State of Black Women 2nd Health Forum a huge success
SOBW Mental Health session panelists Dr. Richelle Whittaker, Ms. Karissa Harris and Dr. Dana Billups Bradley and Mental Health Moderator and Defender Network Chief Development Officer Emelda Douglas. Photo by Aswad Walker.

It has been said many times that Black women have historically put the care of others (spouse, children, community, etc.) before care of themselves. Thus, it’s not surprising that Black women find themselves at the wrong end of far too many health statistics. Thus, in 2019, the Defender held its first State of Black Women Health Forum, and to call that event a success would be an understatement.

Then, COVID hit, and squashed hopes of the 2020 and 2021 gatherings of Black women to discuss ways to improve their mind, body and spirit health.

But low and behold, this year, the State of Black Women Health Forum (SOBW) returned with a fury. Held at the site of our original forum, the Young Women’s College Preparatory Academy (1906 Cleburne St., Houston, 77004) in Third Ward, this year’s gathering was just as powerful as the first and featured a morning session for teens and an evening session for adults.  

The Morning / Student Session was led by moderator and Defender Network Managing Editor ReShonda Tate, and featured as panelists Dr. Julianne M. Pollard-Larkin, Dr. Janice Beal, Dr. Maame Aba Coleman and Dr. Chimson Oleka.

Teen Health panelists Dr. Chimson Oleka, Dr. Julianne M. Pollard-Larkin and Dr. Janice Beal along with moderator ReShonda Tate. Photo by Aswad Walker.

The Evening / Women Session was broken up into three sections: Physical Health (moderator: ReShonda Tate, Defender Network Managing Editor), Mental Health (moderator: Emelda Douglas, Defender Network Chief Development Officer) and Sexual Health (moderator, Laura Onyeneho, Defender Network Under 40 Channel Publisher). The incredible array of panelists for Physical Health included Dr. Lorna McNeill, Dr. Wanda Mott, Dr. Lonzetta Newman and Dr. Charita Littles. The dynamic panelists for Mental Health were Dr. Richelle Whittaker, Dr. Ashley Butler, Dr. Dana Billups Bradely and Ms. Karissa Harris. The phenomenal women who took the Sexual Health panel by storm included Dr. Alauna Curry, Dr. Crystal Hadnot, Dr. Angela Jones and Dr. Janice Beal.

L.J. Garfield

L.J. Garfield, a health science instructor at the Pima Medical Institute, was so excited about what SOBW had to offer she brought her entire class with her.

“We have about 20 health science students here learning about the different aspects of women’s health, because they want to be treating and serving women when they move into the field,” said Garfield. “I train mostly Black and Hispanic women. So, coming to a conference like this, where its focus is on Black women’s health, is important for them to understand for themselves personally, but also as future healthcare professionals.”

Here are just some of the highlights (words of wisdom) shared by panelists:


So, we’ve raised you to be this independent thinker and to have all these opinions, but when you start telling your parents, they said that you’re talking back. That’s something we’re going to have to talk to adults about because it’s not talking back. Still, I can say things that people will receive because of the word choices that I used differently. Or I can say things that people won’t receive. You guys know your parents better than they know themselves a lot of times. And they know you better than you know yourself. So, find the words that’ll be able to help her receive what you’re trying to say. (Dr. Janice Beal)

Dr. Janice Beal taking a selfie with Dr. Maame Aba Coleman. Photo by Aswad Walker.


This is a sister-to-sister talk. Okay. You know that everything that goes on in your house, you handle. We’ve been trained to do that since the very beginning. So, we have to train ourselves to see our health as being important, that our balance is important. We have to do that. And when we do it, every one of your sons, your daughters, everybody, will follow behind you, because your husband follows you. Because he’s the head and you’re the neck. Whatever direction you go, he goes. <laughs>. And that works for our community. We get the things done that we need to get done. But we have to realize that if you aren’t there, what a void it is in your family. And women, Black women have to take their health very seriously. (Dr. Wanda Mott)

SOBW moderator and Defender Network Managing Editor ReShonda Tate, Dr. Wanda Mott, Dr. Lorna McNeill, Dr. Charita Littles and Dr. Lonzetta Newman. Photo by Aswad Walker.


We need to find the moment. Take a moment: whether it is a minute meditating in your vehicle; listening to a song that’s going to help to relax you before you get home; spending a little time, even in the bathroom after you’ve blocked everybody else out, just taking a few minutes to yourself to focus on yourself. Or making sure that you’re getting good rest at bedtime. You’re often the last one to go bed after everybody else. So, you want to make sure that you’re getting a good night’s sleep and that will help to manage some of that stress. (Dr. Charita Littles)

Dr. Alauna Curry


It’s important for the men actually learning our anatomy and the women knowing our own anatomy and being able to have a gentle instruction and openness in your conversations in the relationship, which is actually part of the problem. Because we assume, “If I know what to do with one, I know what to do with all of them,” and that’s not the case. This could hurt one person and feel good to somebody else. So, asking simple questions, like, “Does this feel good to you? Do you like that?” It’s about communication. It’s about also slowing down, because most of the time, women’s bodies need some rubbing, some touching and some other sensations. Because our best ability to orgasm doesn’t kick in until about 20 minutes into sex. (Dr. Alauna Curry)

State of Black Women 2nd Health Forum a huge success
SOBW panelists of the Mental Health session: Dr. Richelle Whittaker, Dr. Ashley Butler, Dr. Dana Billups Bradley and Ms. Karissa Harris. Photo by Aswad Walker.

This event was made possible by sponsors H-E-B, Texas Children’s Hospital, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Chase Bank, HillDay, the City of Houston, Young Women’s College Preparatory Academy and The Steve Fund.

I'm originally from Cincinnati. I'm a husband and father to six children. I'm an associate pastor for the Shrine of Black Madonna (Houston). I am a lecturer (adjunct professor) in the University of Houston...