Sharing What Wellness & Self Care Really Means

Emotional tears and chills were instant at the start of the 11th Annual Black Women’s Wellness Day program. A strong voice, spitting lyrics of self-love and self-affirmation boomed from the microphone of Kendria Harris, a Chicago-based spoken word artist who goes by the name of K-Love the poet, as she entered the convention room.

This is the rhyme for the Well Black Woman.

Technically, you’ve always been a Well Black Woman.

For a lifetime, you be Well, Black Woman.

And just because you’re scarred, don’t mean you failed Black Woman.

This be the rhymes of the Well Black Woman.

Technically, we’ve always been the Well Black Woman.

For a pastime, we’ll be Well Black Woman.

And just because we’re scarred, don’t mean we fail Black Woman.

 

And just like that, the sold-out crowd leapt to their feet with a thunderous applause. Souls stirred as the rhythm of the all-day conference was set afire. The poem, and theme of this year’s event, is titled The Rise of the Well Black Woman.

Event founder, Lisa Peyton-Caire, was tackled with warm hugs and selfies, amid the pristine covered banquet tables decorated with freshly cut bouquets of flowers at the Alliant Energy Center on Sept. 21.  Brightly colored balloons arched across the stage, giving way to framed photographs of power Black women, such Shirley Chisholm, Aretha Franklin and Sojourner Truth. More notably were pictures of Peyton-Caire’s mother, Roberta W. Peyton, who lost her life to heart disease at just 64 years old.

The loss opened Peyton-Caire’s heart to begin a crusade to advance the health and well-being of Black women and girls. She established the Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness and launched Black Women’s Wellness Day (BWWDAY) on May 22, 2008, two year’s after her mother’s death. The annual health summit is dedicated to informing, inspiring, and empowering women and girls to build and sustain healthy, thriving, wellness-centered lives. It also strives to bring together women, health partners, wellness practitioners, community leaders, and organizations in support and solidarity for Black women’s health.

“We are grateful to know that each year, what we stand for, our mission and our vision, is to change the narrative around Black women’s health and make Wisconsin the best in the nation and not the worst,” Peyton-Caire said of the grassroots organization.  “People, once upon a time, told us Black women don’t care about health, Black women don’t talk about health … we knew that was false and each year our audience continues to grow.”

Peyton-Caire, who served on Gov. Tony Ever’s Health Policy Advisory Council, founded the volunteer-driven organization with six women. This year’s event drew 600-plus participants, including teens and some men. From massages and heart-healthy recipe books to African-inspired jewelry and women condoms, BWWDay demonstrated health is not only what we eat, but also how one feels and speaks out loud.

Keynote speaker Natasha D. Mayne, an attorney with Jamaican roots and owner of The Mayne Law Firm, challenged to women to encourage and support each other, recognizing the “queen” within.

“When you get a vision to move forward with, move with your vision and don’t question it,” said Mayne, whose nickname is The Vogue Attorney for her vibrant sense of style. “The mind is a magnet. If you see greatness, you will feel greatness.”

Elected officials, community leaders and the reigning Miss Black USA TeKema Balentine were among the special guests. Legacy and Sister Soldier awards were presented, along with afternoon workshops which included topics on financial wellness, mental wellness and birth justice. The exhibit hall hosted nearly 70 vendors. The Healthy Dane Collaborative presented Peyton-Caire with a $10,000 check to support the cause.

“We are here to empower Black women and girls to live healthy, wellness-centered lives,” Peyton-Caire said. “And, to build powerful legacies of wellness that can be passed on to our children. The narrative in our state shows Black women are sick; Black women are dying young; Black women are having babies who are two to three times more likely to die in the first year of life than white babies. … Black women are not income secured and Black women in Dane County have trouble with housing security.”

Peyton-Caire emphasized that while Black-girl magic is real, the reality that Black women are often plagued disproportionately with high incidences of mortality rates and various health conditions, is unacceptable.

The foundation assists over 1,000 women and girls every year, with prevention education, fitness and yoga classes, one-to-one wellness coaching and more. In May, keys were secured for the first Black Women’s Health & Wellness Center, with a goal of opening in November. A $100,000 campaign to operate the center was launched on May 22 and fulfilled by July 31.

The foundation also headed a nine-month community engagement campaign to find solutions to the frequency of African American babies born at low birth weights. And, days before this year’s event, the foundation was put on the national map after learning it was one of five recipients of the 2019 National Go Fund Me Hero.

“When you look across a room like this, we have the opportunity to flip those statistics upside down,” Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes told the group, adding he was birthed and raised by well Black women. “We can show the nation what resilience looks like.” 

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