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For Us, By Us: Seattle area Black Health & Wellness Providers pack Black Dot for first meetup.

Africatown kicks of 2020 Community Health Initiative with provider meetup.

Black Dot Underground was at full capacity on Saturday as Africatown hosted their first Black Health and Wellness Provider Meetup. The meetup, Africatown’s first event of the New Year marked a new focus that the organization is highlighting in 2020, that being the one of the wellness of the community that Africatown serves directly and the greater African American community in the Seattle-Metro area as a whole.

While in previous years, Africatown has primarily been focused on the cause of home ownership and affordable housing developments such as the Liberty Bank Building and the upcoming Africatown Plaza development. 2020 marks a new and important direction for the organization.

According to K. Wyking Garrett, President and CEO of the Africatown Community Land Trust, the purpose of the health and wellness meetup is to look beyond the creation of spaces for community members and put a focus on the health of those who occupy the space.

“This Black Health and Wellness Provider Meetup was the first step in the launch of Africatown’s 2020 Community Health Initiative, we want our community to be its best self in these spaces.” said Garrett

“People in our community are dealing with a lot of pain and trauma and often times internalize it which not only magnifies it but also does not present an opportunity for healing, we are looking to break that cycle and today is a good first start." added Garrett.

Africatown put out a call to all Black health and wellness providers in the Seattle area a few weeks back to attend and the community did not disappoint with nearly 50 community members ranging from doctors, therapists, social workers, nutritionists, yoga instructors, gym owners, and more, all brought together with the common vision of creating a healthier Black community in Seattle.

The meetup was facilitated by DonYeta Villavaso-Madden - Owner and Principle Consultant of Lucy Lee Management Consulting. Madden, wanting to shun traditional Eurocentric approaches to such gatherings sought to integrate several Afrocentric techniques into the session.

Villavaso-Madden kicked off the meetup by first asking those in attendance a question that a Masai tribe in Southern Kenya greet tribe members, “Kasserian Ingera”, translated into English means, “So, how are the children?”. The idea being that a good barometer of community health is determining the health and wellness of community children.

“One of the things we forget because we are so busy surviving is how are the children doing? To speak in an affirming way we don't want to keep recreating the trauma in our community. We need to first stop and pause and think about the children, we have to care for them, they model themselves after us so we have to set the example of taking care of ourselves.” said Villavaso-Madden

From there, Villavaso-Madden made a “Call for Gifts” in which those in attendance identified who was in the room and what gifts (services) they offer but equally important, who was missing from the session so they can be contacted and their services be added to the collective resource list.

Lastly, Villavaso-Madden invited discussion on how will the group best connect moving forward to make sure that the momentum continues to move forward as well to integrate the meetup into existing resources available at Black Dot and Africatown.

“Next step on the facilitation side is thinking about how we bring more folks into the space on a monthly or quarterly basis and how we can align them with current programs like Black Dot masterminds where service providers can work with Black Dot to raise awareness around their practice, business, Also financial literacy courses, Black people are conditioned that we don't deserve much in terms of money so subconsciously we find a way to get rid of it. We need to address and break that cycle, these types of courses and others are already occurring at Black Dot” added Villavaso-Madden.

Africatown will now take the data gathered at the meetup and according to Garrett, Africatown will begin the work of creating an asset map based upon the different categories of service, geographic location, and resource requirements so that very soon community members who require health and wellness services will be able to easily access this information in a format that is welcoming and inviting to community members.

The fact that Africatown and not an outside entity or government organization initiated the meetup holds meaningful value and is a key indicator as to the priority the community is placing on health and wellness.

“Remember FUBU (referring to the For Us By Us clothing brand), the meetup was uplifting and empowering because it was for us and by us (community members)” said Madden describing the organic community led approach to the meetup. “There was no sense of competition in the room between the providers, we all realize that there is enough misery in our community to go around.” added Villavaso-Madden.

Africatown plans to hold recurring meetups for providers and continue to aggregate useful information and resources for community members. Later this year, Africatown plans to engage the community directly by holding a health and wellness fair in which community members will be able to meet providers face to face and ask questions and seek resources.

Ultimately Africatown is seeking to provide a space where community members and providers can come together in a comfortable way and erode the barriers real and imagined that present barriers to health and wellness in our community.

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