On October 13th, NWHN members and supporters gathered online for our first ever virtual event, Raising Our Voices in a Time of Racial Injustice, Health Disparity, and COVID-19. The panel featured Byllye Y. Avery, co-founder of Raising Women’s Voices (RWV) and founder of the Black Women’s Health Imperative; Terrilyne Cole, M.D., MBA, an infectious disease physician; and Marsha Jones, co-founder and CEO of the Afiya Center. Dázon Dixon Diallo, founder and president of SisterLove, and former NWHN Board member, moderated the panel. The hour-long event featured riveting conversation about the COVID-19 pandemic, racial inequality, the intersection between racial justice and health justice, and our panelists’ amazing work to improve health care access to the people they serve (watch it at http://donate.nwhn.org/event2020). 

Terrilyne remarked on how isolating the COVID-19 pandemic has been, “not just for the folks who actually have it, but also for those of us who are trying to treat people,” and noted that structural racism has disproportionately affected the way Black people and other people of color receive and access care. Marsha talked about how the pandemic has devastated the densely populated area where she lives in Texas. She emphasized that, while “we have always known that Black women-identifying folk carry the burden of health care disparities,” COVID-19 has finally “brought the conversation to the congregation.” Byllye reminded us of the number of people who had died (at that time, more than 215,000 people, now many thousands more), commenting, “and it didn’t have to be this way, but we have no leadership.” Despite the sad reality of the pandemic’s death toll, Byllye described her excitement that young people are leading us in the charge to fix things, and that we are not going to let up because, as she said, “Enough is enough.” 

The event also included an introduction of Raising Women’s Voices for the Health Care We Need (RWV), an NWHN co-led national initiative created to ensure that women’s voices are heard and women’s concerns are addressed in the fight for universal health coverage. We know how crucial it is to support those who are doing work on the ground right now to fight racial and health inequality. We took this moment to amplify the voices of the organizations that RWV supports, and ask attendees for their support as well. You can find out more about RWV’s important work at: http://raisingwomensvoices.net/

The event wrapped up with closing remarks from all of our panelists, and a final goodbye from Executive Director Cindy Pearson. “While 2020 hasn’t gone the way many of us expected it to, I feel galvanized by all the support we have received,” Cindy reflected.

The NWHN was honored to have our panelists speak on such important topics. One attendee said it best: “You clearly laid out the complex problems but also brought forth your exciting work and solutions. There is so much more to do, and I’m so glad you are sharing your brilliance, wisdom, and vision.” In a year where so much has been unprecedented, the event reminded us of the role we can play in continuing the conversations about health and racial inequity in our country. 

Nominate an Emerging Activist

In 2021, the NWHN will honor several individuals as Emerging Activists—and we want you to help us! The recipient will be honored at our at our spring virtual event to be held next Spring.

Our past Emerging Activists have included Renee Bracey Sherman, a reproductive justice activist committed to the visibility of people who have had abortions in media and pop culture; and Zerlina Maxwell, an analyst and writer on policy and culture issues including domestic violence, sexual assault, victim-blaming, and gender inequality.

Nominees for our 2021 Emerging Activist Award recipient must be passionate and motivated; be working creatively to address an important women’s health issue; and be doing great work, despite the fact that they may not be widely known. Past honorees have been typically under age 30, although we’ve also included honorees older than that who are newly emerging in their field. You do not need to be a NWHN member to submit a nomination and self-nominations are encouraged. 

Please email membership@nwhn.org with the name and background of the individual you want to nominate; nominations are due by March 31, 2021.