WEST PALM BEACH — America is passing through a period of unprecedented attack on females, while, at the same time, women have an obligation to take care of themselves and their bodies.
“I have never seen a time that women have been under so much attack,” actress Lynn Whitfield said in her keynote address to the 34th White Rose Luncheon sponsored by the West Palm Beach Chapter of the Links Inc. “People want to control our lives, our health. It is important right now for women to understand what their rights are.”
The Emmy-award-winning actress said it is important that women instill in themselves the idea that they are special and have to take care of themselves, especially their health.
Middle-aged blacks, she said, are one of the groups topping the list of people testing positive for AIDS and the HIV virus that causes the deadly disease.
“At the end of the day, it’s up to us,” Whitfield told the Dec. 1 gathering at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, 701 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach.
Women’s health issues took the spotlight at the luncheon held annually to raise money for scholarships and create awareness on issues that affect the community.
Ethel Isaacs Williams, president of the West Palm Beach Chapter of the Links Inc., agreed with Whitfield that the health of black women is a critically important issue.
“In the African-American community, it’s the women who are still not only the breadwinner but they are the glue for the family. So if you don’t have a healthy mother, you’re not going to have healthy children, you’re not going to have healthy husbands or spouses,” Williams said. “We are the caretakers.”
Yet, she said, black women do not visit the doctor often enough and by the time they are diagnosed with something like breast cancer it is already at a late stage. That, she said, could explain the higher mortality rate for African-American women.
Links member Kalinthia Dillard said the organization is also heavily promoting the importance of organ tissue and bone marrow donation.
“It’s important to minorities, in general,” she said.
“We focus specifically on the black community because African Americans represent a large group of the population who need organ tissue donations. It’s very difficult for minorities to find matches. And, with bone marrow, you have to be of the same minority group.”
Outreach is necessary to provide affordable healthcare and health professionals for the community because fear plays a role in many women not seeking treatment, Whitfield said.
There is need, she said, for access to healthcare and health professionals, “places where people in the community could come out and not be a number in a cold hard place, where they would feel comfortable to reach out and say, ‘I have a problem.’”
*Pictured above is De Anne Harris Collier.