Kuuza Here, an online hub of Black-owned businesses, understands its platform as a way of propelling Black empowerment, employment, and cultural appreciation. It also understands it as part and parcel of something much less discussed--Black public health.
What does supporting businesses like Kuuza Here have to do with supporting public health? The connection isn’t as much of a reach as you may think.
But first, it is important to outline exactly what this paper means by health.
As defined by the World Health Organization, health is “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."(1)Public health is simply the health of the population as a whole and, in this paper, Black public health specifically.
One of the vanguard organizations in the fight for Black liberation, the Black Panther Party (BPP), has left a lasting imprint on the legacy of public health(2) . The BPP understood that improving the health status of Black people goes hand in hand with improving their political, economic, and social status. Black political activism and Black public health activism are interwoven. For the Party, the well-being of individual Black bodies and Black communities reflected the general welfare of the African diaspora.
The role of community empowerment in public health is part of what is known as a “social determinant” of health. Social determinants of health refer to those structural conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age(3) . They include housing, the environment, education, culture, and other factors that play a part in contributing to one’s physical, mental, and emotional health. In line with Kuuza Here’s principles of Pan-Africanism, (outlined in Part One of this essay *add link to first essay here*) the phrase “community empowerment” is intentionally used to indicate its investment in active participation in fostering a sense of community. More than the individual self-concept of empowerment, “community empowerment” centers solidarity of the African diaspora and emphasizes partnership and collaboration(4).
There are numerous pathways by which community empowerment can directly and indirectly lead to improved health4. In line with the principles of economic empowerment, as discussed in Part One, dollars spent in Black-owned businesses, particularly within Black communities, are more likely to contribute to an environment conducive to better health(5) . Additionally, as a result of social participation vis-à-vis supporting and building Black-owned businesses, social isolation can be diminished which may also lead to improvements in health(6).
Health is a lot more than the prevention of infectious diseases. It is intertwined and interdependent on social, cultural, and historical factors that play a role in mental and emotional well-being as well. Research continues to show a link between social inclusion, active community participation and improved health outcomes. Kuuza Here’s mission to bridge the African diaspora by connecting up-and-coming African and African-inspired brands of the Continent to the US market helps to foster community empowerment.
So, invest in your local and online Black businesses--it’s good for our health.
Iman Barre holds a masters degree from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and is committed to Black liberation by way of intersecting health and human rights.