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The penalty for being black in America isn’t just Ferguson it’s in everything including health



Dr. Lekeisha Sumner, an Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences at University of California, Los Angeles addresses discrimination and how its effects exceed the emotions caused by racial profiling and injustice. Dr. Sumner’s piece hits home in that it covers how being “Black in America” is almost a health risk.

The problem in the US isnt just about the criminal justice system, but about widespread discrimination in all walks of life. Getting the measure of discrimination The way ethnic discrimination influences health is complex, but it is certainly pervasive. We know that it generates chronic and traumatic stress and manifests across major facets of life employment, housing, economic, and legal and limits opportunities.

The killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, and the city’s handling of the case and subsequent protests has once again focused minds on race discrimination in the US. Just how quickly the incident became incendiary shows how tension and segregation are never far from the surface.

The problem in the US isn’t just about the criminal justice system, but about widespread discrimination in all walks of life. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination recently discussed the treatment of ethnic minorities in the US. Yet one implication of this still remains largely overlooked: health.

In the United States, African Americans account for a disproportionate share of many of the leading health conditions and, according to the Institute of Medicine and Centers for Disease Control, ethnic discrimination plays a role in these health inequities.

The way ethnic discrimination influences health is complex, but it is certainly pervasive. We know that it generates chronic and traumatic stress and manifests across major facets of life – employment, housing, economic, and legal – and limits opportunities. It directly and indirectly interferes with emotional and physical health, and studies report that it is associated with a range of problems including birth outcomes, coronary artery calcification, continuous blood glucose, hypertension, obesity, and decreases in immune functioning.

Perhaps Martin Luther King Jr gave voice to the experience of ethnic discrimination best in 1967 when he stated:

Discrimination is a hellbound that gnaws at Negros in every waking moment of their lives to remind them that the lie of their inferiority is accepted as truth in the society dominating them.

Ethnic discrimination manipulates the manner in which African Americans are viewed by larger society and sometimes, even themselves. The paradox is that even when overwhelming evidence of discrimination exists, too often they are still blamed. For example, when certain big banks were federally investigated for systematically targeting black and latino communities with shady mortgage lending practices, these communities were still castigated by many for losing their homes.

Foreclosure is a major life crisis that threatens one’s sense of security and creates a cascade of health problems and exacerbates pre-existing conditions, such as high blood pressure, sleep deprivation, and depression. Because of the complexity of tracking – let alone dealing with – how ethnic discrimination impacts health, it’s all too easy to blame these issues on just an unfortunate deal in life.

There are so many stereotypes that perpetuate fears about African Americans; that we’re dangerous or reactionary. These cause many to feel an unspoken pressure to modulate their own emotions in the face of discrimination and to quell the anxieties of the perpetrators, because expressions of frustration may be misinterpreted as dangerous.

In the face of discrimination, people who internalise their feelings are likelier to engage in unhealthy behaviours – a convenient way to anaesthetise distress. Studies have shown that African Americans with experiences of ethnic discrimination engage in tobacco use at a frequency as much as 50% more than those without similar experiences.

In addition to dealing with discrimination itself, it’s clear we need to find healthier ways to deal with the pain it causes.

Health behaviours are personal choices. But let’s not forget that health choices are shaped by many determinants – including policy, environmental and historical – that guide the options from which we are presented and those we are most likely to choose. Nutrition programmes like the Farm Bill, which increase access to affordable, healthier foods, can help steer us toward better choices.

Despite strides made by our nation in addressing discrimination and the many strengths of the African American community, on the whole, African Americans have had limited space to heal racially laden traumas and stressors. It is possible that better health will reveal itself by simply having ongoing, meaningful and vigorous conversations based on a shared sense of humanity about these provocative issues in the public sphere. Public figures of varying ideologies can come forward to make the case and politicians can authorise funding for campaigns to raise public awareness to galvanise communities.

Only by having these courageous dialogues will we close the gaps of separation created by antiquated systems, and move society towards being more compassionate about how it deals with years of pent up pain and the parasite of discrimination.

We’re still very used to seeing the impact of health on an individual level. But the effects of discrimination can be seen on a mass scale.

The damaging health effects of living in a society that has long accepted “the lie of inferiority” about African Americans is a societal cost too high to pay. The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare as it’s more popularly known, is a step in the right direction to addressing health inequities because it includes provisions to expand access to care. It also emphasises prevention, especially through behavioural health.

To further improve the health of African Americans, specifically, we need to significantly reduce the health-related effects of ethnic discrimination at all levels. Some solutions include delivering health services aimed at African Americans and training more African Americans for careers in the health professions. By tapping into the rich reservoir of the cultural strengths of their communities, African Americans can also bolster their ability to cope with the parasitic gnawing of discrimination and build themselves into a healthier, stronger population. Via

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Ilen Bell is co-founder and CEO of Black Fitness Today, the digital magazine dedicated to empowering the black community - mind, body, soul, culture and money. He lives in Tucson, AZ with his wife and daughter and nine-to-fives it as head strength and conditioning coach for a military special operations unit.


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!

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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.

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Hollywood Stylist and Former WAGS LA Star Ashley North Talks Healthy Living

The Fashion Maven Dishes Juggling Motherhood, Career, and Personal Fitness In Style



ashley north, black fitness today, home decor, celebrity stylist
Photo credit: Shannon Laurine

Black Fitness Today got a chance to catch up with fashion maven & stylist to some of Hollywood’s most dapper actors, Ashley North. Ashley, formerly of E! Network’s WAGS LA and fiancé to one of the toughest players in the NFL (Dashon Goldson), shares her workout regimen and how she juggles both worlds of motherhood and staying fit for the fashion!

As a busy mom, how do you incorporate fitness into your daily regimen?

It’s hard, but I have to do it!!!  My girls are so active and in order to keep up I have to be in shape!!! (laughs)

Why is fitness an important part of your life? How does it help you?

Fitness is important, I mean I’m a fashion girl at heart and to look good and feel good I have to work out. It helps me with feeling strong inside out, there no better feeling than being fearless and knowing your body’s capabilities and strengths.

Tell us about your workouts! What are your favorite exercises and why?

I do some classes at my gym but mainly circuit training with my trainer, every session we focus on something new and it keep me on toes and most importantly it makes my workouts fun! My favorite workout… is anything that has to do with ABS!!! I’m trying to get bikini ready and keeping my tummy tight is so major.

Since your fiancé is NFL Pro baller, Dashon Goldson, do you all enjoy any workouts together? (Share Detail)

LOL (Laughs) Honestly Dashon is such a professional I can’t hang with him in gym. He will try to work out with me but he gets intense and I just can’t keep up! We have a membership at the same gym and he’s so encouraging and really tries to help me but there’s no competing with a pro baller.

How does your diet impact your fit family?

I really try to stay as healthy as possible and try to create innovative ways for the girls to enjoy eating heathy, but my fiancé is Jamaican so it’s tough! His mom taught me some amazing recipes and I always incorporate a veggie with our meals. For snacks, we eats lots of fruits and I’m always down for a good smoothie or protein shake.

ashley north, celebrity stylist, black fitness today

Photo credit: Shannon Laurine

How do you make sure your family stays fit and healthy?

Our oldest stays in sports, she’s very active, basketball, soccer you name it she’s in it. We maintain our workouts, Dashon trains every morning so he’s GOALS for us all. With him being an athlete it makes it easier for us to stay on track.

What’s on your workout playlist?

Anything rachet I LOVE IT!!! (laughs)

What is your gym bag?

Uhmmm, this is a good question… bottled water, towel, misted water, a hair tie, and an oversized hoodie for sure!!

What your favorite way to cool down from an intense workout session?

Honestly, I literally lay on the floor and pass out. I push myself, so when it’s over I collapse. But I’m good at listening to my body and a good protein shake to help with muscle recovery.

Tips for mothers juggling family and work?

Find the time for yourself. I’ve noticed I feel most confident when I feel fit and look good in my clothes. When I’m working out that’s MY time to really focus on ME (we all need that). So, finding the time to do something for yourself is KEY!

What is your favorite gym outfit? Favorite fitness clothing brand?

Right now, I’m loving CARBON38, they have really cool fit/leisure wear and everything is high-waisted and really on trend. The materials are luxe and I’m a complete fan of this brand.

For more on Ashley follow her on Instagram @ashleynorthstyle!

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Karen Civil, Live Civil, Black Fitness Today




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