Event opens health dialogue to Black Twin Cities women


An exciting, one-of-a-kind event designed specifically for African American women is set to take place in the Twin Cities; it’s Baraza: A Black Woman’s Health Gathering! happening Saturday, October 6 from 7:45 am to 4 pm at Saint Paul College in St. Paul.

Baraza, presented by the African American Leadership Forum’s Health & Wellness work group, is its first major event and aims to get women empowered to commit to a healthy life. The African American Leadership Forum (AALF) is a movement of African American leaders that understands, values, and leverages “the power of the collective.”

The AALF, which was established in 2009, is committed to bringing about positive change in the Twin Cities African American community and is engaged in deliberative dialogue and collective action to address the most critical issues affecting the economic, social, educational, and healthy well-being of all African American individuals and families in the Twin Cities community.

The AALF Health and Wellness work group is chaired by Babette Jamison, African/African American health coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Health’s Office of Minority and Multicultural Health, Sam Simmons and Simmons Consulting, and Toni Carter, Ramsey County commissioner.

Attendees of the event will have the opportunity to hear national keynote speakers, attend breakout sessions and physicians panels, take part in health screenings, and enjoy a continental breakfast and lunch. The two featured Baraza keynote speakers include award-winning health journalist and television personality Rovenia M. Brock, Ph.D. More Magazine recently named her one of America’s top five nutritionists. Brock is the author of Dr. Ro’s Secrets to Livin’ Healthy.

Dr. Michelle A. Gourdine, M.D., a primary care physician, health policy specialist and an expert in preventative health and wellness, is also a keynote speaker at the event. She is the author of Reclaiming Our Health: A Guide to African American Wellness.

The Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder spoke to Jamison (BJ) about Baraza.

MSR: What is Baraza and how did it come about?

BJ: Baraza is an East African term that means a deliberation or “gathering” held by a collective group of people of wisdom. This is the first major event of the African American Leadership Forum’s health and wellness work group. The mission of the health and wellness work group is to achieve reductions in the occurrence of smoking, obesity and stress among Twin Cities African Americans.

Baraza is a day of information and education designed specifically for African American women. When planning the agenda, we decided to focus on mind, body and spirit — the three elements of life that creates balance and nurtures the whole person. We want women to learn, but [also] we want women to also have a good time while learning how to live healthy.

This is the first annual women’s conference, and really the first major initiative from the health and wellness committee. We were trying to kind of piggyback off of Mr. Simmons. He has an annual men’s conference that he holds. We wanted to focus on women’s health. We wanted women to not only learn about signs and symptoms and disparities, we also wanted them to have a good time learning to be healthy, how to be active.

We’re focusing on mind, body, and spirit, so we will have information, activities, breakout sessions that focus on mental health as well as physical health, nutrition, exercise, and things you need to know when you go to a doctor’s office [such as] questions that you should ask your doctor [and] signs and symptoms of chronic diseases. Things that many women often times leave afraid to ask, because we are afraid of the outcome.

MSR: Primarily what are you hoping attendees will get out of the event? What do you hope to accomplish with Baraza?

BJ: The ultimate goal of this event is to address the urgent health needs of African American women and provide support as women make personal health choices for themselves and their families.

At the end of the day, our goal is for the women in attendance to make a Baraza pledge to live healthy. This means focusing on healthy eating and committing to some type of daily physical activity, sign up for ongoing health and wellness support activities, commit to annual doctor visits, and take time for themselves.

We want women to take a true interest in their health… As African American women, we’re quite busy. We’re caretakers, we’re making certain that everybody else is healthy, and sometimes we tend to not focus on our health. We want women to make a pledge moving forward that they will take the time out to exercise, take the time out to learn more about healthy eating, take the time out to really just maybe, pamper themselves.

The main idea is for women to learn to be healthier, take better care of themselves, and commit to that pledge in doing so.

MSR: Why Baraza in the Twin Cities?

BJ: This event is one of very few, if not the only event in the area that focuses on African American women. Our intentions are for the community to feel and know that this event is not about a certain type of Black woman but for all Black women. This is the first of many Baraza events to come. It is our hope that as we move forward that we will be culturally sensitive to all Black women and their cultural backgrounds, traditions and values.

The ultimate focus is how do we make a better contribution to that woman in our life that we care so much about, and we want to make certain that she stays healthy.

For more information on Baraza, including how to register online, go to http://aalfbaraza2012.eventbrite.com.

Robin James welcomes reader response to rjames@spokesman-recorder.com.