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2-mile community 'Freedom Walk' on Aug. 13 will kick off 'Igniting Hope' conference


Mon, Aug 9th 2021 10:25 am

This year’s theme is ‘Healing Historical Trauma from Racist Research, Policies and Practices’

An ongoing battle. That’s how Pastor George F. Nicholas describes the health disparities that African Americans are still trying to overcome.

“It’s an ongoing battle for our own liberation,” says Nicholas, pastor of Lincoln Memorial United Methodist Church and convener of the African American Health Equity Task Force. “As long as we in the African American community still have these very real health disparities, there’s a level of bondage we’re still in.”

That’s why Nicholas and his colleagues on the African American Health Equity Task Force and the Buffalo Center for Health Equity are joining with the University at Buffalo and its Community Health Equity Research Institute for “Igniting Hope: Healing Historical Trauma from Racist Research, Policies and Practices.” The two-day conference is supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health and by several community sponsors.

The conference kickoff event on Aug. 13 will be a 2-mile-long “Freedom Walk” from the Michigan Street African American Heritage Archway along Michigan Avenue to the Freedom Wall at the corner of East Ferry. The walk is open to the community. Alternative transport will be provided for those who are unable to do the walk. Conference sessions on Aug. 14 will take place virtually from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Registration and additional conference information is available online. The tentative agenda has also been posted.

“The purpose of the walk is really to symbolize that people are gathering in the community again,” said Nicholas, a member of the board of directors of the UB Community Health Equity Research Institute. “There’s a level of celebration in terms of the good work we’ve been doing.”

He noted that if it had not been for the collaborations between the task force, the center and UB and all of their partners, he believes that the COVID-19 outcomes in the African American community would have been significantly worse.

But much more needs to be done, and this is the point of the conference, which, the organizers point out, is focused less on health care issues themselves and more on the systems and the infrastructure that create disparities in the first place.

They note that collaborations between UB and all of the community partners have all been solidly based on the idea that it is the root causes of health disparities that exist outside of the health care system that so desperately need to be addressed.

This is the fourth year of the “Igniting Hope” conference series. Each of the first three years attracted approximately 300 attendees. “This conference series is becoming an annual summit that brings together community and university stakeholders to understand health disparities and discuss viable solutions to this systemic problem in our community,” says Timothy Murphy, M.D., director of the UB Community Health Equity Research Institute.

“We’ve said we will identify clearly what’s driving these disparities, and then we will start to chip away at them,” says Nicholas. “It takes time. It’s not sexy, but it’s the work that needs to be done, to do the research and get the data on what’s really driving these things. It’s the work that needs to be done so that our children and grandchildren don’t have to be dealing with this stuff.”

Keynote speakers are:

•Thomas LaViest, Ph.D., dean and Weatherhead Presidential Chair in Health Equity, Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Health, who will discuss “My Journey to Discover Why Disparities Exist… and What to Do about It.”

•Heidi L. Gartland, chief government and community relations officer, University Hospitals, Cleveland, who will discuss “The Anchor Mission: Tackling Economic & Racial Disparities to Create Equitable Health Outcomes.”

•Donald E. Grant, executive director, Mindful Training Solutions, who will discuss “Historical Trauma: A Contemporary Conundrum.”

Breakout discussions will focus on topics raised by the keynote speeches, as well as the environment, fines and fees, historical trauma and healing, and nutrition.

In addition to Nicholas, other speakers addressing the conference are:

•UB President Satish K. Tripathi, who will deliver opening remarks

•Timothy F. Murphy M.D., SUNY Distinguished Professor; director, UB Clinical and Translational Science Institute; director, UB Community Health Equity Research Institute, University at Buffalo

•Rita Hubbard Robinson, Neuwater & Associates; associate director, UB Community Health Equity Research Institute

•Alan J. Lesse, M.D., associate professor of medicine; senior associate dean for curriculum, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB.

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