Black History Month Teach-in Creates Conversation Around Black Health and Wellness

Carleigh Beck, Staff Writer

A Black History Month Teach-In, where experts discuss their knowledge and experiences,  focused on health was held in the Carl Hansen Student Center Piazza Feb. 9 to help spread awareness about health and wellness in the Black community. 

The event was held by the Department of Cultural and Global Engagement and the Black Student Union, and offered presentations discussing a wide range of topics from multiple people, including students and staff.

Nine speakers shared their work, experiences and thoughts on subjects such as maternal mortality within minority communities and recovering from trauma. 

According to University of Southern California’s Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, Black communities often distrust the healthcare system and do not always seek out help. This is because black patients are misdiagnosed at a higher rate than white patients. 

Daymyen Layne, the director of multicultural education and training, spoke about being genuine in the workplace during the teach-in. 

“I presented on authenticity because it’s one of those things that come up in my work all the time as I’m talking about leadership, as I’m talking about folks trying to figure out who they are in these different workspaces,” Layne said.

Layne’s office supports over 18 different cultural organizations on campus, and hosts teach-ins for International Women’s Day, Native American History Month and other minority groups. Layne emphasized how DCGE and the multicultural groups can work together on campus. 

“Whenever folks have an idea and they want to make it a little bit of a larger university event, they can come to our office and they can talk it through,” Layne said. “We try to make sure we can give the students some support.”

Owenea Roberts, a senior accounting major, and SGA President, attended the event. 

“I feel like as a person of color and as a leader on campus, this is a great way to learn more about black history, especially in America, coming from a different country (Bermuda),” Roberts said. “They (the US) do Black History Month very differently from what we do, where I come from.”

Giovanni Kanter, a senior nursing major and SGA Senior Senator, listened to the teach-in as well.

Kanter also spoke about how important it is to learn about black history, especially when it comes to health and wellness, as a future healthcare professional. 

“I see it as a responsibility to educate myself, and in turn, be able to educate my community and bring these conversations into the healthcare community further,” Kanter said.

As Black History Month is celebrated throughout February, Roberts said it is important to continue having presentations and talks such as this past week’s teach-in.

“I think teachings like this are important because they give students the opportunity to expand on what they already know. . . If you’re willing to learn, you can come and it’s a great opportunity,” Roberts said. “You never know what you can learn, or what interests you’ll find.”

This is one of the many struggles Black people face in healthcare, as nursing student Hallye Boughner pointed out in her presentation of maternal mortality of minorities, as seen in this article by The Commonwealth Fund. Higher mortality rates within black and brown communities are caused because of “racial disparities, implicit bias, underlying chronic conditions, and so much more” according to the teach-in’s agenda. 

Multiple presenters spoke on the issue of mental health in Black communities.

For those who might be struggling with mental health, Layne recommended coming to the Office of Multicultural Education, Residence Life, the CARE Team, or counseling and health services.

“And even with. . .the pandemic, folks found out that communities of color were being affected at greater rates than other communities,” Layne said. “So as we’re talking about health and wellness, it’s an important focus for folks to have so we can survive and thrive every day.”