GRAAHI kicks off speaker series with civil rights legend

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​The Grand Rapids African American Health Institute is launching its yearlong Health Education & Equity Series on Thursday.

The program features Xernona Clayton, a 90-year-old civil rights and community activist, TV broadcasting pioneer and philanthropist. The presentation, “Where Do We Go From Here — Chaos or Community,” begins at 10 a.m. online on the Grand Rapids African American Health Institute’s (GRAAHI) Facebook events page, ​1/28 Speaker Series Event​. No registration or Facebook account is needed to attend this event.

Clayton is founder, CEO and president of the Atlanta-based Trumpet Awards Foundation and creator of its Trumpet Awards, highlighting African American achievements and contributions.

While with the Southern Leadership Conference starting in 1965, she worked closely with civil rights icons the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King.

She started her TV work in 1967 as the first African American in the southern U.S. to host her own show, “The Xernona Clayton Show,” on Atlanta’s WAGA-TV, a CBS affiliate. She spent three decades as a corporate executive with Atlanta-based Turner Broadcasting System, including as corporate vice president for urban affairs.

Other panelists with Clayton for the presentation include Dr. Bernice Patterson, the founder and CEO of Infinity Consultation Group, a Kalamazoo psychology and spirituality consultancy; and Dr. Virginia Banks, an infectious disease consulting physician with Vibra Hospital of Mahoning Valley in Boardman, Ohio.

Vanessa Greene Courtesy Grand Rapids African American Health Institute

The Health Education & Equity series is part of an effort across West Michigan to increase opportunities for everyone to be healthier, regardless of race or ethnicity, GRAAHI CEO Vanessa Greene said.

GRAAHI is a nonprofit organization focused on eliminating racial and ethnic health care disparities communitywide.

Future programs are on the fourth Thursday of February, March, April, May and June. Scheduled for 4 p.m. on those dates, the topics include heart disease on Feb. 25, a women’s circle addressing racism on March 25, a topic to be determined on April 22, mental health awareness on May 20 and men’s health on June 24.

Future dates in the series are to be announced.

The series has the long-range goal of evolving into the GRAAHI-affiliated Health Education & Equity Institute by 2022, Greene said.

The series has Spectrum Health and Urban Core Collective as partnership sponsors. Other sponsors include Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Genentech Inc. and Grand Rapids Community Foundation as title sponsors; and Herman Miller, Mercantile Bank, and Old National Bank as equity and wellness sponsors.

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