Centenary hosts conference addressing legacies of slavery in health and medicine

SHREVEPORT, LA — Centenary College will host a two-day conference entitled, “Legacies of American Slavery: Race, Health, and Medicine,” on Friday, November 11, and Saturday, November 12. The conference is presented as part of the multi-year Legacies of American Slavery initiative sponsored by the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC). It is free and open to the public, but advance registration is recommended at centenary.edu/legaciesofslavery.

The conference will bring together academics, health practitioners, students, and community members to discuss how the legacies of American slavery continue to affect community health and how these legacies can be addressed and overcome.

“We cannot understand the medical problems we face today without appreciating how it has been influenced by the culture in which they arose,” explained Dr. Chris Ciocchetti, professor of philosophy at Centenary and a member of the conference planning team. “We will look at discrimination and resistance and think about how medical providers can best respond to the legacies of slavery that they encounter in their work. We will all be patients at some point, so understanding how slavery shapes medical practice today will help us understand our experience. We will also discuss how formerly enslaved people built a community to resist and examine the history of some Black-owned medical providers in Shreveport.”

Conference Schedule

Friday, November 11

8:30 a.m. – Working with the Legacies of Slavery: A panel discussion with medical providers and mental health experts – Beverly Barnett, RN; Dr. Latoya Pierce, LPC; and Kristal Poland, LPC

9:45 a.m. – Emerging Voices

  • The Creation of the Atlantic World Medical Complex – Ani-ya Beasley, University of Arkansas
  • Diversifying Anatomical Models – Yosajandy Bouslog, Isabella Brown, Jazmine Carroll, April Jones, Dr. Anna Leal, and Dr. Peter Zunick, Centenary College

1:00 p.m. – Critical Consciousness Training – Shahzeem Bhayani, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Associate Program Director, Internal Medicine Residency, LSUHSC-Shreveport

Saturday, November 12

8:30 a.m. – The Cumulative Effects of Racial Trauma – Dr. Latoya Pierce, LPC, Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer, Centenary College

9:45 a.m. – Racial Disparities in Medicine – Keynote address by Dr. Sharron Herron-Williams, Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities scholar in residence and professor of political science at Southern University Shreveport

1:00 p.m. – Local history tour

3:00 p.m. – Closing reception catered by Hardette Harris of Us Up North.

All panel sessions will be held at the College’s Meadows Museum of Art, which is currently hosting the exhibition Shared Visions by Aj Smith and Marjorie Williams-Smith. Williams-Smith’s drawings, in particular, reflect the history of African Americans as told through the crops they cultivated as enslaved people and sharecroppers. A full schedule for the conference is available at centenary.edu/conferenceschedule and will continue to be updated with new details.

In February 2021, Centenary was chosen as one of six Regional Collaboration Partners for the CIC’s Legacies of American Slavery initiative. The multi-year project will engage students, faculty, staff, and community members at the partner institutions in research, teaching, and learning activities designed to explore the multiple legacies of slavery in the United States.

Centenary is working in partnership with Huston-Tillotson University on the topic of “Race, Health, and Medicine.” Huston-Tillotson will host a concurrent workshop in Austin, Texas, to bring together local academics and health care providers. Current Centenary trustee and former associate dean, Dr. Melva K. Williams, was named as Huston-Tillotson’s seventh president and chief executive officer in August 2022, providing another strong connection between the two institutions. Founded in 1875, Huston-Tillotson is a private historically black university and was the first institution of higher learning in Austin, Texas.

Centenary’s portion of the project will explore some of the historical roots of modern racial inequities in access to and quality of health care in Shreveport and the state of Louisiana, with the goal of identifying concrete solutions to address these disparities. The “Legacies of American Slavery: Race, Health, and Medicine” conference is the first large-scale event to be produced as part of the project.

“I am excited to be working with several undergraduates who are pre-health majors and/or members of Centenary's Black Student Union,” explained Dr. Bethany Hansen, assistant professor of biology at Centenary. “We are preparing a local history tour which will take place on the second day of the conference. The tour, led by professors and students, highlights Black people and locations which played a key role in Black locals accessing healthcare following the Civil War up to the present day. Our overall goal is to share how legacies of American slavery have and continue to affect the healthcare of local Black people.”

Centenary also created a “Medicine and the Legacies of American Slavery” Teaching Circle to bring together educators from different disciplines to discuss better ways to teach about race and medicine to improve students’ preparation to be patients, healthcare providers, and citizens. The Teaching Circle is open to educators of any discipline and level and meets monthly via Zoom during the academic year. More information about the Teaching Circle initiative is available at centenary.edu/teachingcircle.

“The Legacies of Slavery project, and our focus on medical disparities, highlights the very real contemporary consequences that we all face if we deny or ignore the history of discrimination in the United States,” said Dr. Jama Grove, assistant professor of history at Centenary. “These legacies do not end with the end of enslavement. Disenfranchisement, discrimination, segregation, infrastructural disparities, and barriers to healthcare or health insurance have transmitted those legacies of enslavement across generations, creating medical disparities that mean Black Americans have always lived sicker and died younger than their White counterparts.  This project makes those ongoing disparities visible, which is critical if we hope to stop transmitting injustice across generations.”


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