Boris Kodjoe on prioritizing his ‘spiritual, mental and physical health’: ‘I take time every single day to just be with myself’

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Boris Kodjoe sitting and smiling for the camera

By Erin Donnelly and Stacy Jackman, Yahoo! Life

The Unwind is Yahoo Life’s well-being series in which experts, influencers and celebrities share their approaches to wellness and mental health, from self-care rituals to setting healthy boundaries to the mantras that keep them afloat.

On-screen, Boris Kodjoe is saving lives as a firefighter on the ABC action-drama Station 19. Off-screen, he’s hoping to do the same by amplifying a new Men’s Health Awareness Month campaign highlighting the risks of prostate cancer, particularly for Black men like him, who are 75 percent more likely to be diagnosed with the disease and twice as likely to die from it.

In a video interview with Yahoo Life, the Austrian-born actor stresses the importance of looking after one’s physical and mental health. In terms of the former, he’s partnering with Depend and the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) for the return of the Stand Strong for Men’s Health initiative to destigmatize male incontinence and offer support to those being treated for prostate cancer; Depend will donate up to $350,000 to the cause.

Kodjoe calls the cause a “very personal” one, as he saw a close friend and mentor undergo his own battle with prostate cancer.

“It reminded me that I needed to take care of myself,” he says. “And the first step to do that is to talk about health issues, to talk about everything that concerns us — spiritual, mental and physical health — to be vulnerable, to be open and not to consider it as a weakness to talk about these things. And as Black men, we are facing a lot of things every single day. There’s a lot of weight on our shoulders, but in order to take care of others, we’ve got to take care of ourselves first.”

The Soul Food actor hopes the initiative and breakthrough in cancer research will help draw attention and find solutions to the racial disparities present in access to quality health care. He also wants to spark conversations about other pressing health issues within the Black community, including obesity and the mental strain brought upon by the pandemic and social justice unrest.

Now 48 and a father of two — he and his actress wife Nicole Ari Parker share a daughter and son — Kodjoe is prioritizing his own health needs as he gets older.

“I’m getting to an age now where I’m the guy now holding the phone six feet away from my face so I can read what’s on the screen,” he jokes. “It’s undeniable that we’re all getting older and so we need just those constants… I’m the first one to admit that I didn’t do a great job always taking care of myself. I have a family and they depend on me, so I need to do that.”

That includes looking after his mental headspace, too.

“I practice what I preach and I take time every single day to just be with myself, whether it’s my morning prayer, meditation or laying down and stretching in my trailer when I have five or 10 minutes between shots,” he says. “There’s stuff that you can do that’s pretty simple to include in your daily routine that you could turn into a habit. And it’s important because we have so many habits that are detrimental to our health. We need to balance that out with habits that are actually good for ourselves — whether it’s mental health, spiritual health or our physical health — that will ensure that we’re here for a longer time.”

The Real Husbands of Hollywood star — who will soon make his directorial debut with the Lifetime movie Safe Space, in which he stars opposite his wife — says that his work can also be “therapeutic.”

“It’s a creative outlet,” he says. “It’s a way for me to represent who I am, to represent us [the Black community] in the most multi-dimensional way possible. Historically we’ve been sort of portrayed in one-dimensional ways. And I think that every role we take on, we try to make sure that you represent our culture in a way that shows how multi-dimensional we are. It’s an outlet that I’m really grateful to have.”

While that work is rewarding, Kodjoe is careful to maintain what he calls a “work-life list of priorities,” with his family at the top.

Click here to read the full article on Yahoo! Life.

3 Ways to Conquer Imposter Syndrome

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By Lori Pugh

I’ve spent most of my professional career in the high-tech field, surrounded by predominantly male leadership. While I will always be appreciative of the mentorship and guidance I have received over the years, I’ve often found self-comparison leading the way for me.

In the STEAM fields, you’re expected to be very innovative and forward-looking. While those around me exuded confidence and self-assurance, I have often felt like I was faking it. For the longest time, I became risk-averse for fear of looking stupid. As I climbed the corporate ladder, I was sure these feelings would leave me and was disappointed to find that they would intensify.

Then, one day, many years ago, an employee reached out to me asking for advice about overcoming “imposter syndrome.” Never having heard of this affliction, my interest was piqued. After reading more about it, I realized this term describes me. Discovering that others felt these feelings flooded me with relief. In my research, I found that this “syndrome” was felt mainly by women and people of color.

Instead of being stressed, I felt challenged to learn how to conquer it. I sought coaching to help me do so, which inspired me to help others with my newfound knowledge. It has been a monumental privilege to help others learn to conquer this debilitating condition. If you can relate to these feelings, then I know you can conquer them, too. Here are three ways to do so.

1. Build self-confidence. Nobody is born with confidence. That means it can be built! Self-confidence is an emotion guided by our thoughts. If we become aware of our thoughts and identify the driving factor of negative emotions, then we have the power to target and change them. We can alter beliefs about ourselves, our career, our relationships, our lives. It’s natural for fear to crop up. That’s just the primitive part of our brains trying to protect us. With practice, all of us can rise above those natural, fear-driven thoughts and create self-confidence in every area of our lives.

2. Recognize that failing is a crucial part of success. We’ve all been taught in some way that failure must be avoided. However, when I was surrounded by software engineers, I learned that we all need to fail to improve. They call it “failing fast.” When developing software, failures or “bugs” are a normal and natural part of the testing process. It helps developers improve what isn’t working in the coding. Rather than fearing failure, look at it as a sign that you’re learning and moving forward.

3. Stop agonizing over what others may think. It’s natural for us to ponder what others think about us, but it’s the worrying that paralyzes us because there’s nothing we can do about it. Worried thoughts, however, are notoriously inaccurate. In the end, you cannot control others’ thoughts, feelings or expectations. While you may still face times of worry, you also face a choice in those moments to have courage and move forward despite any discomfort. And in doing so, you will continue to build confidence in yourself.

The journey of creating self-confidence and conquering imposter syndrome can be a long and challenging process. But if you choose to be your authentic self and have confidence in your abilities, you’ve taken the first important step.

Lori Pugh is the Chief People Officer for the nonprofit, Waterford.org. She is also a certified life coach specializing in helping women build their self-confidence and recognize their inherent brilliance. You can find more information on her website, loripugh.com, or by joining her Facebook group, “Women Walking Tall.”

How Black tech entrepreneurs are tackling health care’s race gap

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entrepreneurs photo: (from left) Kevin Dedner founded Hurdle, a mental health startup that pairs patients with therapists. Ashlee Wisdom's company, Health in Her Hue, connects women of color with culturally sensitive medical providers. Nathan Pelzer's Clinify Health analyzes data to help doctors identify at-risk patients in underserved areas. Erica Plybeah's firm, MedHaul, arranges transport to medical appointments.

By Cara Anthony, NPR

When Ashlee Wisdom launched an early version of her health and wellness website, more than 34,000 users — most of them Black — visited the platform in the first two weeks. “It wasn’t the most fully functioning platform,” recalls Wisdom, 31. “It was not sexy.” But the launch was successful. Now, more than a year later, Wisdom’s company, Health in Her Hue, connects Black women and other women of color to culturally sensitive doctors, doulas, nurses and therapists nationally.

As more patients seek culturally competent care — the acknowledgment of a patient’s heritage, beliefs and values during treatment — a new wave of Black tech founders like Wisdom want to help. In the same way Uber Eats and Grubhub revolutionized food delivery, Black tech health startups across the United States want to change how people exercise, how they eat and also how they communicate with doctors.

Inspired by their own experiences, plus those of their parents and grandparents, Black entrepreneurs are launching startups that aim to close the cultural gap in health care with technology — and create profitable businesses at the same time.

Seeing problems and solutions others miss
“One of the most exciting growth opportunities across health innovation is to back underrepresented founders building health companies focusing on underserved markets,” says Unity Stoakes, president and co-founder of StartUp Health, a company headquartered in San Francisco that has invested in a number of health companies led by people of color. He says those leaders have “an essential and powerful understanding of how to solve some of the biggest challenges in health care.”

Platforms created by Black founders for Black people and communities of color continue to blossom because those entrepreneurs often see problems and solutions others might miss. Without diverse voices, entire categories and products simply would not exist in critical areas like health care, experts in business say.

“We’re really speaking to a need,” says Kevin Dedner, 45, founder of the mental health startup Hurdle. “Mission alone is not enough. You have to solve a problem.”

Dedner’s company, headquartered in Washington, D.C., pairs patients with therapists who “honor culture instead of ignoring it,” he says. He started the company three years ago, but more people turned to Hurdle after the killing of George Floyd.

In Memphis, Tenn., Erica Plybeah, 33, is focused on providing transportation. Her company, MedHaul, works with providers and patients to secure low-cost rides to get people to and from their medical appointments. Caregivers, patients or providers fill out a form on MedHaul’s website, then Plybeah’s team helps them schedule a ride.

While MedHaul is for everyone, Plybeah knows people of color, anyone with a low income and residents of rural areas are more likely to face transportation hurdles. She founded the company in 2017 after years of watching her mother take care of her grandmother, who’d had to have both legs amputated because of complications from Type 2 diabetes. They lived in the Mississippi Delta, where transportation options were scarce.

“For years, my family struggled with our transportation because my mom was her primary transporter,” Plybeah says. “Trying to schedule all of her doctor’s appointments around her work schedule was just a nightmare.”

Plybeah’s company recently received funding from Citi, the banking giant.

“I’m more than proud of her,” says Plybeah’s mother, Annie Steele. “Every step amazes me. What she is doing is going to help people for many years to come.”

Click here to read the full article on NPR.

YOUR HEALTH MATTERS: African American models wear their natural hair and talk mental health

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African American models wear their natural hair and talk mental health

By Annie Krall, WBay

“A woman’s hair is her crown” a saying which takes on a deeper meaning for black women. Wearing their natural hair for example in afros or braids is a source of cultural pride. But it sometimes invites social and professional rejection.

Some of the African American women in our community and across the country tell us heavy is the head that wears the crown in the struggle for racial equality. For black women, having access to products and stylists who know how to care for their hair and makeup can be life-changing.

“Just access to basic products sometimes can be a huge barrier to being able to feel really good about how you’re looking,” Renita Robinson the vice-president of diversity and inclusion at Prevea Health shared. “So, with African American hair there are curl patterns and you can have super curly hair. My hair is super super curly. So, when my hair was longer when it was 12 inches long, when it got wet it was probably about an inch. It curls up super tight. You have to straighten it to have it look longer.”

It’s a local problem. Trying to find a hair stylist with different textured hair can be difficult. Which is why visiting black hair stylists like Shear Images Salon in Appleton is so crucial. However, it’s not just a problem of beauty access in Northeast Wisconsin. It’s a national issue.

“I’ve been on sets where I actually came with a full afro like this, it was actually bigger, and I left with my hair straight, and it wouldn’t revert back,” model, entrepreneur, and mental health advocate Tanaye White remembered. “I’ve been on sets where the makeup artists didn’t have my foundation color and I was literally on set looking like Casper the Ghost. I’ve been on sets where I’ve had to run into the bathroom and do my makeup myself because no one knew or had what I needed.”

Working for brands like Adidas, Sports Illustrated, and Juicy Couture featuring her natural afro, Tanaye said was a turning point in her career. As was the summer of 2020 for the modeling industry after the race riots with the creation of the Black Beauty Roster. An entertainment industry directory of hair and makeup artists with expertise on people of color.

An initiative to prevent models showing up to fashion shows and feeling, “just exhausting,” Mamè Adjei, a model, actress, and activist, emphasized. “Exhausting and a little traumatizing to be honest because we’ll go on set and I would just love to get up and be on set like my white counterparts and not worry about doing my hair or makeup. But I have to come prepared as with anything in life.”

When asked about having that expertise about different skin tones and different hair types, how important is that to sort of see makeup artists who are able to work on models like you, who actually have that familiarity that a lot of times wasn’t there.

“I love Black Beauty Roster because they really amplify the voice of D&I,” Tanaye replied.

Showcasing the beauty and strength of black women in Northeast Wisconsin.

“If a person doesn’t feel good about belonging or has issues around belonging and those kind of things,” Renita said. “Of course not looking good is only going to exacerbate it particularly if there is bullying. Or if there are environments where people are making comments to make you feel more vulnerable.”

These black women emphasized three points. First, fostering positivity and understanding even if you don’t regularly have to think about your hair. Secondly, to use resources like YouTube to learn more and be an ally or do outreach. Finally supporting local black hair stylists or joining the Black Beauty Roster to inspire change.

Click here to read the full article on WBay.

Diversity in the Healthcare Industry, at Every Step

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business woman seated at desk smiling with hand on laptop

Abbott and Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) recently announced a $37.5 million initiative to empower diverse small businesses to help create a more diverse healthcare supply chain. The initiative will provide diverse small-business owners with the tailored solutions, support and resources they need to grow, compete and create jobs – enabling greater diversity in healthcare and a more inclusive supply chain for Abbott and other healthcare companies.

This work advances Abbott and LISC’s shared commitment to create a more diverse healthcare industry and generate jobs and stronger economies in underinvested communities.

This funding opportunity is open to qualified diverse small businesses and offers support through:

  • Growth capital: interest-free capital to help businesses overcome hurdles to expansion, such as investing in management systems to comply with regulatory and environmental requirements
  • Business loans: flexible, affordable loans that would not typically be available through conventional lenders
  • Tailored coaching and technical assistance: targeted, customized support, including help with fulfilling investment and loan requirements and identifying and addressing specific business challenges

Eligible diverse small businesses for program participation and funding must be:

  • Diverse-owned, defined as those that are majority owned by people of color (including Black, Latino, Asian and Native Americans), women, veterans, people with disabilities, people who identify as LGBTQ, and other historically underrepresented groups;
  • In business for more than two years and are based in the U.S. with an annual revenue of $250,000 or more; and
  • Focused on manufacturing nutrition, diagnostics, medical devices or other health technologies, or offering business-to-business products and services that the healthcare industry can use.
  • Sole proprietors are not eligible for the program.

For more information about this initiative, please visit the LISC site. And to learn more about Abbott’s work to support a more diverse supply chain, visit Abbott’s site.

Black women start to talk about uterine fibroids, a condition many get but few speak about

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Uterine Fibroids patient Daye Covington after treatment

By , NBC News

When Daye Covington visited her doctor for a routine physical last year, she expressed concern about weight gain in her belly that she said made her look seven months pregnant. But she knew she wasn’t pregnant, and she had a healthy lifestyle. An MRI revealed that she had multiple uterine fibroids — noncancerous growths in the uterus — the size of cantaloupes.

“First, I was relieved to know that I was not pregnant because I was not trying to be pregnant,” she told NBC News, “and then I was scared because I didn’t know much about fibroids.”

Uterine fibroids are rarely discussed, despite being a common condition, particularly for Black women. Experts say that by age 35, about half of Black women have had them, and by age 50, 80 percent of Black women have them, compared to 70 percent of white women. Black women are also more likely to have higher fibroid growth than other racial groups. While most cases require no treatment, in some instances, they can cause weight gain, heavy periods, frequent urination or pelvic pain, and they may require surgery.

Now, some Black women, like Covington, who shared her experience on are speaking up about their struggles and are encouraging others to educate themselves about the condition, so they can identify the symptoms and seek treatment, if necessary. Former star of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” Cynthia Bailey, 55, recently shared her experience with uterine fibroids with People, saying she endured heavy bleeding during periods, fatigue and an expanded belly, which led fans to assume she was pregnant. She also said her mental health took a toll.

 

31-year-old Daye Covington’s stomach is shown before and after her myomectomy.
31-year-old Daye Covington’s stomach is shown before and after her surgery to remove fibroids. Daye Covington

“It’s very hard to be in a good space mentally when you’re bleeding all the time and when you don’t have any energy, and you’re anemic,” she told the magazine.

While all women are at risk for developing uterine fibroids, Black women are disproportionately affected, with one study showing that Black women are three times more likely to develop them than white women and that Black women are more likely to need surgical treatment.

The reasons for this disparity, however, are less clear, said Eric Hardee, a physician and co-founder of Houston Fibroids and Texas Endovascular Associates. A family history of fibroids increases a woman’s risk. Obesity, diet and environmental factors may also play a role. Hair relaxers have also been linked to increased risk of uterine fibroid development.

Black women may also be less likely to seek help.

Cynthia Talla, 28, said despite her severe symptoms, she felt like she had to endure her pain alone. When she did seek help after dealing with fibroid symptoms as a teen, Talla said the medical professionals made her feel that Black women are able to bear the pain.

After Talla had surgery in 2020, she recalled telling her mother how good she was finally feeling.

“I remember crying, like, ‘I can’t believe I didn’t feel like this for years,’” she said. “So it’s very bad.”

Sara Harris, who serves on the board of the reproductive health organization Resilient Sisterhood Project, agreed.

“I do think there’s that superwoman phenomena, that Black women can do it all,” she said, “and speaking from my own personal experience, not wanting to ask for help because you know that you can take care of your own stuff, and you have to take care of everyone else around you at the same time.”

Harris added that many Black women also feel a taboo talking about these issues. Resilient Sisterhood Project offers support groups and virtual webinars with Black health experts to answer questions about topics on endometriosis, infertility and HPV, as well as training for universities and health care organizations about reproductive health and Black women’s needs in accessing health care.

Another issue with uterine fibroids, Harris said, is that they’re often misdiagnosed.

“Black women might be misdiagnosed for having an STI [sexually transmitted infection] or misdiagnosed for being pregnant or treated for preventing pregnancy, rather than looking at sort of what could be a deeper cause of the same symptoms that a Black woman is facing — like pelvic pain or prolonged menstrual bleeding,” Harris said.

Click here to read the full article on NBC News.

Black therapists are struggling to be seen on TikTok. They’re forming their own communities instead

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Black therapists on TikTok are creating safe spaces for people of color.

From a well-lighted room, the plants blurred in the background, their face framed by closed captioning, Shahem Mclaurin speaks directly into the camera. The lesson: “Ten ways to start healing.”

But this is not a classroom, nor is it a therapist’s office. This is TikTok.

“We all have our own things to carry, and those burdens shouldn’t be carried with us for the rest of our lives,” says Mclaurin, a licensed social worker.

Through videos — some on topics like grief, “race/race-ism,” trauma and healing, others raw reactions or trending sounds, like this call to action to amplify people of color on TikTok — Mclaurin advocates for better representation in the mental health field. Mclaurin speaks to viewers who haven’t found caregivers they connect with because of stigmas surrounding therapy and acknowledges that few practitioners look like them.

“I am a Black, queer therapist, and I want to showcase myself being fully that,” Mclaurin said. “I always say, ‘My durag is part of my uniform.'”

Mental health professionals have soared in popularity on TikTok, addressing a wide swath of mental health conditions, reacting to the racial trauma from charged events like the trial of Derek Chauvin for George Floyd’s murder and the January 6 insurrection, and bringing humor to sensitive issues like depression that for some communities remain hushed. On TikTok, Black therapists talk openly about working in a predominantly White field, while at the same time making mental health care more accessible for people who might be shut out of the health care system.

The Chinese-owned video app, with its U.S. headquarters in Culver City, California, provides a massive platform and even the potential for fame, with more than 1 billion monthly users. The hashtag #mentalhealth has racked up more than 28 billion views, alongside others like #blacktherapist and #blackmentalhealth that attract audiences of millions.

Video production has ballooned into a main job for Kojo Sarfo, a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner living in Los Angeles, who has pulled in 2 million followers. Sarfo dances and acts out short skits about attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, eating disorders and other mental health conditions.

“I try to lighten topics that are very difficult for people to talk about,” he said. “And to let people know that it’s not as scary as you would think to go get help.”

Mental health professionals can run the gamut of medically trained psychiatrists to psychologists with doctorates to mental health counselors with master’s degrees. Although diversity is improving in the field — Black professionals make up 11% of psychologists younger than 36 — just 4% of the overall US psychologist workforce are Black, according to the American Psychological Association’s most recent data. More than three-quarters of mental health counselors are White.

Patrice Berry, a psychologist from Virginia, mostly uses TikTok to respond to people’s questions about things like tips for new therapists and setting boundaries with teens. Berry isn’t there to find clients. She has a waitlist at her private practice. She said TikTok is a way to give back.

Her comments sections are an outpouring of largely appreciative notes and follow-up questions, with some videos getting more than a thousand replies.

In one TikTok, Berry jokes about abruptly leaving a church when “they say you don’t need therapy or medication.” One user commented that was how she was raised in her Black Baptist church and that “we have so much unlearning and relearning to do.” Another wrote, “As a therapist I love this. Preach!”

A tightknit TikTok community has formed, and Berry spearheaded a Facebook group dedicated to Black, Indigenous and other people of color focused on mental health.
“I wanted to create a safe space for us to be able to have real conversations about our experiences on the app and to share tips and resources,” she said.

Therapist Janel Cubbage’s video topics range from evidence-based strategies for preventing suicides on bridges to collective trauma, sometimes addressing her Black audience directly.

Like other TikTokers, she is quick to note that watching videos is not a substitute for seeking professional help and that important concepts can get lost in the scrolling. Plus, even as TikTok works to identify and remove inaccurate information, creators without mental health degrees are going viral discussing similar issues without the expertise or training to back up their advice.

When dealing with trolls, Cubbage said, the emotional support from creators she’s met on TikTok is indispensable. “That’s been one of the really neat things about the app is finding this community of Black therapists that have become like friends to me,” she said.

Unlike Facebook, which relies largely on a user’s friends and followers to populate the feed, TikTok’s algorithm, or “recommendation system,” has a heavy hand in what people see. When a user engages with certain hashtags, the algorithm pushes similar content, said Kinnon MacKinnon, an assistant professor at York University in Toronto who has researched the app. At the same time, TikTok does heavily moderate content that does not abide by its community guidelines, suppressing pro-eating disorder hashtags like #skinnycheck, for instance.

Click here to read the full article on CNN.

Here’s the story behind Black History Month — and why it’s celebrated in February

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black history month sign

By , NPR

Every February, the U.S. honors the contributions and sacrifices of African Americans who have helped shape the nation. Black History Month celebrates the rich cultural heritage, triumphs and adversities that are an indelible part of our country’s history.

This year’s theme, Black Health and Wellness, pays homage to medical scholars and health care providers. The theme is especially timely as we enter the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately affected minority communities and placed unique burdens on Black health care professionals.

“There is no American history without African American history,” said Sara Clarke Kaplan, executive director of the Antiracist Research & Policy Center at American University in Washington, D.C. The Black experience, she said, is embedded in “everything we think of as ‘American history.’ ”

First, there was Negro History Week
Critics have long argued that Black history should be taught and celebrated year-round, not just during one month each year.

It was Carter G. Woodson, the “father of Black history,” who first set out in 1926 to designate a time to promote and educate people about Black history and culture, according to W. Marvin Dulaney. He is a historian and the president of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH).

Woodson envisioned a weeklong celebration to encourage the coordinated teaching of Black history in public schools. He designated the second week of February as Negro History Week and galvanized fellow historians through the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, which he founded in 1915. (ASNLH later became ASALH.)

The idea wasn’t to place limitations but really to focus and broaden the nation’s consciousness.

“Woodson’s goal from the very beginning was to make the celebration of Black history in the field of history a ‘serious area of study,’ ” said Albert Broussard, a professor of Afro-American history at Texas A&M University.

The idea eventually grew in acceptance, and by the late 1960s, Negro History Week had evolved into what is now known as Black History Month. Protests around racial injustice, inequality and anti-imperialism that were occurring in many parts of the U.S. were pivotal to the change.

Colleges and universities also began to hold commemorations, with Kent State University being one of the first, according to Kaplan.

Fifty years after the first celebrations, President Gerald R. Ford officially recognized Black History Month during the country’s 1976 bicentennial. Ford called upon Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history,” History.com reports.

Why February was chosen as Black History Month
February was chosen primarily because the second week of the month coincides with the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Lincoln was influential in the emancipation of slaves, and Douglass, a former slave, was a prominent leader in the abolitionist movement, which fought to end slavery.

Lincoln and Douglass were each born in the second week of February, so it was traditionally a time when African Americans would hold celebrations in honor of emancipation, Kaplan said. (Douglass’ exact date of birth wasn’t recorded, but he came to celebrate it on Feb. 14.)

Thus, Woodson created Negro History Week around the two birthdays as a way of “commemorating the black past,” according to ASALH.

Forty years after Ford formally recognized Black History Month, it was Barack Obama, the nation’s first Black president, who delivered a message of his own from the White House, a place built by slaves.

“Black History Month shouldn’t be treated as though it is somehow separate from our collective American history or somehow just boiled down to a compilation of greatest hits from the March on Washington or from some of our sports heroes,” Obama said.

“It’s about the lived, shared experience of all African Americans, high and low, famous and obscure, and how those experiences have shaped and challenged and ultimately strengthened America,” he continued.

(Canada also commemorates Black History Month in February, while the U.K. and Ireland celebrate it in October.)

There’s a new theme every year
ASALH designates a new theme for Black History Month each year, in keeping with the practice Woodson established for Negro History Week.

This year’s Black Health and Wellness theme is particularly appropriate, Dulaney said, as the U.S. continues to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

“As [Black people], we have terrible health outcomes, and even the coronavirus has been affecting us disproportionately in terms of those of us who are catching it,” Dulaney said.

Click here to read the full article on NPR.

Michael Jordan and His Son Jeffrey Jordan Launch Heir Inc., an Entertainment and Tech Venture Geared Around Athletes

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Heir-Inc-Jeffrey-Jordan-Daniel-George-Jeron-Smith

By Todd Spangler, Variety

Michael Jordan and his son Jeffrey Jordan are looking to drive the six-time NBA champ’s legacy into the world of NFTs and next-generation entertainment.

The Jordans have launched Heir Inc., a new holding company that plans to build a consumer-facing community platform for athletes to connect with fans — as well as other lines of business, including an entertainment studio and consumer products. (“Heir,” of course, is a play on the Air Jordan brand at Nike.)

The company was co-founded by Jeffrey Jordan (above left) along with marketing exec Daniel George (above middle), founder of agency Limitless Creative, and Jeron Smith (above right), former CEO/co-founder of Stephen Curry’s Unanimous Media.

Heir Inc.’s first tech product, called “Heir” (heir.app), is envisioned as a Web3 personalized community platform for athletes. For the Heir product, the startup closed a $10.6 million seed funding round led by Thrive Capital, marking the venture-capital firm’s foray into NFTs (and its largest seed investment ever). Investments also came from Solana Ventures, the investment arm of public blockchain platform Solana, along with angel investors including tech entrepreneur and investor Alexis Ohanian (co-founder of Reddit), New York Knicks EVP and senior basketball adviser William Wesley and Chicago Bulls guard Lonzo Ball.

Here’s how the founders say the Heir platform will work: Athletes will sell a limited number of membership-based “seats” to fans, who will get access to digital assets and first-person NFT drops, using an exclusive Heir token built on Solana’s energy-efficient blockchain network. (NFTs, or nonfungible tokens, are used to verify ownership of unique digital content.) Supporters will have the opportunity to purchase one-time digital assets or join an athlete’s “huddle” for exclusive drops, digital goods, immersive experiences, and other perks.

“The Heir platform reimagines the creator-fan experience, to empower athletes to engage with their fans,” Jeffrey Jordan told Variety.

For now, the founders are mum on which athletes may be on board for the initial launch of Heir, slated for 2022. “We’re being very deliberate with our early-adopter athletes,” Jordan said, adding that Heir is aiming for “tier one” NBA and WNBA players and the next generation of rising stars in the NCAA.

Will MJ be on the Heir platform? It’s unclear. According to Jeffrey, “My dad is a strategic adviser and partner. We meet with him regularly, and he provides guidance and insightful ideas… When he was playing, he didn’t have the same tools to connect with his fanbase or monetize that.”

Alongside the three founders, Heir Inc.’s executive team includes VP of operations Briana Richardson, formerly business manager at Robinhood and consultant with Bain & Co.

The focus for Heir is on young stars like Lonzo Ball who appeal to Gen Z and millennial fans, according to Smith. “Individuals his age have grown up with social platforms,” he said. “This is the first step for athletes building their meta-brands in the metaverse/Web3 world.”

Heir will generate revenue from consumers purchasing memberships in an athlete’s “huddle.” Athletes will get an 80% cut of primary sales of NFTs and Heir Inc. will keep 20%; on subsequent sales the split is 50-50.

The idea is keep the Heir memberships scarce: The number of seats in a given “huddle” will be capped at about 0.5%-1% of an athlete’s existing social following, according to George. Once you hit the cap, “the only way to get in is if somebody sells you their seat,” he said. “The value of the huddle seat appreciates over time.”

Digital content from athletes on Heir will encompass multiple formats, ranging from exclusive behind-the-scenes videos to what they’ve watched on Netflix. Athletes also will be able to host live Q&As with their huddle members and post polls and quizzes. Fans who are highly engaged on the platform will be rewarded by unlocking digital goods.

Click here to read the full article on Variety.

Simone Biles Details the Trusted Tool She Uses to Help Combat Her Anxiety

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Simone Biles posing on gymnatict floormat after performance smiling with hand in the air

By People

Simone Biles is developing tools to deal with anxiety, thanks to the help of a trusted therapist.

While appearing virtually at the Child Mind Institute’s annual Child Advocacy Award dinner in New York City on Tuesday to accept the inaugural Trailblazer Award, Biles — who has been outspoken about mental health, especially in the wake of a challenging Tokyo Olympic Games — said she hopes to be “a voice for the voiceless.”

In doing so, Biles is being candid about what helps her through difficult moments.

“I do keep close contact with my therapist, I love that,” Biles, 24, said in a PEOPLE exclusive clip from the dinner. “And it’s super exciting so hopefully more people are open to going to therapy and knowing that they’re there for you and not to harm you.”

Part of what Biles’ therapist has encouraged her to do is keep a worry journal.

“I have pretty bad anxiety sometimes so she tells me in my worry journal to put from 12 to 1 p.m. — that’s the time I’ve selected — and anything I’ve written down in my worry journal, I use that hour to worry about the things then,” Biles explained. “And usually by the time 12 or 1 [p.m.] comes, I’ve already forgotten about all my worries so that kind of is a tool that helps me.”

Biles, in general, said she’s learned “to not give up, to move forward and keep pushing,” over the years, even when facing the unimaginable. She said she now sees happiness as, “Just waking up and having a positive outlook on life in general and to know that you’re blessed with another day.”

The athlete was in conversation with Harold S. Koplewicz, MD, president and medical director of the Child Mind Institute. In a press release, Koplewicz said “Simone Biles bravely showed children and the entire world this year that mental health and wellbeing should be made a priority and a foundation for everything else we do in life. The Child Mind Institute is pleased to present her with the inaugural Trailblazer Award for her courageousness and strength in using her global platform to tell young people that it’s critical to speak up and get help.”

During this year’s Summer Games, Biles removed herself from four out of five gymnastics event finals due to a case of the “twisties” — a disorienting condition that athletes can experience when they lose air awareness, putting them at risk for injury when they land.

The Olympian explained at the time that she withdrew to focus on her mental health, saying on social media that her “mind & body are simply not in sync.”

Biles ended up returning to the competition to participate in the balance beam final, for which she won bronze. The athlete also took home a silver in the team all-around final.

Click here to read the full article on People.

Chance the Rapper says the idea to ‘man up’ is harmful to Black men’s mental health

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Chance the Rapper is not holding back when it comes speaking about the benefits of prioritizing mental health.

By David Artavia, Yahoo! Life

Chance the Rapper is not holding back when it comes speaking about the benefits of prioritizing mental health.

In a new interview with Taraji P. Henson and her best friend Tracie Jade on Facebook Watch’s Peace of Mind with Taraji, the rapper opened up about dealing with the “dark days” of his mental health and how it inspired him to fight for better mental health services in Black communities.

“I think Black men are naturally guarded,” he said when asked about the pressure many Black men face to “man up” and not show their emotions. “You kind of have to be [because] your weakness is preyed upon. So, I think it’s a defense mechanism. You go to a funeral, like, you kind of don’t want to cry. You know what I mean? You don’t want to subject yourself to the feeling of like, that weakness, of like, you know, it just takes a lot to be cathartic, to cry, to empty yourself.”

“I saw my friend killed in front of me when I was 19,” he continued. “I’ve seen people I didn’t know get killed too, and you become kind of like numb to it. Somebody else died last week. But it stays with you, you know what I mean? And you don’t realize until later [that] it could have lasting effects.”

It was these types of discoveries that led him to donate $1 million in 2019 to mental health services in his hometown of Chicago through SocialWorks, his nonprofit organization.

“A couple of years ago, I, for the first time experienced a friend, somebody that I knew from growing up, that was having a mental health crisis,” he said. “His family and his friends had exhausted their efforts over years and years of trying to help. I didn’t really know that much about this stuff. There’s probably a ton of situations where people, you know, we just wrote them off as like, ‘crazy,’ or like, ‘they was tweaking.’ But they were actually going through a chronic mental health disorder.”

After realizing “the kind of care” his friend needed “wasn’t available in the city” for those who can’t afford it, he decided to team up with local advocates to help build the change.

“We basically found every possible mental health initiative within the city of Chicago, and then within Cook County, and then eventually through the entire state of Illinois,” he explained. “[We] created this app that allows people to get in contact, whether it’s an in-person meeting or tele-health, with a mental health service provider, and get the help that they need, instantly from their phone. And it’s free.”

While Chance acknowledges it’s great that celebrities are starting to drive the message that “health is beyond just our physical state,” he argues that equal access to mental health services isn’t going to happen until those in power, particularly “our lawmakers and the billion-dollar companies,” rise to meet the community’s need.

“We’re talented people, but we’re not the people that make the big decisions,” he said. “We’re not the people that write the biggest checks. Those kind of things have to happen.”

Click here to read the full article on Yahoo! Life.

Will Smith opens up on mental health struggles

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Will Smith released a new trailer for his upcoming series Will Smith: The Best Shape Of My Life, and it teased the actor opening up about struggles with his mental health.

BY , Digital Spy

Will Smith released a new trailer for his upcoming series Will Smith: The Best Shape Of My Life, and it teased the actor opening up about struggles with his mental health.

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air star created the YouTube Originals series to document two journeys: trying to lose 20 pounds in 20 weeks and finishing his memoir.

The synopsis teased: “But what emerges is a Will Smith that you’ve NEVER seen before. A Will Smith who realises that what he needs to work on most is his mental health.”

In the trailer, one scene saw him open up to his family, including his children Trey, Jaden and Willow.

He told them, “That was the only time in my life that I ever considered suicide”, although the video didn’t reveal the context behind the conversation or the time in his life he was referring to.

In another scene, he read an excerpt from his upcoming autobiography to his loved ones. “What you’ve come to understand as Will Smith, the alien-annihilating MC, bigger than life movie star, is largely a construction,” he read, “a carefully crafted and honed character designed to protect myself, to hide myself from the world. To hide the coward.”

Speaking directly to the camera, the Aladdin actor said: “When I started this show, I thought I was getting into the best shape of my life physically, but mentally I was somewhere else.

“I ended up discovering a whole lot of hidden things about myself… Now I’m about to show the world how little I know about myself.”

Click here to read the full article on Digital Spy.

Zendaya Opened Up About Refusing To Have Her First Kiss On Camera And Keeping Her Dating Life Private A Day Before The Photos Of Her And Tom Holland Kissing And Meeting Her Mom Went Viral

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Zendaya in a nude dress on the red carpet

By , Buzzfeed News

Ever since Tom Holland blew up the internet last week by seemingly confirming his rumored relationship with Zendaya, fans have been dying to know more about the Spider-Man duo.

But it seems that, for now at least, Zendaya is keeping her cards close to her chest, recently hinting that she prefers to keep her private life private — certainly easier said than done for one of the biggest names on the planet.

Gracing the cover of this month’s issue of British Vogue, the Euphoria star gave a rare glimpse into her infamously private romantic life, recalling her refusal to have her first kiss on-screen.

“I remember being on Shake It Up and being like, ‘I’m not gonna do this. I’m going to kiss him on the cheek because I haven’t been kissed yet so I don’t want the kiss to be on camera,” the former child-star explained.

And having gone on to make history with her Emmy win last year, Zendaya is certainly no stranger to life in the spotlight. But, despite her fame, it appears she’s remained committed to keeping her most personal moments away from the public eye.

Click here to read the full article on Buzzfeed News.

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