4W Plenary III: African American Women Beyond the Stereotypes: Mental health, Resilience, and Sustainability  

Academia and the media often present very narrow perspectives of African American women. This session will explore the multilayered identities and roles of African American women with a focus on mental health and wellness, resiliency, and African American women’s frequently ignored role within the sustainability movement. The panelists will also explore the impact of the political, economic, and social climates within the U.S. on African American women and how they have managed to survive and thrive amid often hostile environments. This session is being sponsored by the African American Health Network of Dane County.

This lecture is a part of the 4W Summit on Women, Gender and Well-being and is free and open to the public.

Detailed Description of Topics:

Dr. Ward

  • “He (Primary Care Doctor) recommended counseling. At first I did not want to go, because you know how us Black folks feel about counseling. Plus, I didn’t want anyone to think I am “crazy.” The above quote vividly conveys the negative impact of stigma among African American women; the result, they suffer in silence. Despite the increasing prevalence of mental illnesses among African American women, their use of mental health services is low, in part due to the stigma associated with mental illness. Former Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher coined the phrase “There is No Health Without Mental Health” to address the stigma of mental illness. With this context in mind, Dr. Ward will discuss 1. African American women’s perceptions of mental illness, stigma and their preferred coping responses to mental illness; and 2. Getting rid of stigma to promote mental health and well-being among African American women.

Dr. Dilworth-Bart

  • Many of you have heard of her – the Strong Black Woman. This Superwoman can power through adversity with a grace that she extends to all around her with enviable psychological strength. But, who is this woman?  Is she even real?  Is the “strength” to withstand any stressor truly achievable without supportive relationships?  In her presentation, Dr. Dilworth-Bart will challenge this trope of the Strong Black Woman and seek to redefine her as the Resilient Black Woman. Her discussion will focus on defining resilience as a series of interpersonal and community processes that promote child and family wellbeing. In particular, she will address how safe and nurturing environments at the earliest stages of life are essential setting the stage for positive lifespan outcomes.

Annette Miller

  • While African Americans are not well represented in the traditional environmental movement, living sustainably has been a culturally traditional way of life. For centuries we have focused on improving our local economy, fought for equity and lived a collective life of reusing and repurposing items. We built our community around pooling resources. Long before it became a popular academic term, sustainability was the platform for which we survived and began to thrive in America.