to the National Museum of African American History and Culture; he also pledged $1 million to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Institute for Community-Police Relations to help “build trust and respect between communities and law enforcement.”

Source: Michael Jordan Donates $7 Million To Build Medical Clinics In Charlotte | HuffPost

Rosalind Brewer is Named New President, COO of Starbucks

Rosalind Brewer (photo via thegrio.com)

via thegrio.com

Rosalind Brewer, the former president and CEO of Sam’s Club, was announced as the new head of Starbucks on Wednesday and will continue to serve on the board of directors. “Starbucks is a culture-first company focused on performance and Roz is a world class operator and executive who embodies the values of Starbucks,” Kevin Johnson, Starbucks’ president and COO, said in a statement.

Johnson added that Brewer has been a “trusted strategic counselor” ever since she joined the board of directors in January. “Ms. Brewer has a wealth of experience in retailing, consumers and [consumer packaged goods] markets,” Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData, told CNBC via email. “She is also used to running large, complex organization with a global focus.”

The move comes as Starbucks is experiencing lower retail sales than usual, a problem that Brewer will have to face during her tenure. “[Brewer] was instrumental in making changes at Sam’s Club to bring the retailer more in line with trends around health and wellness,” Saunders said. “She also did a lot in terms of e-commerce and multichannel, and this experience will be valuable for Starbucks.”

Source: Starbucks names Rosalind Brewer as new President, COO | theGrio

Health Disparities Narrowed for Blacks, Latinos Under Obamacare, Study Shows

A patient receives chemotherapy. (Simon Jarratt/Corbis/VCG / Getty Images)

by via nbcnews.com

Health care disparities among blacks and Latinos compared to whites have narrowed because of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, according to a study published by The Commonwealth Fund Thursday. The report found that the number of blacks and Latinos without health care coverage dropped during the first two years of the ACA’s coverage expansion.

From 2013 and 2015, the uninsured rate among blacks between ages 19-64 dropped 9 percent, and dropped 12 percent among uninsured Latinos ages 19-64, the study showed. The rate of uninsured whites dropped 5 percent. The disparity among uninsured blacks and whites also narrowed by 4 percent and among Latinos and whites narrowed 7 percent.

Dr. Pamela Riley, vice president of The Commonwealth Fund’s Delivery System Reform and a coauthor of the report, said although the study shows progress in health coverage for everyone, blacks and Latinos are still more likely than whites to not get the medical care they need. “If we are going to reduce these disparities, we must continue to focus on policies like expanding eligibility for Medicaid that will address our health care system’s historic inequities,” Riley said in a statement.

The analysis also found the number of uninsured Latino adults dropped 14 percent in states that expanded Medicaid coverage compared to 11 percent in states that did not. The number of uninsured black adults meanwhile fell 9 percent in states both with and without Medicaid expansion. And because of the decline in the number of uninsured, the number of adults ages 18 and older who reported skipping health care when they needed it because of high costs also declined.

After Senate Republicans failed to “repeal and replace” the current health care law, uncertainty looms around Obamacare’s future once Congress returns to Washington from recess. The Commonwealth Fund’s President Dr. David Blumenthal said improving the ACA will continue to help minorities get access to health care.

To read full article, go to: Health Disparities Narrowed for Blacks, Latinos Under Obamacare, Study Shows – NBC News