Howard Brown Health hosted a second "Black Wellness" event July 17 at Sikia Restaurant to discuss community safety, healing, and how to improve their new Englewood location.
The first hour of the event began with food, refreshments, and mingling. Upon arriving, guests received a page-long questionaire with seven questions regarding personal definitions of safety and healing as well as the effectiveness of community resources:
1 ) Define safety.
2 ) What makes you feel safe in your community?
3 ) Do you feel safe in your community? Why or why not?
4 ) Define healing.
5 ) When something unsafe happens, what do you do to support yourself?
6 ) What resources are available in your community to help you heal and stay healthy mind, body, and soul?
7 ) How can Howard Brown Health support your healing and health needs?
The final hour of the event, the guests engaged in a large discussion about the questions provided. Everyone was encouraged to speak and share personal opinions and experiences as they pleased.
The first question, which asked for a personal definition of safety, was answered by a young gentlemen who described safety as security, serenity, and the freedom to do whatever one wants without the fear of ending up in some trouble.
The second question about how safe people feel in their community sparked some differing perspectives. One woman shared that as a trans woman of color, she feels more comfortable on the south side of Chicago than on the north side because she grew up here and is acquainted with the people. She added that often she feels that the media blows the amount of violence out of proportion so as to criminalize anyone living in the area. On the other hand, another woman shared that because of the heightened media coverage on gun violence, the police presence in the south side of Chicago is more intense and that "all it takes is one nervous white woman with a cell phone" to cause an altercation that could put a person of color's life in danger. Many people in the room nodded in agreement to the fact that more police presence has actually instilled more fear into the community rather than a sense of safety.
Another topic that came up was the issue of mental health and how too many people are suffering in silence because like domestic violence, it is something that is supposed to "stay at home." One participant said that it is important for organizations like Howard Brown Health, which is looking to help people, to be patient and go at the pace that the patient is willing to in terms of opening up. He added that rushing people out and telling them that there is no time for what they have to say is the best way to get someone to stop coming to meetings that are in fact designed to help them.
There was not enough time to discuss all seven questions, however, the discussion was vibrant and very insightful.
"These events are an opportunity for people to come together in an non-medical setting and have real conversations about how we are going to take care of each other," said Alicia Williams, the program manager and community engagement associate at Howard Brown Health. She added that Howard Brown is diligently working to get to know their patients' needs on the south side of Chicago and change any perceptions of them being an organization that predominantly helps white individuals.