SOOH: The Symposium Was A Success!!
Sunday, September 14, 2008

By Quincy Hodges
The New Citizens Press

LANSING, MI -- With a lot of pressing issues facing us in today's world, health has always been at the top of the list, especially for African Americans and low-income people.

The first annual “State of Our Health: Through the Voices of Our People” (“SOOH”), event was hosted at Bethlehem Temple church (The Bread House), 1518 S. Washington Avenue. The whole ideal of a health and life symposium in the community on the level of  “SOOH” can be explained by a few words: amazing, thought-provoking, and intriguing.

There were many who have never seen such an event held on such a local level. There have been individual programs addressing some health issues but SOOH touched on nearly aspect of health affecting the people in mid-Michigan area. HIV, AIDS, diabetes, strokes, and cancer were just a few issues discussed at SOOH.   There were also a host of vendors including chiropractic care, home health care, Greater Lansing African American Health Institute, kinship care and other diseases like scleroderma.

Panels were the main focus and each one had a heart-wrenching story accompanied by medical experts from your very own community. Usually people travel across the country to hear professional speaks about certain health issues but SOOH has provided a forum for citizens to ask questions, get tested, and network with doctors who are close by and look like them. But there was a catch: it was free.

The panel on diabetes brought out a lot of questions and concerns. Dr. Maher George Al-Sheikh said people can go 7-10 years without even knowing they have diabetes. He said its best to check early and often because the body changes all the time.

Dr. Al-Sheikh said make sure you take your medicine even if it's not the best because your health will be better off. He said, “People will spend five or six bucks on cigarettes, or spend three bucks for “Starbucks” coffee, but won't spend four bucks for medicine for a month.” Dr. Al-Sheikh  also said we have to take our health more serious even if you don't have health insurance.

“Insulin is not a death sentence”, said Dr. Peter B. Wollschlaeger. He said a few things you can do to keep your sugar level low are to walk daily, check your feet, and do calisthenics.

SOOH switched gears and brought some dynamic speakers to the table. Carl Williams, Manager of the Office of Public Affairs educated the audience about the Michigan Prisoner Re-Entry Initiative (MPRI).

Williams said there are 18 MPRI locations throughout Michigan that covers all 83 counties, even in the Upper Peninsula. Williams said MPRI provides many services to prisoners. MPRI will help prisoners with health, living, employment, and life skills. Williams' enthusiasm came through when he spoke this past Saturday and gave hope to those who were concerned about prisoner re-entry issues.

“We need to talk to our children,” said Christine Johnson, mother of superstar Earvin “Magic” Johnson. Her speech touched the soul and her theme was to pray, pray, and pray some more. She said when her son found out he had AIDS, she began to call on God, prayed, and she had other people pray with her. “It was God that worked in the medication”, Ms. Johnson was referring to her son's medical treatment.
Electrifying, mind-blowing, inspirational, informative, and spiritual are a few words to describe Pastor Jolinda Wade, the mother of basketball star Dwayne Wade. Pastor Wade has come from a rough past, which includes being a drug user, dealer, fugitive, and a victim of homelessness.

Pastor Wade said her mother would pray for her but she would rebel and ignore her mother. However, her mother never stopped praying and Wade became clean, started a ministry while in prison, and now is the Pastor of Temple of Praise church in Chicago, IL.

Wade said “Jesus is all you need,” when you facing tough times or trying to advance in your life. While in prison, Wade went to the doctor and found out she had HIV. She said she wasn't surprised because she was living a life with drugs, needles, and sex.

After a week, Wade went to the doctor's office but it was different doctor this time around. The doctor asked her,  “Why are you here?”
Wade replied, “Because I have HIV.”

Pastor Wade said she had HIV for a week.   During that week, she struggled with the diagnosis and wondered how this could have happened to her. A new test was conducted and the test came back negative. After this occurred Wade said she began rejoicing in the Lord and thanking God for bringing her out.

SOOH ended the day with two panels that were revealing and encouraging. The first one addressed cancer and started with June Merritt, former chairperson for women of Color for the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition in Georgia. Merritt lost her mother to cancer and she urges all women to listen their bodies.

Dr. LeKeeya Tucker, who is a Gynecologist that operates in East Lansing told the audience “Know your family history”.   She added that one should be persistent in your treatment if you are diagnosed with any type of cancer. Healthy diet, exercise, stay away from smoking, be aware of your body, drink little alcohol, and keep an positive attitude were some preventive things you can do for breast cancer said Dr. Carol Slomski of Great Lakes Breast Care.

The final group gave insight on strokes and heart conditions. Michael “Melik” Brown, who is a 39 year old stroke survivor, said he was healthy man but his two jobs brought so much stress that it caused him to have a stroke. He said don't believe the myths about only certain people having a stroke because stress can very well lead to one.

Back to the basics, Dr. Kenya Sekoni taught the listeners their health ABC's all over again. Sekoni spoke about blood pressure and cholesterol levels and provided a visual to explain the different numbers used in area hospitals.

SOOH was a huge success and one of a kind. A program of this nature needs to be praised, well-funded, and awarded for all the services it has and will provide.  

Rina Risper, President and Publisher of The New Citizens Press and coordinator of the symposium said,  “I was at a Sparrow Hospital event, talking to Kay Porter from the Sparrow Diversity Department in February 2008 and she was so supportive of the symposium idea.  She listened to me talk about how I wanted to honor my father [Alvin E. Haynes, Sr. died due to diabetes complications on September 29, 2008] by helping other people with health and life issues.  We accomplished that.”


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