Connect with us


Tené T. Lewis Asks Is Michelle Obama doing enough for Black Women’s Health?



Tené T. Lewis, an associate professor in the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, and Op Ed Project Public Voices Fellow discusses the need for a “Michelle Obama-led campaign with support from the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, and/or the American Cancer Society.” Do you think such a campaign would make an impact?

From childhood obesity, to racial profiling, from school segregation to a lack of opportunities for men and boys of color, President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama have found ways to creatively spotlight many of the major concerns confronting the African-American community and, most importantly, create a national conversation around these issues.   Remarkably however, throughout all of these conversations around race and/or health, there has been a noticeable lack of attention to African-American women, and in particular, their health.  Which raises the question:  How is it possible to have an African-American woman on one of this country’s most visible platforms and not have a serious dialogue about black women’s health?

Perhaps because she herself projects such a strong image as a physically fit and healthy woman (biceps anyone?), many in the general public may be less aware of the pressing health concerns facing the majority of African-American women throughout the country.  By Obama’s age (50), over half of African-American women are obese and 47 percent have hypertension.  African-American women aged 45-54 also have two to three times the rate of diabetes, increased levels of breast cancer mortality, higher rates of hysterectomy and a 60 percent greater likelihood of death from any cause than white women in the same age group.  Funding agencies like the National Institutes of Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation have special initiatives focused on childhood obesity and the health of boys and men of color.  Yet there is no outcry, no movement, and few national initiatives to support black women’s health.

While this is sad, it is, unfortunately, not all that surprising.  As outlined most recently by Kimberlé Crenshaw in response to My Brother’s Keeper, discussions about “race” are most often about African-American men.  Similarly, dialogues about “gender” most frequently center on white women.  Consequently, African-American women’s unique concerns are rarely heard.  Scholars refer to this as the “intersectional invisibility” faced by African-American women.  This invisibility can be emotionally painful and is unjust by most standards.  However when it comes to health, it can also be fatal.  This is the primary reason why we need a larger platform for conversations about black women’s health.

Much of the lack of attention to this issue may be rooted in the fact that women, of all races, are typically busy taking care of everyone else — children, husbands, others in their community. And in the African-American community –a community experiencing disadvantages– this natural pattern may be exacerbated.  Regina Benjamin, the former surgeon general, who resigned in 2013, is an African-American woman who often spoke about the preventable illnesses that affected her immediate family (AIDS, lung cancer, stroke) and the health concerns of the poor, rural community that she served in Bayou le Batre, Ala. (access, difficulty with co-pays).  But she rarely spoke about her own health, or the unique health concerns facing African-American women in a substantive way, except to urge black women not to let fear of ruining their hairstyles get in the way of exercise.  Both Obama and Benjamin project images in line with the “Black Superwoman,” the invulnerable caregiver who is a pillar of strength for her family and her community.  But who cares for the caregivers?

We need a national “Black Women’s Health” agenda that focuses on obesity prevention and improved rates of screening for breast cancer, high blood pressure and diabetes in African-American women.   A Michelle Obama-led campaign with support from the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, and/or the American Cancer Society would go a long way towards increasing the visibility of these issues.  It could also lead to targeted funding initiatives and more research to better understand the factors that predispose black women to poorer health, including access to care, differential quality of care, and more upstream factors such as stress and financial strain.  Black women earn 66 cents for every dollar that white men earn (this is less than white women and black men), but are more likely than white women and black men to be single heads of household.  Thus, they make less money, but have to support more people with it.  However, there is very little funding for research on how social conditions affect African-American women’s health.

A national dialogue, convention, or summit around the potential importance of social factors for black women’s health might encourage foundations and governmental funding agencies to reconsider their priorities around this particular topic.  A campaign around black women’s health might also increase awareness of and research on health conditions that are less prevalent among the general population, but are more prevalent among African-American women, such as fibroids and autoimmune diseases like Systemic Lupus Erythematosus.  Finally, having a prominent African-American woman behind such an initiative would send a message to the rest of the world – that black women’s health matters.  And it does.  The longer we go on ignoring it, the more lives we stand to lose. Via

Image via AP278609637477.jpg (.Michelle)

Ilen & Lauren Bell are the husband and wife team behind Black Fitness Today, born, in 2011, out of their motivation to change culture, build a platform and lead the charge. Their purpose is to help change the culture towards health and fitness in the African-American community, showcase those who are making an impact, and promote healthier living. They also aim to serve as a platform for African-American fitness and health professionals and enthusiasts who are otherwise overlooked in traditional fitness media.


Recap: 2018 Finding Ashley Stewart Event

Watch our recap of the 2018 Finding Ashley Stewart Finale Pink Carpet at the King’s Theater in Brooklyn, New York.



Photo: Finding Ashley Stewart

The 2nd annual Finding Ashley Stewart Contest searched around the U.S. in search of a diva who personifies Ashley Stewart and everything she stands for: kindness, resilience, confidence, community and fashion! In the video below, Finding Ashley Stewart host and comedian Loni Love, 2018 Miss Ashley Stewart winner Tiffany Gosa-Flamer, journalist and author Soledad O’Brien, DJ Kid Capri, actress Andrea Rachel-Parker, Real Housewives of Atlanta’s Peter Thomas, Essence Editor-at-Large Mikki Taylor and Naughty by Nature all talk with BFT contributor Ryen Watkins about the importance of this competition and how Ashley Stewart is immersing themselves into the communities that support the brand.

Video: Ryen Watkins
@ryenwatkins (IG)

Keep up with Black Fitness Today on social media!
Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Continue Reading


Greenleaf Star Deborah Joy Winans Talks About Overcoming Self-Doubt and Achieving Self-Love



Greenleaf, Deborah Joy Winans, OWN
Photo: OWN

It’s hard to find a black family who didn’t grow up listening to the legendary Winans family, or at least know someone who did. From Bebe and CeCe, to Marvin, to Vickie, the Winans family has an annointing! But not everyone in the Winans family has chosen to make a primary career out of singing. 34-year-old Deborah Joy knew in her spirit she wanted to become an actress. The pursuit of her true passion paid off, as she was seen by Oprah at a workshop, and offered the opportunity to play Charity Greenleaf. Ironically, Charity is a singer!

Black Fitness Today caught up with Winans to discuss her success as an actress living her dream, and how she has overcome colorism and struggles with body positivity, to truly love herself and who she has been called to be. We know that wellness starts from within, and a healthy body is meaningless without a healthy mind and spirit.

Winans says she’s living her dreams thanks to her big breakthrough to starring as Charity Greenleaf on OWN’s hit drama series, Greenleaf. She credits her family as being a dynamic support system, as they constantly cheered her on as she worked towards her dream.

Even though her family was very supportive, Winans says she still dealt with a lot of self-confidence issues as a black woman with a darker complexion. Winans noticed a difference in the way she was treated in high school when events and activities came around that required a date. Winans says women with a lighter complexion would get more attention and she even recalls asking her dad, “Is it because I’m dark?”

Black womens’ battle with complexion is nothing new. We have all been culturally conditioned to view lighter skin as a the standard-bearer for beauty. It is refreshing to see the shifts in beauty and what our culture views as acceptable.

“I had to learn to see myself the way God saw me.”

When it came to career goals and dreams, Winans always knew she wanted to be an actress, even though she grew up in a singing family. Daughter to Carvin Winans, Deborah grew up amongst chart-topping hits and albums across her family, but has said she did not grow up singing.

“I always knew what I wanted to do, but I never saw anyone who looked like me in film.”

Despite not getting attention from her peers as a teen, Winans realized one day she had to be a role-model for darker girls, especially those who didn’t get the same love and support from their family as she did.

Winans acknowledges Oprah Winfrey as a beacon during her childhood.  And today, she says the black representation in television and film is, “absolutely amazing!”

“If [Oprah] can pursue her dreams like this, certainly at some point, somebody will see me too.”

Winans pursued theater in school and after completing her Master’s program, she knew she’d done all the work necessary to move forward in her acting career. But that is when self-doubt started to hit. After hearing so many “no’s,” Winans began to wonder if acting was truly the career path she should be pursuing. Winans thanks her husband, attorney and community activist, Terrence Williams, for being the motivation she needed. After meeting Williams, Winans says she still didn’t have an agent, and hadn’t really booked anything.

Deborah Joy Winans, OWN, Greenleaf

Photo: YouTube

Still questioning God and wondering when her moment was coming, Winans recalls Williams sharing advice, “you have to be open and you have to be ready.” Months later, Winans was doing a family workshop production in NYC. Oprah attended, saw Winans performing, and pitched her to the network for the role of Charity.

“I knew I had done the work, it’s just a matter of being able to have an opportunity.”

She credits her support system for believing in her more than she even believed in herself. While currently prepping for Season 3, Winans notes how balance is more important than ever. With a full time schedule with Greenleaf and having a family life as well, Deborah Joy says it’s all about making “day-to-day decisions.”

Whether its deciding what time she needs to wake up to make sure her home is taken care of before heading to work, or simply deciding what to eat while on set, Winans says you have to constantly choose what’s best for you.

After being nominated for Best New Artist at the Stellar Awards, Winans is currently trying to figure out if singing will be one of the next steps in her future. She did however, have a single on the Greenleaf soundtrack, The Master’s Calling, that shot to the top 20 on the Gospel Billboard chart. Along with constantly writing, it’s safe to say, Deborah Joy Winans will have a busy 2018!

“When you recognize who you are in God and who you belong to, you know that there is nothing that is for you, that you won’t get.”

Follow Deborah Joy Winans at, @deborahjoywinans – Instagram and @deborahjwinans – Twitter to stay in the loop with what she’s up to next!

Continue Reading


American Bobsledder Aja Evans Looks to Bring Home Gold at the Winter Olympics



aja evans, winter olympics,
Photo: Sports Illustrated

Bobsledding might be the sport to watch in this winter’s Olympic Games. We’re seeing more representation and more awareness of the sport. It has been nearly two decades since Vonetta Flowers became the first African-American bobsledder to bring home a Gold Medal in 2002. In 2017, we found out that Nigeria would have a bobsledding team of black girl magic competing for the first time ever, which brought even more excitement about representation in the sport. But did you know that we’ve got an African-American woman from Chicago representing TEAM USA? 29-year-old Aja Evans will be competing in the Olympics for the SECOND time, after winning a Bronze medal in 2014.

Evans is using her platform to encourage more participation from people of color in on-ice sports. Her story was also recently featured in Procter and Gamble’s Love Over Bias campaign who spotlight athletes who found their deepest encouragement from their mothers.

“I saw that I could be a symbol of power and resilience and strength for others,” Evans says, “and I wanted to own that. … It was a powerful realization to understand I was standing for so much more. I was representing where I’m from. I was representing African-American women all across the world…In this city and the areas I grew up in, so many kids are closed-minded and they don’t think there’s any more to life outside of where they are,” she says. “But I’m living proof that there is. When I talk to kids, I want them to see my (Olympic) medal and to understand I accomplished these things because I refused to let anyone tell me I couldn’t.”

We are already inspired by Evans and will be cheering her on! The 2018 Winter Games in South Korea begin February 7th on NBC, but catch the opening ceremony on February 9th.

Read more about Aja Evans and her journey as an elite athlete here.

Continue Reading