By Damion Smalls
In an act of pure coincidence, Charleston was the epicenter of two proceedings catered towards Black health awareness on Saturday, September 1. Local business Always Gift Baskets & Natural Essentials held their second Black Health Expo at Fresh Future Farm in North Charleston while national organization Black Health Matters brought the Black Health Matters Summit to the Courtyard by Marriott Charleston Historic District over on the peninsula. Both events were free and open to the public.
South Carolina’s Black residents face a multitude of obstacles concerning health and wellness. According to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, African Americans face a higher risk of developing ischemic heart disease, suffer stroke deaths more often than Caucasians, SC ranks fourth in the country for the proportion (73%) of persons living with AIDS who are African-American, Blacks have the highest rate of tuberculosis in the state, physical inactivity is more common among African American women than Caucasian women and Black men have the world’s highest prostate cancer death rate.
Damion and Demetria Owens, owners of Always Gift Baskets & Natural Essentials, organized the health expo to inform the Black community of the numerous options available locally that can assist them into leading health-conscious lifestyles. At the same time, they aimed to conduct a family-friendly atmosphere to help make all comers feel welcome. Vendors on hand at the Expo consisted of small and Black-owned businesses in the Charleston area that run the gamut of goods and services. Did you know that Dr. Thomas A. Taylor of Alignment Chiropractic has an office in North Charleston and Summerville? How about Anastatia Ketchen, the CEO of women’s support and empowerment organization D.R.I.V.E.N. who is a multifaceted artist, poet, actor and author? Or the vegan options provided by the family and Black-owned Eastside Soul Food? Or possibly the financial training center that Increasing H.O.P.E. promotes that breaks down important topics like credit scores and insurance? If you attended the Expo, all of your answers to those questions would be an resounding “YES!”
The Black Health Expo offered a showcase of local businesses such as the Remount Rd. spiritually centered market 3rd Eye Lounge, West Ashley hemp oil enthusiasts Desired Wellness, food truck Wings-n-Things with a special menu for the event, Henna by artist Emily B. and TR Creations presented by raw food chef and vegan nutritionist specialist Chef TR. The nearby basketball was utilized for its purpose by youths, Fresh Future Farm continued with their usual weekend routine of guided farm tours and networking opportunities emerged naturally due to the exquisite gathering of Black entrepreneurs and professionals.
Roslyn Daniels is the Founder and President of Black Health Matters, a multimedia source of education, information and services specifically geared towards the unique experience that African Americans nationwide endure regarding health, further supported by interactive engagement and live events. She also is the CEO of The Daniels Network, which operates as a marketing firm for pharmaceutical and healthcare companies.
Featured guests at the Summit included Sisters Network Founder and CEO Karen Jackson, Roper St. Francis Vice President and Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer Dr. Toni Flowers and Executive HIV Community Liaison for Gilead Science Ed Duda. Nutritionist and author Dr. Ro held a on-site book signing and a session geared towards fighting obesity.
Diabetes, hepatitis C, kidney disease, high blood pressure and breast cancer were some of the health issues disproportionately affecting the Black community that were addressed at the Summit. The intuitive audience interacted with the guest speakers with aplomb and curiosity. They were able to further learn of the hidden costs of healthcare, ways to guide children to a efficient nutritional track and the ugly truth about racial healthcare disparities.
Karen Jackson, a breast cancer survivor, noted that “without your health, there is no tomorrow. So you have to change that thought in your mind that ‘I have to do this, I have to do that.’ But you do have to take care of your health, so those other ‘have-to’s’ can fall into place.” YWCA Greater Charleston and Hanahan veteran-owned business Essential Medical Supplies were among the participating local organizations at the Summit. The theme of the event was ‘Know Your Options’.
The dichotomy of the two events could be seen in its attendees. Though not seemingly achieved by design, the Summit’s crowd solidly consisted of older adults and senior citizens, meanwhile the Expo was primarily populated by young adults and children. Also divergently, the Summit was held indoors in hotel conference rooms and the Expo was held outside on a sunny day. There was an easily noticeable dissection of formal (Summit) vs informal (Expo) in the air that weekend. Despite the differences, both events were enjoyable, highly informative, ambitious, compelling and badly needed locally.
Visit www.alwaysgiftbaskets.net and www.blackhealthmatters.com to keep up with these two enterprising entities that have the best interests of the Black community in mind when it comes to health and wellness.