Between LGBT-friendly health-care referrals, free HIV testing, the Transgender Health Fair and the upcoming Project Healthy Living Health Fair there is no question: for Affirmations, health is top priority.
London Bell serves as the Health and Wellness Manager at Affirmations. She, a straight ally, is an attorney with a professional doctorate from DePaul University College of Law.
Raised by a lesbian, Bell grew up immersed in the inequalities that face the LGBT community every day. Nine years ago, London suffered from a rare form of pneumonia that became Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder. While seeking medical care, she was disrespected, misunderstood and marginalized.
For these reasons, Bell has become very passionate about her work to ensure that the LGBT community receives access to a higher standard of culturally sensitive and safe medical care.
Can you tell us about the new weekly/monthly programming at Affirmations such as Tai Chi and Coping with Disabilities?
While our Director of Programs Johnny Jenkins handles this, we’re all very happy that these groups have come aboard as community partners. We are deepening our partnerships with many community organizations, so I’m hoping in the coming months we’re able to offer additional programming as well.
Volunteers who have completed our Volunteer Training, Diversity and Inclusion Training and Facilitator Training lead many of the programs. Our volunteers are a very important part of our Affirmations family – vital to helping us achieve our mission and maintaining a safe space for all.
Which health-oriented service are you most proud of?
I am very proud of the Transgender Health Fair. I took the lead in organizing this event, in partnership with Transgender Michigan. In 2010, we had an LGBT Health Fair and I noticed that there were not as many members of the transgender community there. I met with Rachel Crandall of Transgender Michigan about the disparity, and we had a dialogue about the specific needs of the transgender community. Organizing Transgender Health Fair was a great way to help meet these needs. I also personally wanted to be of greater service to the transgender community in general.
My goal was to create a safe space for our transgender community members, their families and friends to come out and learn about health issues that specifically impact the transgender community. I envision this health fair to continue growing every year. It’s not only the first Transgender Health Fair in Michigan but also the first in the Midwest.
What kind of programming do you feel the community center still needs?
I would love to see more programming that is specifically focused on healthy eating, exercise and issues of obesity. I know that Affirmations is committed to the Health and Wellness Program that addresses the mind and body dynamic of health and we are looking into having future programs that address these issues.
What’s a service that Affirmations offers that you feel not enough members of the community take advantage of?
I think that our tobacco education and prevention program could be utilized more. We are grant funded through the Michigan Department of Community Health – Tobacco Division to help to eliminate tobacco-related health disparities in the LGBT community. We have information in the building about tobacco and the impact on the LGBT community; we’ve held film viewings and discussion sessions as well as posted information on our website about the Michigan Tobacco Quitline. I am hoping that as we continue to reach the community we are able to educate more people about tobacco related health issues.
Can you tell us about the “Health and Wellness Fair” on May 12?
Beginning with Run 4 a Reason at 10 a.m., there will be a 5K/10K walk/run beginning at Affirmations. Get Out and Live is coordinating this and the proceeds raised will benefit Affirmations and Ruth Ellis Center.
From 1 to 5 p.m., Affirmations will serve as a site for Project Healthy Living. It will be a great opportunity for LGBT folks and allies to get low-cost screenings such as blood panel tests, iron test, Hepatitis B, Vitamin D, blood glucose and herpes. There will also be community organizations and businesses with display tables to connect with the community and provide Ferndale residents information about their programs and services. We’ll also be partnering with AIDS Partnership Michigan to offer HIV/AIDS testing and ACCESS to offer additional STD testing.