“Sisters are more than the sum of their relative disadvantages: they are active agents who craft meaning out of their circumstances and do so in complicated and diverse ways.”
– Melissa Harris-Perry (2011), Sister Citizen
Far too often Black women’s health is defined by one of two extremes – disease and disability or extreme resilience. In reality, a comprehensive picture of Black women, health and wellness is necessarily complicated. It defies neat labels and categories, allowing for multiple narratives to describe what it means to be a Black woman in the 21st century. The time has come to explore the current landscape of Black women’s health within the realms of both health disparities and women’s health research, examine critical policies that have shaped Black women’s health and wellness over the past two decades, and highlight the many ways in which Black women articulate health and wellness for themselves.
The health of African American families depends largely on the health of Black women. Yet research focused on either ‘minority health’ or ‘women’s health’ agendas fail to fully address the needs of Black women who comprise an essential element in both groups. When Black women are left behind or become invisible intersections, our communities are left behind as well.
As such, we must review Black women’s health over the last 20 years – what do we know and what have we learned? What disease and behavioral trends – both risk and protective – contour the state of Black women’s health today? In tackling these questions, researchers take a holistic approach to understanding what has changed over time to facilitate transitions in health status. Perhaps even more importantly, what can the past teach us about how to reclaim our health moving forward?