In the news
We Got a Cummings Grant!
We are excited to announce that CC is one of 140 local nonprofits to receive a grant of $100K through the Cummings Foundation’s $25 Million Grant Program! CC was chosen out of 590 applicants during this competitive review process. We are immensely grateful to the Cummings Foundation for recognizing our 12+ years of hard work and dedication to addressing barriers to improved health outcomes in the Black community, and for this opportunity to continue the work and continue building CC’s sustainability.
CC Featured in Refinery29
CC's Dita Obler and Erinn Pearson were interviewed by Refinery29 in their recent article on the role of Black hair salons in creating space to raise awareness and have honest discussions about the COVID-19 vaccines.
“There aren’t many places where we can talk about our issues and concerns and how they affect us,” Erinn Pearson, the salon’s owner and co-founder of Community Conversations, said. “Not everybody understands — but we understand each other.” The conversations have been running for 12 years, and when Massachusetts initiated a stay-at-home order, Sister to Sister continued to hold talks on Zoom, shifting to topics like stress, depression, and building healthy coping strategies. Once details on the vaccines available were announced, they met virtually to discuss…”
Blue Cross Blue Shield and Massachusetts Coalition for Serious Illness Care highlight CC
We were honored to be featured by Blue Cross Blue Shield and the Massachusetts Coalition for Serious Illness Care in their recent newsletter!
"When it comes to getting the care that supports what matters most, there is a lot to talk about. Community Conversations: Sister to Sister in Cambridge, MA provides a forum for Black women to learn from experts -- also Black women -- on everything from allergies to elder care..."
Film Screening Panel on Black Barbershops and Salons
CC's Erinn Pearson, Dorla White-Simpson, and Robin Reed were invited to participate in a panel discussion on Rudy Hypolite's new film Black Barbershops and Salons: Neighborhood Oasis, on May 26. As Rudy described: “Gentrification and the COVID-19 pandemic are only two of the most pressing challenges threatening the historic, community oasis of Black barbershops and hair salons in demographically changing Boston. Humorous, serious and spirited discussions take place in these multi-purpose establishments, which have served as the lifeblood of Black communities over decades.”
The film screening and panel discussion were hosted by David Harris, from the the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School, and Sarah DeMott, from the Harvard College Library. See stills from the film here, read Dorla's blog post about her experience here, and check out a recording of the panel discussion here.
CC Supports Black Maternal Health with Cambridge YWCA
February and May 2021
Black women are 2 to 3 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. In partnership with YWCA Cambridge, we are hosting a three-part series to educate the community on black maternal health disparities and give Black women the resources they need to care for themselves while starting a family.
Stay tuned for part 3!
CC's Meghan Davis named 2022 Mitchell Scholar
MIT senior Meghan Davis has been named one of the 12 winners of the George J. Mitchell Scholarship’s Class of 2022. After graduating next spring with dual majors in biological engineering and urban planning, she will pursue a master’s in global health at Trinity College in Dublin.
Mitchell Scholars are selected on the basis of academic achievement, leadership, and dedication to public service. The scholarship is named in honor of U.S. Senator Mitchell’s contributions to the Northern Ireland peace process. This year, over 450 American students applied for the prestigious fellowship, which is sponsored by the U.S.-Ireland Alliance and funds a year of graduate studies in Ireland.
A Message from our Steering Committee
Community Conversations presented on "Intergenerational Transmedia: Black Women’s Storytelling for Health Equity" at the annual American Public Health Association conference
Social inclusion, a human drive to give and receive social support, is a demonstrated social determinant of health linked to health status and inequities, with structural racism and discrimination noted drivers of social exclusion. Since 2009, Community Conversations: Sister to Sister (CC) has worked to address social exclusion by empowering women of the African diaspora as healthcare consumers, supporting them in identifying and harnessing their power to set their own health agenda and addressing barriers to improved health outcomes.
In our tenth anniversary, we’re reflecting on what our intergenerational health community has learned while adopting practices that extend our conversations beyond monthly gatherings. Through the use of media platforms like video and blogging, we’ve found pathways to showcase new voices and promote further dialogue within our “Health Hub.” Key elements of CC's model: (1) social inclusion; (2) attention to historical marginalization/mistrust; (3) open discussions of power; (4) recognizing community strengths/local knowledge; and (5) fostering bidirectional learning. The Transmedia model offers important opportunities for enhanced engagement and interaction among CC community members and faculty.
Community Conversations presented on "Interdisciplinary model to promote social inclusion and agency within and beyond local health communities" at the annual American Public Health Association conference
Since 2009 Community Conversations (CC) Women’s Health Initiative in Cambridge, MA has built on public health experience in black hair salons, transforming this familiar safe space into a health hub. Hosting monthly conversations that address pertinent health topics, CC explores strategies to improve access to care and health outcomes. CC has connected over 400 women (ages 16 -89) to rotating 3-woman interdisciplinary teams drawn from a faculty of 215 black practitioners including physicians, researchers, and therapists. To better understand our impact, CC evaluated the utility of our multidimensional model for bidirectional learning to promote health agency and social inclusion in communities of black female healthcare providers and women in Metro Boston.
Our study reveals that women participating in this program report feeling empowered in improving and maintaining their personal and family health. They describe an appreciation for CC's safe and inclusive setting, along with a self-perceived increased sense of health literacy, self-efficacy and active role playing in their care. We explore a generalizable health community model that creates interdisciplinary partnerships and facilitates both personal and collective agency in navigating the U.S. healthcare system.
Community Health Network Area 17 Highlights CC in "The Disruptors: Mental Health Starts with Us"
We are extremely grateful for the support of our partner CHNA17, who interviewed CC cofounder Erinn Pearson and CC Strategic Planning Committee member Melissa Dagher as part of their documentary on innovative programs that address mental health and racial equity. Thank you CHNA17!
Spotlight On: What Should Black Women Know About Their Health?
As part of the Spotlight On initiative, CC Fellows reached out to CC's faculty of healthcare providers from leading institutions to ask them a simple question: What should Black women about their health, their family's health, and their community's health? The goal of Spotlight On is two-fold: to provide a deeper look into the topics that faculty have discussed with CC or are interested in, and to expand CC's reach by offering empowering, culturally-relevant health education resources via our web presence. CC Fellows Amna Hashmi and Jessica Grant directed the video below and submitted it to the American Public Health Association's Global Public Health Film Festival, which aims to be a catalyst in the movement toward a healthier nation by sparking the conversation about health in creative ways.
Community Conversations Celebrated Trailblazing Women
On March 28, Cambridge City Hall filled as we celebrated our 2018 Trailblazing Women, including CC's very own Nancy Beckford, Shelley Flaherty, and Roberta Green. A trailblazer is an innovator, a pioneer, someone who blazes a path forward and guides others, and we could not think of a better description for Nancy, Shelley, and Roberta and the other honorees:
Cambridge Police Department Superintendent Christine Elow and Cambridge Family and Children's Service Executive Director Denise Maguire
Teachers Claudie Jean-Baptiste and Rosalind O’Sullivan
Kimbrough Scholars Program Leaders Poppy Milner and Gail Willett
Dance Teachers Andy Taylor-Blenis and Dorothy Elizabeth Tucker
Posse Scholars MeiLin Pratt & Naomi Tsegaye
Community Conversations, in partnership with the Office of Cambridge City Councilor E. Denise Simmons, YWCA Cambridge, the Cambridge Commission on the Status of Women, and Mass Humanities hosted the event. Our theme centered around groups of women who exemplify the battle cry, “Nevertheless, She Persisted” — women who persevere and are resilient in the face of tremendous odds — and our selected text is Maya Angelou’s In Her Own Words. Following the ceremony, neighbors communally read and discussed the Angelou piece, which was originally delivered as a forward to a special 25th anniversary edition of Essence magazine published in 1995. Essence: 25 Years Celebrating Black Women presented the faces and stories of black women who have made a difference, including Shirley Chisholm, the first black U.S. Congresswoman, to four-time gold-medal winner Florence Griffith Joyner.
Community Conversations Partnered with Inaugural Black Health Matters Conference
Community Conversations partnered with the inaugural Black Health Matters Conference at Harvard University, meeting conference attendees and speaking about the resources CC has to offer. Born from the passion of a group of Harvard undergraduates who saw the need to address and tackle the health disparities faced by Black communities across the country and the world, the three-day conference brought together students and speakers to analyze how past and current sociopolitical climates have impacted the health of Black communities.
The event begun Friday evening with a screening of Unnatural Causes: When the Bough Breaks and a discussion led by Dr. J. Alexis Abrams, the conference. Saturday's programming included keynote speeches from Mary Bassett and Harriet Washington, TED-style talks delivered by Dr. Nancy Krieger, Dr. Madina Agénor, and Dr. Joan Reede, and panels discussing prison healthcare, health activism, the role of community in health, reproductive and LGBTQ+ health, black health professionals, and the legal system.
Community Conversations Interviewed by Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice
Members of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice (CHHIRJ) interviewed Community Conversations affiliates as part of an initiative to highlight homegrown activism, centered on the belief that highlights grassroots organizations around Boston — and helping people get involved — is crucial to the wellbeing of many of our citizens.
At Harvard Law School, CHHIRJ was founded in 2005 by Professor Charles J. Ogletree, Jr. Its Houston/Marshall Plan for Community Justice aims to raise the voices of poor communities of color that have been affected by policies and practices of disinvestment that cut across otherwise separate domains, including transportation, housing, education, recreation, public safety, job creation, and health care. This disinvestment has created an impenetrable web of disadvantage. The Houston/Marshall Plan strives to rebuild with programs and interventions that are locally conceived and grounded in the wealth of knowledge, experience and determination that exist within communities across the country. It is time to invest these assets in our future.
Community Conversations Exhibited at APHA for Third Year in a Row
Community Conversations affiliates displayed their research at the 2017 American Public Health Association Annual Meeting to an engaged group. The presenters included two of the study's co-authors, Dr. Keri Griffin, an assistant professor of Public Health and director of the Public Health Program at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences University, and Omolade Sogade, a first-year medical student at Washington University in St. Louis. Dr. Griffin is both a member of the Strategic Planning Committee and a CC faculty member, and Omolade previously contributed as an intern and now serves as a CC Fellow.
During the lively discussion, the presenters and attendees dived into particular results, specifically that 96 percent of CC faculty members agreed that CC provides unique opportunities for reciprocal learning (reciprocal learning entails gaining a broader understanding of patient experiences and vulnerability toward their providers and some of the challenges faced by CC faculty and participants). In addition, 77 percent of CC faculty agreed that CC provides them with insight from community members to help address barriers and structural issues in their professional settings.
For the full poster of the study results, please click on Learn More!
Community Conversations To Present on Impact of Social Inclusion Among Our Faculty at the Annual American Public Health Association Conference
Community Conversations affiliates will present on Nov. 5 at the 2017 American Public Health Association Annual Meeting and Expo to be held in Atlanta, GA. CC has connected over 260 women to over 160 healthcare professionals through monthly conversation in a local beauty salon and has established a "health community.” The essential elements of the CC model and health community are social inclusion, facilitated discussions, and health system navigation training. Social inclusion recognizes the human need to give and receive social support and engage fully in society. The antithesis of which is social exclusion, a social determinant of health resulting from structural racism, discrimination, and societal factors. Social exclusion has been linked to adverse health status and disparities. We examined the impact of social inclusion among CC's health professionals and will present our findings of an association between social inclusion and the CC model to enhance the approach of black women healthcare providers to 1) patient care, 2) practice-level/hospital systems care delivery, and 3) state-level health policy initiatives.
Community Conversations To Host Evening Honoring Local Women
In collaboration with the Office of Mayor E. Denise Simmons, the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities, YWCA Cambridge, and the Cambridge Commission on the Status of Women, Community Conversations is hosting an evening honoring local women. Following a group reading of Audre Lorde's "The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action," we will facilitate an open and honest dialogue on race among community members.
The "Celebration of Cambridge's Trailblazing Women: Mothers and Daughters Carrying on the Legacy" will be held on April 12, 2017 from 5:45 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Cambridge City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139 in the Sullivan chamber.
This event is free and open to the public, and light refreshments will be served. Tickets are not required, but we kindly request that you indicate your attendance via the Eventbrite event. And feel free to RSVP on Facebook!
Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services Nurse Recounts Experience as Community Conversations Faculty
During our November 2016 conversation on "Elder Care: The Physical, Mental, and Emotional Challenges," Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services (SCES) Nurse Manager Myclette Theodule joined a panel of medical professionals to share her perspectives as a nurse with 15 years of experience in the aging field. Guarding against stress and burnout was a recurring theme of the discussion, with the panel reminding caregivers that their well-being is a vital component of providing the best possible care.
“There were many caregivers in the group who felt helpless, or felt like they were not doing enough for their loved ones,” said Theodule. “To be a caregiver is such a selfless job – I had to reiterate the importance of self-care and respite.” Many of the attendees identified themselves as part of the ‘Sandwich Generation’ – caring for aging parents while raising their own young children.
Community Conversations Featured in 'Spotlight' Series by Community Health Network Association (CHNA) 17
Community Conversations was featured by Community Health Network Association (CHNA) 17 in their 'Spotlight' series. Thanks to the generosity of CHNA 17, CC used a 2014-2015 Capacity Building Grant to help develop and pilot a robust Program Evaluation process (IRB approved mixed methods research) and a 2015-2016 Adult Mental Health and Wellbeing Grant to support monthly programming that reduces the personal, social, and systemic barriers to quality care.
Community Conversations Invited To Present on Model of Social Inclusion at the MIT Science Studies Collaboration Workshop
Community Conversations was invited to present at the MIT Science Studies Collaboration Workshop on its model of social inclusion. Hosted by MIT graduate students in the Science, Technology, and Society program, the Cross-STS workshop is a space for the community to think collectively about the questions driving their work. Collaboration has long been a part of scholarly work in STS and other fields related to the social dimensions of science, technology, and expert knowledge. This year, as part of the ongoing student-led Cross-STS workshop, students integrate collaboration as both a method for producing STS scholarship and as an analytic of STS scholarship. They also reflect on the role of collaboration in their own work, interpersonally, topically, and conceptually. By examining collaboration itself through Cross-STS, they hope to provoke a reflexive conversation about our shared intellectual and moral project.
If you'd like to join us, Cross-STS will be held on Thursday, October 27 at 5:30-7 pm in Building E51, room E51-095 on the MIT campus.
Community Conversations To Present on Building a "Health Community" Among Black Women at the Annual American Public Health Association conference
Community Conversations affiliates will present on our model of social inclusion on Oct. 31 at the 2016 American Public Health Assocation Annual Meeting and Expo to be held in Denver, CO. We will discuss how social inclusion, a social determinant of health linked to health status and disparities, recognizes the human need to give and receive social support and engage fully in society. Social exclusion results from structural racism, discrimination, and societal factors. Social inclusion, CC's key strategy, empowers participants to become actively involved in improving and maintaining their own health and the health of their families. We assessed the role of social inclusion among CC participants (women/health professionals) by conducting a series of qualitative, structured interviews, and thematically analyzing their attitudes and experiences.
Community Conversations Cofounder and Community Director Erinn Pearson Wins Barbershop: The Next Cut Challenge!
Erinn Pearson, cofounder and community director of Community Conversations and owner of Simply Erinn's Unisex Hair Salon, competed against 20 semifinalists in major cities across the U.S., including Atlanta, Baltimore, and San Francisco, to win $20,000 and a salon makeover. Simply Erinn's Unisex Hair Salon has been the home of Community Conversations' monthly sessions since its founding, and we cannot wait to have our next session in our new and beautiful location. Check out the makeover below!
Community Conversations Cofounder and Community Director Erinn Pearson Honored by the Young Women's Christian Association of Cambridge.
The 23rd Tribute to Outstanding Women Awards, held annually by the YWCA of Cambridge, serves the purpose of honoring women who bring honor and hope to the community. This year, the theme of the awards is “on a mission,” and each honoree was selected for their history of passion, motivation, and commitment to our community, and the event is held in recognition of their efforts. Community Conversations Cofounder and Community Director Erinn Pearson was selected as a Honoree along with Debbie Irving, Renee McLeod, Maisha Moses, Linda O’Callahan, and Debra Wise.
Community Conversations presented on the role of women in the health of families and communities at the annual American Public Health Association conference
In a session titled "Women as Stewards of Family & Community Health," Community Conversation affiliates provided findings from our mixed-methods evaluation study showing that CC participants develop an increased sense of health literacy and self-efficacy, skills required to navigate a complex and fragmented healthcare system, experience changes in health attitudes and behaviors for both self and family, and engage in activities such as increased appropriate health care use and shared decision-making/partnering with providers.
Featured in the Bay State Banner: Gittens Credits Community Conversations
Yvonne Gittens, 68, credits the Community Conversations: Sister to Sister program for her participation in a study to identify individuals who are at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. “I am doing this for my daughters,” she explained. Although, according to Gittens, there is no history of AD in her family, the disease is prevalent in her husband’s family. The risk of developing AD appears to be higher if a parent or sibling is afflicted.