Symposium to “reimagine black girls’ and women’s health”

By Sedonia Martin on May 10, 2018

Sonia Sanchez, poet, scholar and international lecturer, to give keynote

Sonia Sanchez
Sonia Sanchez is a poet, author, scholar, activist and international lecturer on black culture and literature, women’s liberation, peace and racial justice.

The Department of Women’s and Gender Studies in the College of Liberal Arts is hosting Re-imagining “Black Girls’ and Women’s Health: a Symposium and Workshop” to be held May 17–19 in Towson University’s West Village Commons. 

TU president Kim Schatzel and Leah Cox, vice president for inclusion and institutional equity will provide the welcome. Attendance is free for TU faculty, staff and students.

The symposium and workshop will convene scholars, activists, students, professionals and community members to highlight the current state of research on black girls' and women's health and highlight action-based approaches to holistically address their health.

Jameta Barlow, assistant professor of women and health, is coordinating the event.

“Black women’s health has too often been pathologized or relegated to issues of sexual and reproductive health and chronic health conditions such as mental health, obesity, diabetes, hypertension and breast cancer,” she said. “Yet our health encompasses so much more. Glaringly, the maternal mortality, infant mortality and low-birth-weight rates for black women mirror those of low-income countries, regardless of their education and income.”

According to Barlow, educated black women are more likely to experience maternal mortality than a white woman with an eighth-grade education. She believes there have been efforts to mobilize black women’s health efforts at the grassroots level but minimal efforts to mobilize at the academic disciplinary level and to fully engage the women’s studies and health disciplines.

Reimagining Black Girls’ and Women’s Health will feature guest speakers from all backgrounds. They will include black feminists Beverly Guy Sheftall, Ph.D. professor and chair of the Women’s Research & Resource Center/Comparative Women’s Studies at Spelman College; Anna Julia Cooper, professor of women’s studies at Spelman College and womanists Layli Maparyan, Ph.D., and Katherine Stone Kaufmann ’67, executive director of the Wellesley Centers for Women and professor of Africana studies.

Sonia Sanchez, poet, scholar, activist and international lecturer on black culture and literature, women’s liberation, peace and racial justice, as well as the author of over 16 books, is the keynote speaker on Thursday, May 17.

Barlow hopes the event will create a space in which groups can come together and share experiences and solutions to shared concerns.

“A major outcome is our development of a crowd-sourced digital syllabus and action plan,” she said.

In addition to guest speakers and panels, the event includes the presentation of proposals. Barlow received nearly 60 proposals for panel and poster presentations from undergraduate, graduate, post-doctoral, early career and tenured faculty and community members.  Planning committee members reviewed the proposals from fields and disciplines such as psychology, public health, medicine, black studies, women’s and gender studies, and more. 

“As a result we have an exciting afternoon on Friday of panel and poster presentations focused on spiritual, emotional, mental, physical and collective health and well-being,” she said.

“A holistic view of black women’s health is paramount to transforming our approaches to this work. Our presenters run the gamut in discipline and topics—everything from the ancestral and spiritual linkages of black women’s hair, to womanist notions in dance as healing and restorative, to policy approaches, to restructuring social structures affecting black girls’ and women’s health.”

View the agenda and ongoing updates about the reception, symposium and workshop. The guidebook app can be downloaded to a mobile device or tablet.  

The event will be streamed on Facebook Live. Anyone can track the program using the hashtag #ReclaimingBGWH.

This story is one of several related to President Kim Schatzel's priorities for Towson University: Diverse and Inclusive Campus.