Published August 3, 2021
After drawing more than 300 attendees virtually in 2020, the Igniting Hope Conference returns with an important theme and an added in-person element for the entire community. An open-to-the-public “Walk of Healing” kicks things off on August 13, followed by the virtual conference, titled “Healing Historical Trauma from Racist Research, Policies and Practices,” on August 14.
Co-sponsored by the Buffalo Center for Health Equity, the University at Buffalo Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI), and the University at Buffalo Community Health Equity Research Institute, Igniting Hope is supported by the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences under award numbers R13 TR003486 and UL1 TR001412.
For organizers, the opportunity to include an in-person element offered a way to both tie in with the conference themes and bring members of the community together.
“The conference is going to be talking about the physical, mental, and social conditions of the African American community,” says Rev. George Nicholas, MDiv, convener of the African American Health Equity Task Force; chair of the Buffalo Center for Health Equity; and pastor of Lincoln Memorial United Methodist Church. “As we transition out of the worst parts of the pandemic, we thought it was important that we create space for the community to gather and begin to come together and talk about not only what we have just recently came out of, but of our historical journey here in America.”
The two-mile “Walk of Healing” will take place on Friday, August 13, beginning at the African American Heritage Archway and ending at the Freedom Wall at Michigan Avenue and East Ferry Street. A shuttle will be provided from the Buffalo Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts between 4 and 5:20 p.m., followed be a pre-walk convening at the Michigan Street African American Heritage Archway. The walk will begin at 5:30 p.m., followed by a program of music and inspirational words starting at 6:30 p.m. Alternative transportation will be provided for those who are unable to do the walk.
“The walk symbolizes that we can begin to gather people in the community again,” says Nicholas. “Also, there is a level of celebration to it. This is our fourth conference, and we have made so much progress.”
The virtual conference runs from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, August 14, starting with a welcome from CTSI Director Timothy F. Murphy, MD, Director, UB Community Health Equity Research Institute, followed by opening remarks from UB President Satish Tripathi.
The first keynote speaker, Thomas LaViest, PhD, Dean and Weatherhead Presidential Chair in Health Equity, Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Health, will present “My Journey to Discover Why Disparities Exist … and What to Do About It.” Murphy says that “Dr. LaVeist has done pioneering work on the role of racism in healthcare.”
He will be followed by Heidi L. Gartland, Chief Government and Community Relations Officer, University Hospitals, Cleveland, whose talk is titled “The Anchor Mission: Tackling Economic and Racial Disparities to Create Equitable Health Outcomes.” Murphy explains that “Innovative approaches in Cleveland have led to true investment in minority-owned businesses and Ms. Gartland is a leader in these initiatives.”
The final keynote speaker is Donald E. Grant, PsyD, Executive Director, Mindful Training Solutions, who will speak on “Historical Trauma: A Contemporary Conundrum.” Grant, a Buffalo native, is an international speaker, film and TV consultant, and author. His latest book is titled Black Men, Intergenerational Colonialism and Behavioral Health: A Noose Across Nations.
Breakout discussions will follow each keynote speaker, and focus on topics like the COVID-19 pandemic, the environment, fines and fees, nutrition, and historical trauma and healing.
Additional speakers include Rita Hubbard Robinson, JD, CEO, Neuwater & Associates, and Associate Director, Community Health Equity Research Institute; Alan J. Lesse, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Senior Associate Dean for Curriculum, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences; A. Scott Weber, PhD, Professor and UB Provost, Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences; and Jonathan D. Daniels, MD, Pediatrician and Associate Director of Admissions, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
“This conference series is becoming an annual summit that brings together community and university stakeholders to understand health disparities and discuss viable solutions to this systemic problem in our community,” says Murphy.