Faith, Health, and Healing in African American Life

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Black Americans are more likely than Whites to die of cancer and heart disease, more likely to get diabetes and asthma, and less likely to get preventive care and screening. Some of this greater morbidity results from education, income level, and environment as well as access to health care. But the traditional medical model does not always allow for a more holistic approach that takes into account the body, the mind, the spirit, the family, and the community. This book offers a better understanding of the varieties of religiously-based approaches to healing and alternative models of healing and health found in Black communities in the United States. Contributors address the communal aspects of faith and health and explore the contexts in which individuals make choices about their health, the roles that institutions play in shaping these decisions, and the practices individuals engage in seeking better health or coping with the health they have. By paying attention to the role of faith, spirit, and health, this book offers a fuller sense of the varieties of ways Black health and health care are perceived and addressed from an inter-religious perspective.

Community and religion-based initiatives have emerged as one key way to address the health challenges found in the African American community. In cities such as Atlanta, Baltimore, Dallas, and Oakland, residents organize exercise groups, teach one another how to cook with healthy ingredients, and encourage neighbors to get regular checkups. Churches have become key sites for health education, screening, and testing. Another set of responses to the challenge of Black health and healthcare in the United States comes from those who emphasize the body as a whole—body, mind, soul, and spirit, often drawing on religious traditions such as Islam and African-based religions such as Spiritism, Santeria, Vodun (aka Voodoo), Candomblé, and others. Understanding the issues and the various approaches is essential to combating the problems, and this unique volume sheds light on areas often overlooked when considering the issues.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This is a most interesting work. It provides insight into the traditional African-American health practices that are not dealt with in most conventional medical literature. The essays, furthermore, place these practices into a broader historical context, one in existence before the institution of slavery in the Americas."


MultiCultural Review

"Because residency programs are now recognizing the importance of cultural competency for their trainees, it is crucial that clinicians acknowledge the importance of religion in the health care of their patients. In fact, as more becomes known in this country about how different cultures approach health and wellness, this book, along with the others in the series, will be timely and useful to all involved in health care. FAITH, HEALTH, AND HEALING IN AFRICAN AMERICAN LIFE is an excellent guide to the health belief system of a key US community."


Journal of the American Medical Association/JAMA

"Mitchem and Townes have edited a very important collection of multidisciplinary essays focused on faith, health, and healing in African American life. Since African Americans have been vulnerable to higher AIDS, this timely volume fills an important knowledge gap. Religious resources have often been neglected in biomedicine. The essays range from the historical contributions of African religious traditions to healing in Yvonne Chireau's 'Hoodoo' narratives and Charles Long's reflections on the conjure tradition to more contemporary foci such as Dwight Hopkins's elaboration of the relationship between environmental and ecological justice to health concerns in black communities… Recommended. Upper-level undergraduates through faculty/researchers."



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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780275993757
  • Publisher: ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 8/30/2008
  • Series: Religion, Health, and Healing Series
  • Pages: 232
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

STEPHANIE Y. MITCHEM is Associate Professor, University of South Carolina. She is the author of African American Women Tapping Power and Spiritual Wellness, Introducing Womanist Theology, and numerous articles and book chapters.

EMILIE M. TOWNES is Andrew W. Mellon Professor of African-American Religion and Theology, Yale Divinity School. She is the author or editor of several books including Breaking the Fine Rain of Death: African American Health Care and A Womanist Ethic of Care , Embracing the Spirit: Womanist Perspectives on Hope, Salvation, and Transformation, In a Blaze of Glory: Womanist Spirituality as Social Witness and others, as well as journal articles, book chapters, conference papers, and other publications.

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Table of Contents

Series Foreword Susan Starr Sered Sered, Susan Starr Linda L. Barnes Barnes, Linda L.


Pt. I Ancestral Songs 1

Ch. 1 Natural and Supernatural: African American Hoodoo Narratives of Sickness and Healing Yvonne P. Chireau Chireau, Yvonne P. 3

Ch. 2 Holistic Health and Healing: Environmental Racism and Ecological Justice Dwight N. Hopkins Hopkins, Dwight N. 16

Pt. II Health and Healing across the Diaspora 33

Ch. 3 Bodies in Time and the Healing of Spaces: Religion, Temporalities, and Health Charles H. Long Long, Charles H. 35

Ch. 4 Spiritual Illness and Healing: "If the Lord Wills" Arvilla Payne-Jackson Payne-Jackson, Arvilla 55

Pt. III The Arts of Ritual and Practice 65

Ch. 5 The Marking of the Body, Memory, and the Meaning of Suffering in Phyllis Alesia Perry's Stigmata Carolyn M. Jones Jones, Carolyn M. 67

Ch. 6 Just Awailing and Aweeping: Grief, Lament, and Hope as We Face the End of Life Emilie M. Townes Townes, Emilie M. 85

Ch. 7 Honoring the Body: Rituals of Breath and Breathing C. S'thembile West West, C. S'thembile 96

Pt. IV Analyzing Social Realities 109

Ch. 8 The Destruction of Aunt Ester's House: Faith, Health, and Healing in the African American Community Terri Baltimore Baltimore, Terri Mindy Thompson Fullilove Fullilove, Mindy Thompson 111

Ch. 9 The Unspoken, the Spoken, and the Affirmed: Meanings of Healing, Same-Gender-Loving African Americans, and Black Churches Linda L. Barnes Barnes, Linda L. 128

Pt. V Finding and Making Wellness 145

Ch. 10 Seeking Help for the Body in the Well-Being of the Soul Rosemary D. Gooden Gooden, Rosemary D. 147

Ch. 11 Too Gay for the Church, but Always at Home in theClub: Health, Spirituality, and Social Support among Adult Black Gay Men at Oakland's Cable Reef D. Mark Wilson Wilson, D. Mark 160

Ch. 12 Healing Hearts and Broken Bodies: An African American Women's Spirituality of Healing Stephanie Y. Mitchem Mitchem, Stephanie Y. 181

Bibliography 193

Index 201

About the Editors and Contributors 205

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