Although my primary professional objective is to enrich the minds of students, personal edification is critical to my ability to impart wisdom and generate new ideas. Sharing summer experiences is important, not just for introspection but to offer a glimpse into my life as a way of understanding the essence of my being. As you will see, my dedication to service and improving the lives of others is a central tenant in everything I do.
Straight Outta Compton
I have yet to see the movie, but I have big plans to see it with my friends this weekend. As someone who grew up in listening to NWA and Public Enemy, I believe both groups were important in forming some of the social consciousness I possess. It’s interesting because many of the inferences and experiences depicted in their lyrics remain a part of mainstream reality in black communities today. For decades, blacks have felt they were targeted by the police and some of these groups used their lyrics to give voice to a phenomenon that would have otherwise remained an undercurrent in mainstream society. For me, the release of this movie is timely, as it keeps the conversation going about facets of American society we have yet to adequately address and overcome. For many blacks in America, chattel slavery has morphed into mental slavery where people are trapped in communities with few opportunities to escape. It’s not that it’s impossible to break the bounds of poverty, but intergenerational poverty creates barriers that are burdensome to extents many of us can never even imagine. Yes, black-on-black crime is a problem, but (IMO) it is symptomatic of broader societal problems and something must be done to address this issue.
Studying Distressed Neighborhoods in Sanford, FL
Earlier this year, I received a small grant to conduct a study of economically distressed communities in Sanford, Florida (the city where Trayvon Martin was murdered). To accomplish this goal, I hosted several community meetings for residents to introduce myself as a researcher and set the stage for what’s to come as it relates to my research. Blacks have a tumultuous history with research and I want to ensure the community they will be involved, treated fairly and made aware of the outcomes. This study fits into my academic research agenda by providing qualitative data on some of the factors experienced in economically distressed communities, which may directly or indirectly influence adverse health outcomes.
Examining Access to Preventive Care Services
I am in full planning mode in working on the implementation of a three year study of the Wellness Cottage, a full service medical clinic located at Evans Community School in Orlando Florida. This community school serves Pine Hills, one of the most impoverished areas in Orlando. In this study, my research team will conduct focus groups to identify barriers and facilitators to access to preventive health services. This study fits into my academic research agenda by providing quantitative and qualitative data related to access to care for vulnerable populations as well as examining the outreach health communication model used by administrators and clinic personnel.
Examining Social Stigma as a Barrier to HIV Screening According to the CDC*, black women account for 29% of the estimated new HIV infections among adult and adolescents and comprise the largest percentage (46%) of the estimated HIV infections in the U.S. Interestingly enough, 88% of the new HIV infections in black women are attributed to heterosexual contact. The percentage of blacks who had ever been tested for HIV increased has steadily increased to rates near 65%. In addition, almost 73,600 HIV-infected blacks are unaware of their HIV status. These statistics are extremely troubling!
In conceptualizing how I can assist in enhancing understanding and creating solutions, I spent a lot of time studying disparate outcomes for HIV rates and screening practices of black women. I have developed a small study to examine the role of social stigma associated with HIV screening. My primary research question focuses on understanding what prevents black women from asking to be tested when they know they have engaged in high risk behavior. This is an example of a PSA I created to empower black women to speak with their health care provider about HIV testing.
That’s serious stuff; but please don’t think I am a “total” nerd.
Fun in the Sun
I had several adventures and had some big fun. By far, my best experience was riding the Intimidator at Kings Dominion. I have a passion for roller coasters and this one was phenomenal!!!
I had the opportunity to work with Orlando Monarch’s and the Metropolitan Junior Baseball League in hosting the 25th Annual Inner City Baseball Classic. Even though my baseball prowess is somewhat lacking, I was honored to facilitate the Barry Bond’s Memorial Symposium.
As an avid reader with limited time this summer…I only read three books: Heretic: Why Islam Needs Reform Now (Ayann Hirsi Ali,); Between The World and Me: Saving the Next Generation (Ta-Nehisi Coates); and The Secret What Great Leaders Know and Do (Ken Blanchard). Nevertheless, I did have the chance to participate in a writing group where I met the commitment of writing for one hour each day for 14 days. I was wildly successful and can barely wait for the next one!
And finally, because I am a parent, I spent a copious amount of time with my 15 year old daughter:
• I logged over 50 hours of driving instructions!
• I spent countless hours teaching her about life while she taught me how to make “selfie music videos” aka Musical.ly!
• I also taught her the basics of starting a nonprofit organization!
Summer is over…time to start grinding (working hard).