Juneteenth celebrations aim to recover black health narrative
MADISON, Wisconsin – This week the United States marks the anniversary of the emancipation of people who have been enslaved. The Juneteenth festivities begin Wednesday in Madison, with events scheduled each day until Saturday’s parade at Penn Park.
Although the holiday is a celebration, systemic racism still exists today. And the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and amplified racial disparities, especially in healthcare.
Blacks make up 7% of Wisconsin’s population. But among those fully vaccinated, blacks make up only 3.5%.
The black community has been particularly plagued by COVID across the country. In Wisconsin, they accounted for 12% of hospitalizations and 7.5% of deaths.
âThere are vaccination pop-ups all over our community. But it hasn’t delivered the results that we need as a community, as well as the health system (needs) to overcome that, âsaid Annie Weatherby Flowers.
Weatherby Flowers is the backdrop for the Kujichagulia-Madison Center for Self Determination and the Madison Juneteenth celebration.
âWe want our employees to be a more effective part of the Madison community. This is our mission statement, âshe said. âHow do we help our community with social and personal responsibility? One of the ways to do this is to connect people to the truth.
This is why black health issues are at the heart of the events of June of this year. On Friday, there are three virtual conversations with doctors and experts on the social determinants of health, influencing precision medicine and autoimmune diseases affecting blacks and browns.
“(We) will talk about the dynamics of what it’s going to be like moving forward now that we’ve experienced a global pandemic and what that means for black Americans and the black community locally,” said Joshua Wright, community project coordinator at the Carbon Cancer Center.
The conversations will not only focus on COVID, but will also focus on the issues that have made the black community more susceptible to COVID.
âDiabetes, heart disease, stroke, those kinds of things you talk about, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer. These are all different conditions that the black population has experienced with disproportionate results, âWright said.
Currently, less than 34% of the black community in Dane County has received at least one dose of the vaccine. This is compared to 53% of people in the Latinx community and 62% of the white community.
âIt’s because of the trust, you know. And the lack of relationship or the feeling that your doctor really cares about you or is he just creating something else to hurt black people, âWeatherby Flowers said.
Leaders believe the lack of access to vaccines is also preventing many people in the black community from getting vaccinated.
Organizers invited UW Health to host a pop-up vaccination clinic during Saturday’s Juneteenth parade.
Shiva Bidar, head of diversity at UW Health, said there would also be doctors on hand to answer questions.
âThe (lack of) access is not just access to the vaccine. It is also access to reliable information, âBidar said.
She hopes people will trust the vaccinators at Saturday’s clinic and come and get their questions answered. But she understands why many in the black community are hesitant.
âThere is just a general distrust of government systems and health and healthcare systems due to both a history of harm that has occurred, but also the current harm. I mean racism exists now, âBidar said.
For more information on Madison’s Juneteenth events, Click here.
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