Feb. 9, 2007 — “Breaking the Silence: Health Issues in the Black Community” is the theme of the University of Utah, 2007 Black Awareness Month celebration, February 12 – 17. According to Wilfred Samuels, Director of African American Studies at the U, “although each Black Awareness celebration is significant, the 2007 theme, without a doubt, is the most important to be addressed in the last five years. Despite the monumental progress: socially, economically, and politically, African Americans have made, data clearly indicate that one area where measurable progress remains lacking is in health issues. For this reason the African American Studies Program of the University of Utah is dedicating its 2007 Black Awareness Month program to meaningful discussion and debate on the now tragic status of African Americans in this area.” BlackHealthCare.com reports the prevalence of diabetes among African Americans is 70% higher than among white Americans. Infant mortality rates are twice as high for African Americans as for whites. “Given that health care issues, according to many, have reached a crisis level, this is one of the most important programs we have ever done,” says Samuels.
The week long event, scheduled to begin on February 12, will feature keynote speakers, health care providers, hospital administrators, medical historians, panel discussions, films, and a community health fair. Topics and speakers include: “Dying While Black,” Vernellia R. Randall, Dayton University School of Law; “Entering a ‘White’ Profession: Black Physicians in the South 1880 – 1920,” Dr. Todd Savitt, Brody School of Medicine; and “HIV-AIDS in the Black Community,” Dr. Ronald Harris, U of U School of Medicine. The closing keynote, “Health Issues Facing African American Women in the 21st Century,” will be given by Dr. Letitia Spencer, Kaiser Permanente.
The theme of this years’ celebration, “Breaking the Silence,” is from the painting, “Break the Silence” by artist Synthia Saint James, who will present during the week. The painting was commissioned by the Centers for Disease Control for African American AIDS Awareness, and unveiled on World AIDS Day in December of 2005. The painting will be featured in an exhibit at the Health Sciences Education Building at the University of Utah, during the event. Two other exhibits, “Site of Memory: Memorabilia from a Past of Slavery” can be seen at the Calvary Baptist Church, and “I Am Because We Are,” by Sudanese artist, Djibril N’Doyoe, will be at the Premiere Gallery.
Black Awareness Month performances feature pianist, Al Davis, of Baltimore, Maryland, and Calvary Baptist Church Male Chorus, performing at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Marcia and John Price Museum Building Auditorium. Les Ballet Africans will perform at Kingsbury Hall. Please call 801-581-7100 for tickets. For information about these and all other Black Awareness Month events please visit www.diversity.utah.edu/bam2007.html. (Interviews and photo opportunities on request. Call Wilfred Samuels at 801 581-3288.)