ALORDE Collective hosts first in a series of health seminars for black lesbians

by Jessica Carreras

For anyone who missed the ALORDE Collective's Genesis Health Conference at Hotter Than July this summer, fret not. On Oct. 25, the group is beginning a series of health seminars to cover all the same issues - and more.

For ALORDE Collective, which stands for African-American Lesbians Organized to Renew Dignity and Empowerment, the health of black lesbians is paramount. Ever since the group was reconfigured several years ago, health care issues have been their main focus. "It was just a reorganization of a new group of women who got together to reignite ALORDE Collective and decided that's...the direction that they wanted to go," explained board member Brooke Adams.

Adams recently stepped down as the group's president, but is remaining active - and with good reason. Over the next couple of months, the group will sponsor a series of seminars that cover everything from diabetes and heart disease to substance abuse and domestic violence. All seminars will be focused on these issues as they pertain to the black lesbian community.

Though the Genesis conference covered briefly all sorts of issues pertaining to black lesbian health, Adams and the members of ALORDE learned from the event that the demand for health knowledge was high. "We always wanted to sponsor a health fair, and this year at HTJ we got that opportunity," Adams explained. "The Genesis summit was dedicated entirely to African-American lesbian health issues. The seminar was a huge success and we had a wide variety of speakers covering a lot of health topics - cancer, heart disease, substance abuse, domestic violence, physical health and mental health."

But the seminar lacked one thing: enough time to answer all the questions and cover all the issues at hand. Thus, the idea of the seminars was born. "After the health symposium, we wanted to tap into some of the energy and enthusiasm for the information presented after the symposium, so we decided to host a series of mini seminars," Adams said.

The first seminar, held from 1-4 p.m. on Oct. 25 at the University of Detroit-Mercy's Commerce and Finance building in Room 208, will focus on mental health.

The speaker will be Dr. Fredericka Jackson, who was one of the presenters at the Hotter Than July health symposium. According to Adams, Jackson garnered such a positive response from participants the first time that she was a clear choice as the first speaker. "She was well received at the health symposium, and she was also able to tailor her presentation at that time to specific questions and concerns that our participants had at the time," Adams elaborated. "We thought it only fitting to bring her back to kick off the series of the mini seminars."

ALORDE and Jackson will also be teaming up with the psychology clinic at their women and gender studies program at U of D-Mercy, where Jackson is an alumna.

At the first seminar, said Adams, they hope to cover issues like depression, schizophrenia and any other topics that come up relating to mental health. "At the Genesis summit, Dr. Jackson, though she had a curriculum designed that she was going to speak about, she was able to tailor it to our audience and their questions," Adams explained. "So she has a general knowledge about a whole host of mental health issues and she'll touch on quite a few of them.

"If there's a discussion that needs to be had about something, we're going to do that."

But mental health is just one of the issues that ALORDE wants to educate people about in their seminars - and just one of the issues that Adams believes to be very important to black lesbian health.

Some of the most important issues, she says, are things like STDs, breast and cervical cancer, diabetes and heart disease. "Our health issues mirror those of the general public," Adams said. "But just as far as being African-American lesbians and African-American women, diabetes is always an important issue because it affects us in a greater percentage than it does our white counterparts. Cancer - breast cancer is an issue that's always important for women in general."

Moreover, Adams stressed that in the LGBT community, it is common for people to go to the doctor less often due to worrying about being stigmatized or unwelcome. Or, the may lack access to an adequate health care plan. "We're wanting to make sure that we send out that message that it's still important to go to your health care provider and maybe you can get references from some other people who have found health care providers who are sensitive to our particular issues and who don't discriminate." Adams said.

Still, Adams emphasized the importance of staying healthy. "Find a health care provider that you trust in," she suggested. "If you don't know of any, ask for a recommendation from your friends and family. Also, get physically active. Get moving. I can't stress that more."

The ALORDE Collective is actively searching for new board members. For more information, call 313-865-2170 or e-mail alordecollective@yahoo.com.

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