Spotlight on Black Health and Wellness During Black History Month
As people struggle with the ongoing pandemic and the mental and physical health risks associated with it, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History chose Black health and wellness as its Black History Month theme.
As people are still dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s Black History Month theme—Black Health and Wellness—couldn’t come at a better time. The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), a group started by Black History Month founder Carter G. Woodson, chose this year’s theme to highlight the importance of self-care during these turbulent times.
“The only way you can be around long enough to see your family and children grow up is to take care of yourself first,” said Aaisha Haykal, ASALH vice president for programs. “Often Black people, especially Black women, take care of others first and choose themselves last. We want to make sure people put themselves first. You have to take care of yourself before you take care of anybody else.”
ASALH takes a broad view of health and wellness, focusing on the physical, mental, and financial aspects of it.
“We want people to understand that Black people have had a tense, but also good, history with health and medicine,” Haykal said. “We want to highlight those conversations and also uplift the success stories and the contributions that Black people have made to the health field broadly.”
Haykal said ASALH will be highlighting historic achievements, such as the importance of the Howard University College of Medicine and Meharry Medical College, as well as current important health matters.
“Right now, there is a big push for vaccines, and trying to get over the hesitancy in the Black community,” Haykal said.
The mental health aspects are especially important to the Black community. “There are so many factors on mental health with racism and the impact that has,” Haykal said. “Then, you have normal day stresses, like family issues and relationship issues, and a lot of that got compounded with the pandemic.”
Mental health is also top of mind this year after two Black public figures died by suicide—Cheslie Kryst, Extra correspondent and former Miss USA, and Ian Alexander King Jr., a musician and son of actress Regina King. Haykal noted that it’s important to emphasize people being open about their struggles and needs, so they can get help.
“People are getting more open about mental health issues,” Haykal said. “Before it was hidden. People are being much more aware of the role mental health has on physical health and how you operate in the world.”
ASALH has held programming on some of the more practical aspects of seeking help for mental health concerns—and encouraged others to do the same.
“Looking at mental health, in terms of the cost,” Haykal said. “People don’t know how to gain access to mental healthcare. A lot of the work has been done to provide online services, so people don’t have to go to the office. They can use mental health services on their phone or on their Zoom.”
Beyond mental and physical health, ASALH is also focused on financial health. “We’re talking to people about having budgets and passing on generational wealth,” Haykal said. “I think that’s part of health and wellness that is very 360 and well-rounded.”
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