This weekend, a couple of organizations are hosting different events in an effort to increase health equity in Minneapolis.
Along West Broadway Avenue on Minneapolis’ northside will be a block party called Live Your Healthy Lyfe. The festival, which runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., is free and aims to provide residents in the historically Black area with awareness of health resources in the area.
What initially began as wanting to create an event with healthy food options for the West Broadway area evolved into an event to emphasize health equity and increase education and access around it.
In 2019, Teto Wilson, one of the event organizers, who owns Wilson’s Image Barbershop & Stylists on 2126 West Broadway Ave., noticed there weren’t healthy meals available in the area.
“If you wanted to get like a healthier meal, then you really had to go outside of north Minneapolis,” Wilson said.
Wilson found himself often going to other cities not only for food but also for community events. He wanted those forms of entertainment and impactful messages on the northside, too, so he turned hope into action.
There will be a variety of Black-owned vendors, art, activities and music, in addition to the community conversations, food science demonstrations, health care screenings, vaccinations and mental health consultations. Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity will be there as well because Wilson recognizes housing security as a large part of someone’s overall health.
“We want anybody that’s dealing with health issues to be able to benefit from health resources,” Wilson said. “We’re trying to get people to empower (themselves), develop relationships with health care systems that have not been traditionally welcoming and have not been doing what they should do to serve us. We’re trying to build a bridge between the community and the health care systems where we both can pass and cross and meet one another.”
Black Americans are more likely than their white counterparts to die at early ages from almost all health-related concerns, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly 84 percent of north Minneapolis is comprised of Black and Brown people, with the highest concentration of Black-owned Northside businesses between Penn and Logan Avenues on West Broadway Avenue.
The event will be emceed by local comedian Bruce Leroy and will feature musical guests Lewie Blaze, BdotCroc, Jamela Pettiford, the International Reggae All-Stars and DJ Mo Phatt.
A kickoff event for Health in Her Hue, a platform that connects Black women and women of color to culturally sensitive healthcare providers, evidence-based health content, and community support, is also taking place Saturday, in Brooklyn Center. The event takes place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Heritage Center, 6155 Earle Brown Dr.
Representatives from Be The Match will be participating in the event in an effort to expand its presence in underrepresented communities to improve the diversity of the national blood stem cell and marrow registry. Be The Match operates a marrow donor program that connects healthy adult donors with patients suffering blood cancers and other blood diseases for the purpose of a stem cell transplant.
There is a significant disparity in match outcomes because there are not enough diverse members on the registry, said Erica Jensen, the senior vice president of Member Engagement, Enrollment and Experience at Be The Match.
Black patients only have a 29% chance of finding a matching donor on the registry, compared to a 79% chance for white patients. In the U.S., there are 9 million people on the registry.
Mikayla Draughon, a Minnesota teen, diagnosed with sickle cell disease at birth, is currently waiting for a match. It has been close to two years since her doctors recommended she get a bone marrow transplant, and she still has not found a match.
“If it’s this bad where we need to have a bone marrow transplant, how are we gonna continue waiting all of these years?” Mikayla’s mom, Demitrea Kelley, said.
The closest match she’s found is an 80% match, which didn’t feel promising, her mom said. Be The Match is trying to introduce more people to the registry and encourage people to donate, especially people of color.
“We can’t just sit here and say, ‘Oh doesn’t affect me, so it doesn’t matter,’” Kelley said. “We are a community. We should be in unity with each other.”
When asked what could be behind the lack of ethnic diversity in the registry, Jensen pointed to the history of the United States and representation in staffing within health care.
“There are a lot of historical and current mistrust issues within the health care systems in the United States and that is part of the reason when you talk to people about joining a registry, undergoing a voluntary medical procedure and being able to store and have your information walls go up because of the things that have happened in this country and the treatment of Black and Brown bodies,” Jensen said.
For Kelley, Saturday’s Hue event is more than finding a match for just one person.
“I’m not advocating just for Mikayla. We’re advocating for everyone else that’s dealing with the same or similar issue,” Kelley said. “We’re helping all patients that are minorities or clients that are minorities that need blood. This is important for everyone.”