This post was originally published on Sacramento Observer

By Jared D. Childress

The healing circle was full at the first “Cultural Wellness Fest,” organized by the Council of Elders Metro Sacramento on July 21 at Meadowview Park. The elders invited Black medical professionals for a no-holds-barred conversation on topics ranging from COVID to Monkeypox, mental health, and more — no topic was off limits.

The free event, designed to help the Black community become proactive advocates for their health care, began with a blessing by Senior Elder Dr. Tchaka Muhammed, 80, with libations poured by Elder Imhotep, 61.

“Today is historical because we are starting this inner-city tour to take our healing circle to different communities in Sacramento,” said Elder Greg King, 63, who is the current chairperson of the service organization founded in 2016.

The key to decreasing your risk of diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, heart disease — or dying from COVID — is movement. It’s not about running for an hour. It’s about small changes, like going on a 10-minute walk.

Dr. Marcia Faustin, UC Davis-based physician

UC Davis-based physician Dr. Marcia Faustin, who famously worked with gold-medalist Simone Biles during the 2021 Olympics, spoke first. While Faustin admitted the reasons for the racial health disparity are rooted in systemic racism, she offered useful tools: come to doctor’s appointments with questions prewritten and — most importantly — move more.

“The key to decreasing your risk of diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, heart disease — or dying from COVID — is movement,” Faustin, 37, told the circle’s 18 attendees. “It’s not about running for an hour. It’s about small changes, like going on a 10-minute walk.”

Faustin added that another key piece to better medical care is advocating for oneself and others.

“The way people stay healthy in health care is having an advocate,” she said. “If your doctor isn’t willing to explain things or isn’t willing to have your advocate in the room, get a new doctor.”

Attendee Marian Bryson, a parent organizer in the Black Parallel School Board, named the rise of preventable health conditions in Black youth as a top concern.

We’re not supposed to live in pain — it’s not a normal thing to experience every single day.

Corrine brown, registered nurse

“Young people are not only dying because of gun violence; they’re also being diagnosed with diabetes and dying from heart attacks and strokes,” said Bryson, 57. “They think it’s generational but we don’t realize the connection is that we’re not eating right.”

Bryson’s observations are supported by studies showing a 95% rise in the potentially preventable type 2 diabetes from 2001-2017 among youth under age 20, with the greatest number per 1,000 being Black or American Indian. 

To circumvent these deadly numbers, registered nurse Corrine Brown said the healing begins with unlearning that suffering is part of the Black experience.

“A lot of times, we just push through and grind. We get up, we go to work, and we don’t listen to our bodies,” said Brown, 37. “We’re not supposed to live in pain — it’s not a normal thing to experience every single day.”

Brown, the final guest speaker, added that mental health is just as important as physical health.

“We can be physically fit, but our minds must also be healthy,” she said. “This is about our desire to be better physically and spiritually.”

For more information regarding the Council of Elders Metro Sacramento and the next Cultural Wellness Fest, please contact Greg King at 916-470-2077 or loyalkingent@yahoo.com.

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