It was a time as Girlfriends from all over the city embarked on the Hyatt Hotel to share a day of activities with their girlfriends and Matthew Johnson, CEO of Girlfriends Health Guide for Women of Color during a recent conference on women’s health.
Girlfriends Health Guide for Women of Color® and its Girlfriends Network recently presented its 1st Annual “It’s All About You” Women of Color Health Disparities Conference at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Milwaukee. The conference was the first leg of a four-city tour, which will also include Dallas, Chicago and Atlanta in 2010.
Girlfriends is a health initiative that promotes women of color to begin taking better care of themselves and their health.
The mission of the health guide is to uplift, promote and inform women of color about health-related disparities affecting underserved and underrepresented ethnic women. The magazine publishes 250,000 issues quarterly in three markets – Milwaukee, Chicago and Atlanta – and plans to expand into other cities in 2010.
It also has an extensive online presence on Facebook and Twitter as well as a dedicated channel on YouTube that educates women of color about the holistic circles of life: mind, body and soul.
The conference featured national celebrity speakers and workshop facilitators. Gospel recording artist/actress Shirley Murdock, former radio talk show host Mother Love, national recording artist Syleena Johnson were presenters and actress/director Vivica A. Fox was the keynote luncheon speaker.
Many attended the health conference, including healthcare and community leaders, mothers, daughters and sisters, as they shared ideas to effect change on the racial and ethnic health disparities for women of color.
For all of you who have attended a Girlfriends’ event, ya’ll know that Matthew Johnson knows how to pamper all of his 20,000 girlfriends.
There was the welcome breakfast hosted by Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare.
Mother Love was the first presenter. In her workshop, titled Personal Experiences-Defeating the Enemy, she gave a personal account of her life, detailing her mom, dad and siblings, all of whom are deceased, health issues. It is believed diabetes had taken most of her family.
During her presentation, Mother Love spoke about how she had to take hold of her life based on family history. A spokesperson for the Diabetes Association, as well as many other health initiatives, Mother Love also gave out recipes for some down home, yet healthy meals.
Shirley Murdock and her husband Dale Degroast hosted a workshop on fighting in the family and relationships. While Celia Jackson, Wisconsin Secretary of Department of Regulation and Licensing, spoke on safety and knowing how to ask the right questions.
Dr. Eric Hohenwalter did a presentation on non-surgical options for fibroids and Dr. Natasha Travis talked about our heart health and stokes. The big D (diabetes) was presented by Dr. Felicia Robertson.
Dr. Sandra Underwood’s presentation was about being your own advocate and asking your doctor about things you have the right to know about your health.
What would our health be without a healthy mind? Dr. Stephanie R. Johnson and Gina Green-Harris discussed our brain health.
Cancer Prevention and Early Detection were hosted by Gerald Toliver and Chris Nielsen. Dr. Yvonne Bell-Gooden of Milwaukee Health Services dealt with coping with today’s stress and Lorraine Lathen presented us with a “Journey of a life time-Promoting healthy Babies” The workshops were so good and very informative.
Of course, there was a work out with the Body Beautiful guru.
There were also several vendors on hand from the American Cancer Society to Clarene Mitchell of VITAS Innovative Hospice Care sharing with us information.Mitchell was also joined by Diane Deese, the National Corporate Director of Community Affairs for VITAS Innovative Hospice Care. So many vendors were on hand to offer information to assist women in our much stressed lives. There was information on hydration (drinking water), Lupus a growing disease in women and suicide prevention.
Ok ya’ll our girl friend Roz Dandridge has a new job, with Chanel at Macy’s. They had the girlfriends looking and smelling good. Women were taught how to put on make-up, coloring and a host of beauty aids.
As the program began, Matt, Matthew Johnson as we fondly call him, did the welcome. He thanked all of us for being his girlfriends. Wendy, of United Healthcare, followed Matt with a greeting. She stated she believed in the mission and goals of Girlfriends. She said one of United Healthcare’s missions is to be part of the community; to integrate every fiber of our community; to bring good preventive ways to improve health care as well as show women how to implement good healthy lifestyle changes. She also did the invocation, personally asking God to continue to bless our leaders and the food. Holla!
The city of Milwaukee, Health Commissioner Devan Baker was on hand and shared a few words with us. He talked about the beautiful mosaic of women who were present at the conference.
Baker also spoke of President Obama’s slogan throughout his campaign, “Yes, we can,” saying that we can change the way we look at our health.
“We have to change the chronic diseases, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and infant mortality here. Women must begin to take better care of them. Even in death women want to take care of the world, everyone but themselves. We must change and yes, we can change our life style,” Baker said.
There was an awards presentation to a number of women, Dr. Underwood, Gail Morgan, Vanessa Roberts, Gil Johnson and Constance Johnson.
Vivica Fox was the keynote speaker for the luncheon. She was given a great intro of her life works to date. She was truly a down-home girlfriend. She gave it straight up and on the rocks about our health and how we must truly begin to take care of ourselves as women. She believes in women taking care of themselves. She talked about re-inventing one’s self.
“I am your sista gurl, without you there would be no me,” she said.
She touched on the role of women in Hollywood. “ I’m in a business where after you turn 40 it’s over,” she said.
“You have to have thick skin in this business to be successful. I always look forward because if you keep looking back, you can’t see what your future holds for you.”
Offering words of encouragement, Fox said: “Life is about chapters in a big book. Never let the naysayers, say it’s over for you or what you can’t do. I apply myself to do all I can.”
In addition to discussing life over 40 in Hollywood, she also talked about health for women over 40. “When we get 40, heart disease and other diseases can become a factor in your life. I now have the wisdom to stop and learn to enjoy the simply things in life,” she said.
She talked about her daily routine of working out and eating right. She says sometimes we need to pass on that second piece of bread. ”Just making small changes in how we eat can bring big results,” she said.
In closing, Fox reminded everyone to work smarter, not harder. “You do everything for everyone else take time for yourself,” she said.
The afternoon session brought all the national presenters together in one room and it was wild. Shirley Murdock, Mother Love, Syleena Johnson and Vivica Fox were having a good time. This was a Q&A session, where the audience asked them questions on any topic.
There were questions about diets, fat surgeries and the entertainment industry.
Mother Love had us rollin’ when she said she had shoes older than Syleena, who is really into wellness. Not only is she a national recording artist, but she is also a student with plans to major in nutritional science.
Vivica, talked about the movie she did on HIV and AIDS, noting that 70% of the new reported cases of HIV/AIDS are found in heterosexual women. She says women must now think about the men they are dealing with before they share their bodies with them.
She also gave us the break down on what she eats daily: very healthy foods, fish, fruits, veggies. She even added said, “everything white ain’t good for you.”. (She was talking about white breads, pastas and rice.)
“If you have a taste for something, you don’t have to eat it all,” she said. “It’s mental. We eat out of emotion, when we are sad, happy or mad and you are not hungry in most cases.” Mother Love added on to Vivica discussion ‘white’ foods, she shared a saying that her brother-in-law says: “if its’ white don’t bite.”she also discussed her 100-pound weight loss, saying“I eat a little bit at a time amd lots of veggies. A key thing: if I can’t pronounce it, I don’t eat it!”
Also discussing Hollywood, Mother Love said having convictions and living by them is a must. She says she was taken off a show because she refused to say the words mammy on whammy. “I refused to make myself look like a fool,” she said.
Just as we discussed physical health, Redonna Rogers prompted a discussion on financial health when she asked a question about managing your money. “I can only drive one car at a time so I put my money in my pension fund, the Screen Actors Guild. I don’t do the stock market. I do interest baring accounts and I watch my money,” Viivica Fox said..
Oh yes, and of course there was the “Let’s Talk About Sex” conversation, Holla! Mother Love had some real remedies on how to keep the flames burning and they were hot, hot, hot. She said she distresses with sex, user friendly sex. They had us rollin. Holla!
Women wanted to know what they thought about getting themselves a cougar. (Older woman/younger man) Ya’ll know, Vivica said she didn’t have a problem with it. Holla! But they really did talk about being healthy and being good to you, eating right, being physical and having good mental health comes through a life style change. You have to be committed to yourself to make it work for you and your family.
Syleena was the youngest of the panelist and she had her own belief systems and how it works in this big old world. She talked of the importance of women taking care of themselves.
She said she knows that at age 20 everything matters to you in the world. At age 30, you come into yourself. And at age 40 you don’t care one way or another, as Mother Love would say.
Vivica, Sylenna, Mother Love and Shirley shared great information and they were all hilarious. We had a truly good time. The panelists were our girlfriends for real.
The closer to the conference was the GNO-Girlfriends Night Out, where our girlfriend comedian Roz took over. At the event, there were many items raffled off, including a Mercedes Benz for the weekend. Everyone was so excited with ticket in hand, as they waited to see the car. All of a sudden there was this little bitty toy car that came across the floor and everybody was rollin’. It was too funny. There was also the shoe raffle and they gave away some nice shoes. There were special raffles of beautiful bras, giving women a reminder to get breast exams.
Of course, there were a few men there like Jarvis West who won a pair of women shoes. What men won’t do for love. He said he got a ticket so he could win his girl a pair shoes. Of course we had him put them on and model for us. Ya’ll should have seen him trying to stand up in the heels. Holla!
Stay Tune for Part II Next Week