GRAND CHUTE – Members of the Black community in the Fox Cities got a chance to meet with health care professionals, including massage therapists, movement specialists and personal trainers, in a more relaxed setting Saturday.
The Hip Hop Health Fair, held at Wisconsin Academy of Sports, 3375 W. College Ave., provided a chance to learn about resources available.
“We wanted to have an environment just for Black people to feel safe and give them the health care resources that they have been kept away from because the health community traditionally has not been built for us,” said Kristen Gondek, who co-founded People of Progression, the Fox Valley community advocacy organization that hosted the event, with Taperz Barber Shop owner Cainan Davenport.
The health fair featured COVID-19 vaccinations through Multicultural Coalition, blood pressure checks and tables from local health care advocacy organizations.
Trish Sarvela, director of development for Partnership Community Health Center, said, “We’re so glad to be partnering together for this event because there’s so much opportunity to work to eliminate health disparities and help communities move forward and be healthier.”
People of Progression formed in the summer of 2020 to give the Black community a safe place to talk about issues they were facing.
In the wake of civil unrest after the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, the group was the first in the Fox Valley to provide the community with a place to heal and be emotional.
The organization began meeting weekly at Taperz Barber Shop, but after seeing the popularity of the sessions, Gondek and Davenport wanted to create resources that would help the Black community thrive.
“It started with the talks, but we thought that wasn’t good enough — we needed to actually bring resources to our area that would help the most marginalized group,” Gondek said.
Nearly two years into its creation, People of Progression provides holistic approaches to healing, skill-building and breaking down systemic oppression for Black people in the Fox Valley.
Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gondek said providing these health care resources at the Hip Hop Health Fair is especially important as the pandemic has disproportionately impacted the Black community.
“When I look around and the impact that COVID has had, this is our time to make a huge shift and change in how things are done regarding racial disparities and inequities,” Multicultural Coalition board member Lisa Cruz said.
People of Progression hopes to continue hosting health fairs on a semiannual basis, with plans for their next fair sometime in September.
Gondek, who is also the project coordinator for People of Progression, said she wants the health fairs to illustrate to health care providers the correct way to reach out to marginalized communities.
“It’s about including our community in a culturally respectful way, because we have historically had less representation in health care resources,” she said.
People of Progression also offers Black Men Talk and Sisters United support groups, as well as a Generational Guidance Group that connects youth with a mentor to help them to build confidence and a positive identity.
People of Progression’s next event is a family movie and barbecue night June 4 at Great Northern Park in Neenah.
The event at 8 p.m. will feature a showing of “Encanto” with free burgers and hot dogs for those who attend.
Sophia Voight is a government watchdog reporter for the Appleton Post-Crescent. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 920-993-7102.