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ICYMI: 2023 State of Black Health Highlights

October 24, 2023

The Center for Black Health & Equity (The Center) spent a beautiful three days, from September 6-8, hosting the biennial State of Black Health (SBH) Conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Over 500 attendees joined The Center in person and virtually to address how health inequities impact Black people across the diaspora.

This year’s theme, ¡Salud! Health Equity in Focus, reflected The Center’s mission to facilitate programs and services to benefit all communities and people of African descent.

Three private, pre-conference events took place on September 6:

  • Our tobacco prevention experts and partners led the Menthol and Other Flavors Academy to discuss the harms of flavored tobacco in the Black community.

  • CommsNoire led the Catching Tones: Health Communications Workshop.

  • The Human Rights Campaign kicked off their GenHERate and GENERAR leadership program to address HIV stigma and health disparities in the Puerto Rican LGBTQ+ community.

The September 6 opening reception included a lively performance by Bomba Yemaya. This Afro Puerto Rican bomba dance and music group told the story of how colonization, slavery, and indigenous culture blended to create bomba. State of Black Health attendees were enthralled and on their feet following the rhythm and spiritual healing of the performance.

“What I loved most was the diasporic cultural infusion in a professional space, because it’s not often that we get such intersectionality or the opportunity to be our most authentic selves in professional environments,” said attendee Kayla Nixon.

Each morning of the conference began with a heart-pumping, morning activation with Double Dutch Aerobics. This year’s conference was hosted by actor and comedian Mark Christopher Lawrence and featured keynote speakers Shavon Arline-Bradley, the president of the National Council of Negro Women, and Richard Besser, the president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, who spoke during the official welcome on September 7.

State of Black Health 2023 panel discussions focused on solutions to combat chronic disease, institutional injustices, and economic barriers.

Day one concluded with a Sip & Soirée Women’s Health Event which allowed guests to openly discuss uterine health and HIV. As mocktails and appetizers were served, Yamilin Rivera and Chrys Cuencas with TallerSalud shared how they use digital media to reach the people of Loíza with their health messaging. Poet and author L’Monique King performed a spoken word piece before guests indulged in a freestyle painting session.

“It was clearly a safe space for people to be so open, vulnerable, and talk about their experiences,” said Dr. Ala Stanford, a pediatric surgeon who was excited to attend and speak at her first State of Black Health conference. “I was going upstairs to watch Thursday night football 'cause I’m kind of a football person, but I’m down here painting and I can’t paint. But there’s something very simplistic, serene, and calming about doing this.”

On the last day of the conference, attendees enjoyed more breakout sessions before the closing conversations on the main stage. Some folks were also spotted sunbathing by the pool and crashing into the waves of the beach before flying home from a fruitful and educational conference. The Center for Black Health & Equity is optimistic and eager to see the new partnerships and promising practices that will bud from this experience.

View videos and presentations from ¡Salud! Health Equity in Focus at Check back for updates and information for our next SBH conference in 2025.

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