black-women's-health

It’s Women’s History Month, and today we’re honoring Byllye Avery, who has dedicated her life to improving the health of African-American women. She founded the Black Women’s Health Imperative — an organization dedicated to promoting physical, mental, and spiritual health for African-American women.

Learn more about her work >>

Black History Month 2017

Planned Parenthood strives to create a world where sexual and reproductive health care is accessible, affordable, and compassionate — no matter what.

Black women have always championed reproductive freedom and the elimination of racism and sexism as an essential element of the struggle toward civil rights. This Black History Month, Planned Parenthood honors the resilience of Black women like Dr. N. Louise Young and Dr. Thelma Patten Law,  two of the first Black women health care providers at Planned Parenthood — and the resistance of women like Angela Davis who continue to fight for the full dignity, autonomy and the humanity of all women.

In commemoration of Black History Month each year, we lift up and celebrate those who have defied their time and circumstances to become Dream Keepers and freedom fighters. #100YearsStrong of Planned Parenthood could not be possible without the vision, tenacity and determination of those who have kept and protected the dream of reproductive freedom, justice and autonomy.

The 2017 Dream Keepers

Ida B. Wells-Barnett
Journalist, Civil Rights Activist

Ida B. Wells-Barnett was the most prominent Black woman journalist of the late 19th and early 20th century. Her research and reporting around the lynching of Black people helped to bring national attention to the crisis and pushed federal legislation to hold mobs accountable.

Marsha P. Johnson
Activist, Stonewall Rioter

Marsha P. Johnson, co-founder of the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR), is credited with being one of the first people to resist the police during the Stonewall Riots of 1969. On the commemorative anniversary of the riots in 1970, Johnson led protesters to the Women’s Detention Center of New York chanting, “Free our sisters. Free ourselves,” which demonstrated early solidarity between LGBTQ rights and anti-prison movements.

Former Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm
Black Feminist, Former Presidential Candidate

In 1990, Shirley Chisholm — along with former Planned Parenthood Federation of America president Faye Wattleton, Byllye Avery, Donna Brazile, Dorothy Height, Maxine Waters, and Julianne Malveaux (among others) — formed the group African American Women for Reproductive Freedom to show their support for Roe v. Wade, doing so with what we now call a reproductive -justice framework. The former New York representative was the first African American woman elected to Congress. During her seven terms, Rep. Chisholm pioneered the Congressional Black Caucus and was an unwavering champion for women’s reproductive rights and access to health care, including abortion. In 2015, President Obama awarded Rep. Chisholm with the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award.

Dr. N. Louise Young

Dr. N. Louise Young, a gynecologist and obstetrician, opened her practice in Baltimore in 1932. She later operated a Planned Parenthood health center that was opened with the assistance of the local Urban League and other community partners.

Dr. Thelma Patten Law

Dr. Thelma Patten Law becomes one of the first Black women ob-gyns in Texas. She provided health care for more than 25 years at the Planned Parenthood Houston Health Center, which opened in 1936.

Faye Wattleton
Author, Advocate for Reproductive Freedom, Former President of PPFA

In 1978, Wattleton became the youngest individual at the time and the first African American woman to serve as president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA). During Wattleton’s 14–year tenure, PPFA became one of the nation’s largest charitable organizations. Under Wattleton’s leadership, the organization secured federal funding for birth control and prenatal programs; fought against efforts to restrict legal abortions; and, along with reproductive health allies, helped to legalize the sale of abortion pill RU-486 in the United States.

The Coiners of Reproductive Justice

Black women’s existence has inherently challenged the “choice vs. life” argument. However the creation and coining of reproductive justice ushered in a new framework where women of color could express all of the ways their sexual and reproductive autonomy is systemically limited.

Dr. Dorothy Roberts
Author, Scholar, Professor

Dorothy Roberts is an acclaimed scholar of race, gender and the law. Her books include Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-first Century (New Press, 2011); Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare (Basic Books, 2002), and Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty (Pantheon, 1997) — all of which have shaped and informed scholarship around reproductive justice.

@DorothyERoberts


Monica Roberts
Historian, Founder and Editor-In-Chief of TransGriot

Monica Roberts, aka the TransGriot, is a native Houstonian and trailblazing trans community leader. She works diligently at educating and encouraging acceptance of trans people inside and outside the larger African-American community and is an award-winning blogger, history buff, thinker, lecturer and passionate advocate on trans issues.


Dr. Iva Carruthers
Past President of Urban Outreach Foundation, General Secretary of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference

Carruthers uses her ministry as a vehicle for addressing social issues, particularly those involving people of African descent both in the United States and abroad. She is past president of the Urban Outreach Foundation, a nonprofit, interdenominational organization that assists African and African-American communities with education, health care, and community development.

@IvaCarruthers



Rev. Dr. Alethea Smith-Withers
Founder and Pastor; The Pavilion of God, Washington, DC; and Chair of the Board of Directors for Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice

Rev. Smith-Withers has been an active advocate for reproductive justice for many years. She is currently serving as the chair of the board of directors of Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC). She is the founder and pastor of The Pavilion of God, a Baptist Church in DC.  She hosts “Rev UP with Rev. Alethea”, a BlogTalkRadio show.

@RevAlethea


Rev. Dr. Susan Moore
Associate Minister at All Souls Church Unitarian

Dr. Moore’s ministry has focused upon the challenges facing urban America. An HIV/AIDS and teen pregnancy prevention educator and trainer, she has worked with several community and faith-based groups, including the DC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, Planned Parenthood, and AIDS Action Foundation. She actively advocates for a national, coordinated AIDS strategy to reduce racial disparities, lower the incidence of infection, increase access to care, and involve all stakeholders.


Bevy Smith
CEO and Founder of Dinner with Bevy

A Harlem native and New York fashion fixture, Smith is outspoken about women’s empowerment and social justice. She gives back by connecting and engaging a network of top leaders to promote social change.

@bevysmith


Mara Brock Akil
Screenwriter and producer and founder of Akil Productions

Mara Brock Akil is the co-creator of hit TV shows Girlfriends, The Game, and Being Mary Jane.  She is a tireless advocate of women’s health and rights.

@MaraBrockAkil


Tracy Reese
American fashion designer

Relentless PPFA supporter, Reese is a board member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

@Tracy_Reese


Kimberlé W. Crenshaw
Scholar, Professor at the UCLA and Columbia Schools of Law

Kimberlé W. Crenshaw is a feminist scholar and writer who coined the term “Intersectionality.” Kimberlé  is the co-founder of the African American Policy Forum, which developed seminal research on Black women and girls and the school-to-prison pipeline and policing, including, respectively: “Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced and Underprotected” and “Say Her Name.”

@SandyLocks

Angela Peoples
Co-Director of GetEqual

Serving as the Co-Director of GetEqual, Angela is working to ensure that Black lives and gender justice is a guiding force in LGBTQ work.

@MsPeoples


Jazmine Walker
Reproductive Justice Leader

Jazmine is a big fine woman who specializes in reproductive justice and agricultural economic development.

Her dedication to public scholarship and activism is driven by a passion to amplify feminist and reproductive justice discourse around Black women and girls, especially those in Mississippi and the broader South.


Amandla Stenberg
Actress, Author

This Black queer feminist makes us look forward to the next generation of feminist leaders and thinkers.

Her YouTube video, “Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows,” clapped-back against the cultural appropriation of Black fashion and style and won our hearts.

@amandlastenbergs


Charlene A. Carruthers
National Director for Black Youth Project 100

Political organizer Carruthers is building a national network and local teams of young Black activists.  She is committed to racial justice, feminism, and youth leadership development.

@CharleneCac


Monica Simpson
Executive Director of SisterSong National Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective

At SisterSong National Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, Simpson works to amplify and strengthen the collective voices of indigenous women and women of color to ensure reproductive justice through securing human rights. She has organized extensively against the systematic physical and emotional violence inflicted upon the minds, bodies, and spirits of African Americans with an emphasis on African-American women and the African-American LGBT community.

@SisterSong_WOC


Deon Haywood
Executive Director, Women With A Vision, Inc.

Haywood works tirelessly to improve quality of life and health outcomes for marginalized women of color.  Since Hurricane Katrina, Haywood has led Women With a Vision, a New Orleans-based community organization addressing the complex intersection of socio-economic injustices and health disparities.  

@WWAVinc


Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee
Congresswoman, D-TX 18th District

Congresswoman Jackson Lee has been a staunch supporter of Planned Parenthood and women’s health.

This year she has become a valuable champion as a member of the House Judiciary Committee, where she was vocal at both hearings displaying a clear understanding of the important role Planned Parenthood health centers play in the communities they serve. She also came to the floor on several occasions and attended a Planned Parenthood’s press conference, lending her voice in the fight against backwards legislation.

@JacksonLeeTX18


Del. Stacey Plaskett
Congresswoman, D-US-VI

Delegate Stacey Plaskett became a supporter of Planned Parenthood this year when she spoke out for Planned Parenthood health center patients during a Oversight and Government Reform hearing, where she is a member, commenting that she would like a Planned Parenthood health center in the Virgin Islands.

@StaceyPlaskett


Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton
Congresswoman, D-DC

As a fierce, passionate, Black feminist and reproductive health advocate, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton has supported Planned Parenthood unwaveringly. She also sponsored the EACH Woman Act and, in 2015, held an event with young women on abortion access.

@EleanorNorton


Rep. Joyce Beatty
Congresswoman, D-OH 3rd District

Rep. Beatty has been an active supporter of women’s health during her tenure in Congress, cosponsoring legislation, signing onto pro-letters and always voting in the interest of women’s health.


Rep. Maxine Waters
Congresswoman, D-CA 43rd District

Since arriving in office in 1990, Rep. Waters has voted in the best interest of the health of women and communities of color, making a career of addressing these issues by closing the wealth gap.    

I wish black parents paid more attention to the mental health of their kids. So many black parents call disabilities like autism, ADHD and, ADD a “white people’s thing”. And that’s sad. Its with this kind of damaging logic that I’m 20 years old and I’m ONLY just finding out that all my social and academic struggles basically point autism or ADD. If my family didnt consider those things “white illnesses” I could of gotten tested when I was kid and got accommodations in school. I struggle so hard and ive only been called lazy for it. It honestly makes me envious of white people who were able to get evaluated when they were young and get a diagnosis all because their parents decided it wasn’t laziness. But At the same time, I understand that a professional diagnosis cost ALOT and its super time consuming. And that there is racism in the psychological industry. It just sucks tbh :(

A recent study on black women in America delivered a mixed, even contradictory message. The report from the Black Women’s Roundtable found that while black women in the United States are making strides in education and business and affecting political trends with stellar voter turnout numbers, they remain more vulnerable to health problems and violence than any other group. Their strength at the polls is not reflected in elected positions. So, the situation is — at the same time — hopeful and frustrating, many steps forward with persistent, historical hurdles still blocking the way.
What is at first glance confusing makes perfect sense, though. Despite the reality show image of sassy, in control and intimidating black women taking charge and needing no help from anyone, the American story is consistent with the study. It is a tale of black women as invisible, misjudged and resilient through it all –integral and nurturing, yet set apart. They have survived, thrived and led, in spite of obstacles that have often kept them vulnerable, a term seldom used to describe black women.
— 

Powerful yet vulnerable black women: A contradiction rooted in history

I ended up crying after leaving the club because of a mini panic attack. The panic attack had started because I had came to the realization that I was the ugly darker friend of the two high yellow black girls. I’m more brown, but compared to them I’m the darkest and unprettty one. I honestly see how hard it is to grow older into being a black woman, it’s hard when you’re judged 24/7 for being born with such characteristics. It gives me such low self esteem, but colorism is real and true. I feel like I have to have some sort of weave or type of braids in my hair to be considered beautiful, instead of wearing my natural out. I feel more ashamed than appreciated. I don’t even know how to bring it up because our struggles are slightly different. Yes we’re both black, but one of us is more acceptable than the other and been like this for centuries. I just wish I never had a breakdown, this shit hurts.

Did you ever wonder why so many sisters look so angry? Why we walk like we’ve got bricks in our bags and will slash and curse you at the drop of a hat? It’s because stress is hemmed into our dresses, pressed into our hair, mixed into our perfume and painted on our fingers. Stress from the deferred dreams, the dreams not voiced; stress from always being at the bottom, from never being thought beautiful, from always being taken for granted, taken advantage of; stress from being a black woman in white America. Much of this stress is caused by how the world outside us, relates to us. We cannot control that world, at times we can change it but we can assert agency in our own lives so that the outside world cannot over-determine our responses, cannot make our lives a dumping ground for stress.
—  Opal Palmer Adisa, “Rocking in the Sunlight: Stress and Black Women" 

BLACK WOMEN & ENDOMETRIOSIS

Endometriosis uniquely affects African-American women. Traditional thinking was that endometriosis was a condition of white women but that conventional thinking is rapidly changing. Unfortunately, when Black women have chronic pelvic pain it is presumed to be due to other conditions like PID (pelvic inflammatory disease, a pelvic infection) or uterine fibroid tumors (very common in Black women). However, endometriosis is real and common in many African-American women.

So, lets start with what exactly is endometriosis? Endometriosis is a condition that occurs when the tissue that normally grows inside of the uterus (called endometrium) grows outside of the uterus in the pelvis. Once in the pelvis, the endometrial tissue causes inflammation and scarring as it attaches to pelvic organs (fallopian tubes, ovaries, bowel and bladder). This scarring and inflammation is what causes the painful symptoms many with endometriosis experience.

ENDOMETRIOSIS is common. Approximately 10% of American women (about five million) are affected. Endometriosis is sited as the single most common causes of chronic pelvic pain in women (pelvic pain that has lasted for six months or longer).

The exact cause of endometriosis is unknown but possibilities include menstrual bleeding that goes through the fallopian tubes into the pelvis, genetic factors (it is more common in families) and having had a prior Cesarean section (C-section) delivery.

While we don’t know the exact cause, we do know the symptoms of endometriosis. These symptoms which are frequently wide ranging and debilitating include:

  • Irregular vaginal bleeding. This can be heavy periods,
  • long periods or spotting/bleeding between periods.
  • Pelvic pain. Crampy pain that can occur anywhere in the pelvis (middle or sides).
  • Painful periods. Most women have some cramping during their periods but patients with endometriosis have cramping that goes beyond normal period pain. Menstrual cramps in endometriosis patients are frequently debilitating resulting in missed work, missed school and a general inability to get through one’s normal daily activities.
  • Painful intercourse that is usually most pronounced during deep penetration.
  • Dyschezia. Painful defecation (bowel movements).
  • Infertility. Infertility is technically defined as the inability to achieve
  • pregnancy despite 12 or more uninterrupted months of trying and endometriosis is one of it’s most common causes.

If you suspect that you might have endometriosis, you should make an appointment with your OB/GYN ASAP. Diagnosing endometriosis requires a minor surgical procedure known as laparoscopy. For women who want to avoid surgery, a presumptive diagnosis can be made using hormonal medications.

  • Laparoscopy is a quick (usually less than 30-minute) same day surgical procedure that is performed using two small (usually 2cm) incisions.    
  • Hormonal medications. If the thought of having surgery scares you, there are medications that your doctor can prescribe that help to make a presumptive diagnosis of endometriosis.

While there unfortunately is no cure for endometriosis, there are multiple treatment options and lifestyle changes that can improve symptoms.

Lifestyle changes include:

Increased exercise/weight loss. Not only does this improve overall health and wellbeing but reducing the extra pounds reduces hormone levels.

Reduce alcohol and caffeine. Both can increase hormone levels.

Eat more fiber: Fiber can reduce hormone levels in your blood.

Eat less soy: Soy mimics the hormone estrogen.

Eat organic: Food with less hormones and steroids are better for our all around health and obviously ingesting less hormones will reduce your own hormone levels.

Hormonal suppression

Endometriosis is exacerbated by the normal monthly production and fluctuation of hormones. Taking hormonal medications that reduce your natural hormonal cycling frequently will reduce the symptoms of endometriosis while simultaneously slowing it’s advancement. These hormones include

  • Birth control pills
  • Depo Provera injection
  • A stronger hormonal injection called Lupron

Surgical intervention

Patients with endometriosis usually will end up having surgery and frequently they will have multiple surgical procedures.

  • Laparoscopy, the same camera surgery that is used to make the diagnosis, can also be used to remove areas of endometriosis. Unfortunately, with time, the endometriosis often returns but the procedure can be repeated.
  • Hysterectomy Is the definitive treatment for endometriosis. It provides the best symptom relief but it is only an option for women who want no further children.

Chronic pelvic pain can come from multiple sources and none of the diagnoses are mutually exclusive. When it comes to chronic pelvic pain, educate yourself and be your own advocate. Talk to your doctor about the possibility of endometriosis, ask questions and don’t stop asking until you are satisfied with the answers. If you are not satisfied with the answers, consider seeking a second opinion.

I envy the people that raised their children early on to care about eating healthy and exercising. I feel like my family did so much to raise me and I’m not angry at them, but I feel like if they could’ve realized earlier that soul food and feeding someone to show love, staying in the house watching tv was probably not the best thing to do. I feel like it would be a hell of a lot easier to alter or stick to a healthy lifestyle had it been taught to me as normal instead of it being a huge difference than what I’ve known my whole life.

Nobody understands what it's like to be a black girl struggling with Depression

In a society where you’re told to put on your big girl panties and adhere to the strong black woman stereotype. In a society where you are constantly being triggered & called sensitive/weak for letting triggering abusive shit bother you. In a society where to be actually diagnosed with a mental illness may put you at a disadvantage of having your dream career which you’re already at a disadvantage of achieving because you’re a black girl, woman. In a society that made you a woman before you had the chance to become a girl, for reasons and things you had no control over. And you just sit here, silently in pain. Waking up everyday making the decision to live, even when society tells you the world would be a better place if you just let life go. It’s so frustrating to have to be strong & make the decision to live when all you ever wanted was to have the chance to be weak and held and told everything is going to be okay even if you don’t believe it.

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Welcome to Pack Light Vlog! We are here to create a safe space across multiple platforms for black women to discuss mental health, emotional well being, spiritual awareness and their interconnectedness. 

Please read our mission statement and about us to learn more, well, about us!

We intend to spread love and light throughout the interwebs. 

Find us on youtube, twitter, and IG at packlightvlog ✨✨✨


-Ash, Jade & Janae ❤️

C: I recently started seeing a therapist and I was talking to her about moving and the school I was going to was predominately white so I told her how I really couldn’t connect to white people on certain levels and she told me, her as a white woman experiences racism because people expect her to be rich. She told me her parents didn’t pay for her college so she goes through the same struggles black people go through. I am gonna miss the puppy in her office but I gotta get me a new therapists cause I kinda lost respect for her and anything she says to me will go in one ear and out the other.

Dear Black Women:
Yes, you are queens. Yes, you are magical. Yes, you are strong and yes, you have a resilient heart that is capable of enduring pain and surpassing any struggle. But I want you to know that above all else, you are human, and mental health is a serious illness that does not discriminate…
Mental Health Month - Depression Doesn't Mean The End of Living

A week ago today, my body was almost sexually violated. A guy near where I live took it upon himself to “help himself” to my body.
Thankfully, a woman in our hood came through for me.

A few weeks back, my gran died. And with her, the answer to the turmoil that is my life.

Before that, I was in and out of hospital supporting a friend whose sister was on the brink of death.

Before even that, I got betrayed by someone who’s my blood.

I could go on and on. The past two months have been hell for me and taken me back into my deep, dark, depressive mood.

Some days are better than others. Today, though, isn’t all that ‘cause I cut through my nail and now it’s lifted from my nailbed.

When it rains, it pours.

However, grateful I’ve had loyal friends and a sibling who care about my welfare. Prayer has helped and sleep has been a God send.

If you’re going through anything crazy, know that it is for a season. Just some seasons are longer than others. Reach out to someone who loves and cares for you genuinely. If you have no one, you have God. That is a fact.

I’m a depressed, black woman but that doesn’t mean my life is over.

It just means I’m strong enough to handle this mental illness.

Stay strong. We can do this. You can do this. I can do this.

Peace, love and all of that good stuff.

Lots of love ❤💯😍