Minority Health: Our stories, Our bodies, Our lives
by Reza Corinne Clifton, guest editor
Published in: She Shines, Vol. 6, No. 1 (Spring 2010)
The room was humming with voices and filled with a variety of colors – as you would expect at a conference that’s attracted hundreds. But as introductions began and the next speaker took the stage, the crowd became quiet; I was in the audience that day, among those who became transfixed. It was January 28, 2010, and it was the annual Health Action “Grassroots” Conference held by the national health advocacy organization, Families USA.
In a demeanor completely absent of histrionics, Congresswoman Donna Edwards, a Representative from Maryland, told the audience her own health story. It is one that starts with a career shift and corresponding inability to pay for COBRA, the temporary health insurance provided by certain employers after a person has lost his or her job. While able to acquire insurance for her son, “I crossed my fingers,” she says as what she chose for herself. Eventually she felt sick; in fact “sicker and sicker,” she recalled, until the day she passed out at a grocery store to then be rushed to the Emergency Room.
In some ways she was lucky, she describes, because there was no withholding of treatment in relation to her insurance status. But that luck would soon run out as thousands of dollars in hospital bills arrived, followed by debates about which bills to pay and, eventually, the foreclosure notices. “My personal experience shows,” concludes Edwards, “what we might have today, we might not have tomorrow.” Or the day after that, as was clear from her journey to medical and financial recovery represented in her visible presence and stature that day.
Later in the conference, during a presentation I gave on how to spread the message on “advancing health equity,” I reminded the group about Congresswoman Edwards’ remarks, and what it meant in the context of my presentation. I inform them about how unlikely it was for the Congresswoman’s story to be heard on an even larger scale due to the underrepresentation of women and people of color on influential media programming, such as Sunday morning political talk shows on TV. Even the growing interest in President Obama and the First Lady has not curbed what one research group (Media Matters for America) calls this “overwhelmingly white and overwhelmingly male” trend.
Women and people of color: We have to tell our own stories. That is why we took the time in this issue to connect with a variety of community health workers, a trusted health reporter, and those working closely in neighborhoods and community centers. They have their own stories or know the heartbreaking version of others, and it informs and inspires their work. We pay a tribute to these women, as well as to a fallen friend, Dana Wright, who may have left this world, but who in life left her mark.
Enjoy our 3rd annual edition and be in touch if you have a story to share. Minority Health: Our Stories, Our Bodies, Our Lives.