Black Women and Resilience

Power, Perseverance, and Public Health

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations

Love Letter to the Mosaic Beauty, Radiance, and Humanity of Black Women
Kisha Braithwaite Holden and Camara Phyllis Jones

Valerie Montgomery Rice

Kisha Braithwaite Holden and Camara Phyllis Jones

Part I: Cultural Narratives about Black Womanhood

Poem 1: Jubilation
Calah Singleton

1. Black Motherhood: Deeply Rooted
Malika B. Gooden and Raquel Brown

2. Dispelling Negative Stereotypes and Images: Black Girl Magic, Black Girls Rock!
Regina Davis Moss

3. The Superwoman (Sojourner) Syndrome and African American/Black Women
Tabia Henry Akintobi, Adrienne Chevelle Glymph Foster, Bridg'ette Israel, and Taylor A. Wimbly

4. The Making of a Black American Quilt: Discussing the Threads of the Strong Black Woman Image through Family Narratives and Media Storytelling
Asha S. Winfield

Commentary: Nothing Can Break You Unless You Give It Permission To!
Tonyka McKinney

Conversations with Thought Leaders: Beacons of Light
Annelle B. Primm, Linda Goler Blount, and Cedrice Davis

Part II: Toward an Optimal Health Agenda: The Importance of Our Survival

Poem 2: Face Your Pace
Adele Browne

5. The Black Women's Health Study: An Epidemiologic Snapshot of Black Women's Health
Lynn Rosenberg, Yvette C. Cozier, and Julie R. Palmer

6. Obesity, Heart Disease, and the Influence of Dietary Guidelines among Black Women
Jennifer Rooke

7. When Resilience Hits Its Ceiling: The Burden of the COVID-19 Pandemic
Rhonda Reid, Kristian T. Jones, Chidi Wamuo, and Christopher Villongco

8. Black Women and HIV: From Surviving to Thriving
Rhonda C. Holliday, Kimberly A. Parker, and Alyssa G. Robillard

9. The Nexus of Chronic Stress, Autoimmune Disorders, and Black Women
Lesley Green-Rennis, Lisa Grace-Leitch, and Anika Thrower

10. Mindfulness Matters: Mental Health Risks and Protective Factors for Black Women
Kisha Braithwaite Holden, Sharon A. Rachel, Ricardo D. LaGrange, Glenda Wrenn Gordon, and Cynthia Major Lewis

11. Reckoning with Resilience: Black Breastfeeding
Kimarie Bugg, Ifeyinwa V. Asiodu, and Andrea Serano

12. The Color Line of Infertility: Reproductive Disparities in Black Women
Yoann Sophie Antoine, Blessing Chidiuto Lawrence, Shubhecchha Dhaurali, Beverly Udegbe, Lauren Cohen, Paige E. Feyock, Mildred Watson-Baylor, and Ndidiamaka Amutah-Onukaga

Commentary: Abortion Is a Reproductive Justice Issue for Black Families and Communities
Joia Crear-Perry, Nia Mitchell, Donna L. Brazile, and Rachel Villanueva

Conversations with Thought Leaders: Beacons of Light
Henrie M. Treadwell, Helene D. Gayle, and Gail E. Wyatt

Part III: Journey to Wellness and Community Healing

Poem 3: Corona Reflections
Tamia A. McEwen

13. On the Frontlines: Stressors of Black Women Caring for Children of Incarcerated Parents
Shenique Thomas-Davis, Vivian C. Smith, and Bahiyyah M. Muhammad

14. Resilience, Recovery, and Resistance: Black Women Overcoming Intersectional Complex Trauma
Brenda Ingram and Amorie Robinson

15. "I Feel Some Type of Way": Experiences of Relationship Violence, Resilience, and Resistance among Urban Black Girls
LeConté J. Dill, Bianca D. Rivera, Shavaun S. Sutton, and Elizabeth O. Ige

16. Womanist Theological Bioethics: A Healing and Culturally Responsive Approach to Death and Dying in Black Communities
Nicole Taylor Morris

17. Blissful Balance: Spirituality, Healing, and Restoration
Imani Ma'at and Cheryl Taylor

Commentary: Organized Resistance Is Necessary
Linda Rae Murray

Conversations with Thought Leaders: Beacons of Light
Jennifer F. Kelly, Jemea Dorsey, and Addie Briggs

Part IV: Advocacy and Activism for Social Justice

Poem 4: Sandra Bland
Imani Ma'at

18. #SayHerName: Honoring Black Women Victims of Violence
Maisha Standifer and Sydney Love

19. Black Women, Public Health, and Resilience: Political Power
Brian McGregor and Anana Johari Harris Parris

20. Standing on the Shoulders of Those Before Us
Allyson S. Belton, Ashley Kennedy Mitchell, and Katrina M. Brantley

21. Multimedia: Changing the Narrative
Crystal R. Emery and Carmen Clarkin

22. Anti-Racism Primer: Naming Racism and Moving to Action
Camara Phyllis Jones, Clara Y. Jones, and Camille A. Jones

Commentary: Looking Back to Move Forward
Camara Phyllis Jones, Byllye Y. Avery, Linda Rae Murray, and Kisha Braithwaite Holden

Conversations with Thought Leaders: Beacons of Light
Melissa Harris-Perry, Christine Beatty, and Sandra Harris-Hooker

List of Contributors
About the Coeditors

A critical examination of the health disparities and collective resilience of Black women in the United States.


Black Women and Resilience brings together a wealth of qualitative and quantitative research to help foster broad understanding and advancement of Black women's collective health and wellbeing. Throughout, Kisha Braithwaite Holden, Camara Phyllis Jones, and their contributors use a health equity lens, maintaining that achieving health equity requires valuing all individuals and populations equally, recognizing and rectifying historical injustices, and providing resources according to need. Across four sections, scholars, practitioners, and community leaders address cultural narratives of Black womanhood; significant health issues affecting Black women; trauma, stressors, and strategies for healing; and advocacy for social justice and collective action. Multivocal and multidisciplinary, Black Women and Resilience models and invites exchange across sectors and specializations while consistently centering the experiences and contributions of Black women as catalysts for transformation.

Kisha Braithwaite Holden is a Psychologist, Professor, Pouissaint-Satcher Endowed Chair in Mental Health, and Associate Director for Satcher Health Leadership Institute at the Morehouse School of Medicine. She is the coauthor (with Henrie Treadwell and Clare Xanthos) of The Social Determinants of African-Americans and coeditor of African American Women: An Annotated Bibliography with her mentor Veronica Thomas. Camara Phyllis Jones is a family physician, epidemiologist, and Past President of the American Public Health Association whose work focuses on naming, measuring, and addressing the impacts of racism on the health and well-being of our nation and the world. She is an elected member of both the National Academy of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and is currently a Commissioner on the O’Neill-Lancet Commission on Racism, Structural Discrimination, and Global Health.


"Black women are the wellspring of grace and excellence that defines our culture. We empower others to strive for optimal levels of health, pursue education, seek justice, and drive progress as thoughtful leaders. This book delineates diverse experiences of Black women while describing a nexus of contextualized wisdom that should not be overlooked." — Joycelyn Elders, 15th US Surgeon General

"Written by Black women for Black women, this volume focuses on the intersection between gender, race, class, sexuality, spirituality, health, and disability among African American females. It overviews key modern and historical contributions—research, activism, and policy development, as well as film, music, and the arts—to Black women's health, wellbeing, and resilience. The chapters' varied approaches and writing styles explore patterns of African American women's lived experiences and illness in engaging and insightful ways. This book should be read by all Black women and leaves a legacy of knowledge for future generations." — Jenny Douglas, coeditor of Public Health: Building Innovative Practice

"As we like to say at the Satcher Health Leadership Institute, many Black women have risen to positions of leadership because they cared enough, they knew enough, they had the courage to do enough, and they persevered until the job was done. To those Black women, we owe a sincere debt of gratitude." — David Satcher, Four-Star Admiral for the US Public Health Service, 16th US Surgeon General

"A remarkable journey that transports us from the consequential realities of health disparities to the optimism of seeking and finding healing health—collectively and individually. Black women who read this book will find themselves powerfully represented within. The beauty of this narrative is its potential to inspire, captivate and motivate all." — Joan Y. Reede, Professor and Dean for Diversity and Community Partnership, Harvard University

"Black Women and Resilience is a powerful exposé on the health and wellbeing of Black women by Black women scholars. It is a solid contribution to the field of women's health and important reading for all interested in understanding and improving the health status of Black women." — Georges Benjamin, Executive Director, American Public Health Association

Black Women and Resilience provides a glimpse of the magnetic richness of Black women striving for ideal health. I applaud Drs. Holden and Jones for delineating an examination of complex systemic issues, demarcating some of the contributors to political determinants of health, and identifying approaches to help strengthen community health." — Daniel Dawes, Executive Director, Satcher Health Leadership Institute, Morehouse School of Medicine

"This exceptional book is a rich compilation of thought leadership that offers the reader intersectional angles about Black women in the pursuit of optimal health and wellness. It weaves together a tapestry of cultural experiences that engender resilience and addresses significant issues that are relevant to public health within diverse communities." — Beverly Daniel Tatum, President Emerita, Spelman College

"Praise is warranted for this amazing volume of narrative which chronicles the multifaceted intricacies of Black women's health. It is imperative that diverse leaders in our nation prioritize use of a life-span developmental approach to understanding aspects of women's health. Support of efforts for innovative interventions and prevention strategies are essential for improving population health." — Vivian Pinn, Senior Scientist Emerita, Fogarty International Center, Founder and Inaugural Director, Office of Research on Women's Health, National Institutes of Health