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Chicago Tribune: Blue Island Juneteenth even brings health resources to community

William Edwards, of Dolton, came to the Juneteenth Family & Friends Celebration in Blue Island to learn more about health resources and to collect some clothing items he needed. Edwards, 52, is an electrician, but during the COVID-19 pandemic he lost his job after contracting the virus. Edwards, who recently received a kidney transplant, said he enjoys events held throughout the community because they have supported him as he recovers. “They have a lot of nice stuff they give us,” Edwards said.

The Juneteenth Family & Friends Celebration was a resource and health fair Friday at the John D. Rita Recreation Center in Blue Island. The event was put together by Sisters Working It Out, which aims to eliminate breast cancer disparities in the Chicago area, said executive program manager Lolita Coleman.

The center’s gym was lined with tables offering resources for residents, including health to financial literacy and veteran services, Coleman said.

“You can’t just focus on one thing,” Coleman said. “There’s something for everyone.”

The Sisters Working It Out table provided literature about breast cancer awareness and taught women how to do self examinations, Coleman said.

Near their table, the Blue Island-Robbins Neighborhood Network representatives met with community members and help them connect with other resources in those communities, said program manager Ken Benson.

The network focuses on financial literacy, healthy eating and active living and social and emotional health, Benson said.

“We want people to know that the resources are here,” Benson said.

Tiana Jackson, research coordinator for the All of Us research program through the National Institutes of Health, said her team came to let the community know about the research program.

Participants share information about their medical history and social and economic standings, Jackson said. With enough participants, the goal is to break health care down to an individual level instead of an umbrella encompassing a group of people.

The project also aims to address disparities in minority communities, Jackson said. For example, Black residents can’t take certain high blood pressure medications because it causes allergic reactions. That wasn’t previously known, she said, because Black people weren’t included in the clinical trials.

“It’s not only going to help the current generation but future generations as well,” Jackson said.

Edwards said he appreciated talking with representatives at the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois booth because of his recent transplant.

According to the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois, uncontrolled diabetes and high blood pressure are the leading causes of kidney disease, and Black Americans are twice as likely to have diabetes than white people while almost half of all Black Americans have high blood pressure.

Adriel Cardoso said he liked the event because it connects the community to important resources.

“I think it’s something that brings us together,” Cardoso said.

Black Americans are four times more likely to develop kidney disease than white Americans, according to the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois, while 35% of all American adults with kidney failure are Black.

Edward’s uncle, Victor Banks, said he enjoyed the event.

“It’s nice. It’s cool,” Banks said. “You get to meet a lot of people and learn a lot.”

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