Many people would be shocked to know some of the health statistics surrounding African American women in the Sacramento community. According to a study done by the University of California at San Francisco, 15% have been diagnosed with Type II diabetes. However, three women are working to improve that statistic and create a network of women of color within the area. Together, they make up the African American Women’s Health Legacy (AAWHL). Their goal is to educate women and their children about the importance of physical fitness and healthy eating habits.
In addition to health education, the AAWHL is working on a major project called the “AAWHL Mentoring and Empowerment Monthly Meet-Up”. In collaboration with Brickhouse Art Gallery’s director Barbara Range, the two organizations are hosting a series of get-togethers geared towards gathering women of color and encouraging them become advocates for the Sacramento community. At the events, vendors bring their wares and display them to the public while making conversation and sharing life experiences. Many different products are available for purchase at this event, and some can even be traded for. The idea is to to create a sense of community where women of color are more active.
“I see where we can create community, and this is really an opportunity for us create a “well” experience,” says Toni Colley Perry, a coordinator for AAWHL. She refers to the old tradition of women gathering to collect water from wells, while also expressing their opinions about their personal lives and their ideas for the community. “Because of our environment here, there’s no reason for us to gather in our existence as women. And this is an opportunity for people to come together and share who they are, what they have a passion to do, so we start out with the vendors there and then we all come together in a circle and we talk about life. The church environment would not allow us to come together as women, because there are so many woman from different churches. But through art, we can revive ourselves and get connected with who we were as girls. That creative side. It’s an opportunity for us to create a community. We are going to be creating an evening marketplace at the Brickhouse and it’s an opportunity for entrepreneurs to come and sell their wares.”
The Brickhouse Art Gallery, where the events are held monthly, is the perfect location to accomplish this; the museum has a rich tradition of displaying multicultural art that expresses an array of perspectives and ideas about what it means to live in Sacramento. In addition, it is a space that welcomes people of any and all backgrounds. These monthly meet-ups, however, are also a stepping stone to a much greater accomplishment that will affect the entire African American community in Sacramento.
“My goal in doing this idea is to help build the support that Barbara needed for the Brickhouse and the community things that she does and to help her with her ongoing goal to purchase the Brickhouse,” says Colley Perry. “Owning that building will give the African American community and the people of color who want to do art [the opportunity] to be a part of this whole collaborative community. It’s not a white or black thing. We are just participating in helping with that mission so that it can really become a corner where art in the community is happening. With everything that is going on on Broadway, the only real true community thing that is opening up to all ethnic groups is the Brickhouse. But we can’t get her the support if we don’t come. If we are not coming and we’re not helping she can’t do all that needs to be done there. It’s just not something that can be done without a true community coming together. We want to do some community advocacy about the light situation at 36th and Broadway, where the Brickhouse is. We’ve just recently contacted…WALKSacramento to talk about how can we advocate to get lighting and street protection for people who cross that intersection. So that is going to be one of the issues that we want to rally around and get women interested in advocacy.”
The AAWHL Mentoring and Empowerment Monthly Meet-ups are a great way for women of color to network while also sharing their perspectives with a group of invested listeners, but they are also a platform for women interested in becoming community advocates and rallying behind the creation of a community center specifically for people of color. The excitement around this project is infectious.
“The first time we got people together, I couldn’t sleep,” recalls Colley Perry. “I couldn’t because I had met so many wonderful, beautiful people in the evening who were sharing their goals and aspirations.”
For more information about how to get involved with the AAWHL, visit AAWHL.com.