Inspired by Sean “Diddy” Combs’ successful “State Of Emergency: The State of Black America & Coronavirus” town hall, “REVOLT BLACK NEWS” is a platform that is designed to report news from the perspective of black people, for black people.
Last week, Diddy hosted a virtual town hall on REVOLT, “State Of Emergency: The State Of Black America & Coronavirus,” featuring conversations about the extensive impact of the virus on black communities economically, medically and mortally. While this town hall had a broader spectrum of conversations between public figures such as political commentator Angela Rye to actress and Gen Z activist Yara Shahidi, Diddy has taken the extra steps to create “REVOLT BLACK NEWS,” a brainchild of “State of Emergency,” to serve as “a collective of individuals who are experts in their field.”
Hosted by Van Lathan, the conversation titled “Health Is Wealth: The Continuing Fight Against Coronavirus” focused primarily on managing mental, physical and spiritual wellness during the stay-at-home orders from the government sweeping the nation, and their impact on black people and communities of color. This in-house panel discussion expo included expertise from professionals and veterans across various fields such as Dr. Deepak Chopra, Kelly Slater, Angela Yee, Styles P and his wife Adjua, Koya Webb, Andre Berto, Nick Cannon, Jhene Aiko and more.
“Welcome to the first episode of ‘REVOLT BLACK NEWS,’” Diddy introduces the show. “Last week, we did a ‘State of Emergency’ bringing awareness to alarming disparities of the coronavirus pandemic and how it’s affecting communities of color. I thought it was important to keep this thing going for the culture. I’ve been planning ‘BLACK NEWS’ for a long time now, and what better time to start than now.” And what perfect timing it was because a conversation about the importance of health and wellness is just what we need.
Lathan followed up with words of appreciation for Diddy before formally introducing the panel. “We are in an impertinent time in terms of our health both mentally and physically in America right now. We don’t know when it ends or how it’s going to end, but we do know we want to live to see it through,” he begins. “The talk we’re gonna have today is gonna give you guys solutions and tools for you to stay healthy through this pandemic, and make sure that your loved ones and people around you are healthy as well.”
The first conversation surrounded that of public health, and what better way to begin than with the expertise of public health professionals. First up was Miami-based cardiologist Dr. Bernard Ashby. He removed his ventilated mask to begin talking about COVID-19’s effect on the immune and respiratory system, as well as conditions and risk factors. “Unfortunately, our community is disproportionately affected by those conditions,” said Dr. Ashby.
As he began to go down the list of risk factors from high blood pressure and hypertension to diabetes and morbid obesity, Ashby shares the relationship between the receptors and the pre-existing cardiovascular conditions that are present in the black community. “When these patients become sick, they decline pretty quickly,” he says, “especially if they’re uncontrolled, they tend to do poorly. Essentially, we were a total set up for this condition, for this disease to pretty much do us a lot of harm.”
Emergency medical physician Dr. Safiya Lyn, like Dr. Ashby, is on the frontlines of Coronavirus and encouraged people of color to boost our immune system in the fight against it. “What’s important to understand about this virus is that it’s not seasonal,” Dr. Lyn starts. “This is going to be here; this is year-round at this point. We don’t understand if there’s a beginning and an end.” Dr. Lyn continues to encourage us to protect ourselves by identifying the symptoms, investing in pulse oximeters to measure the oxygen saturation in your blood, and being sensitive when telling people to quarantine because not everyone may have that privilege due to roommate situations or large family households.
Koya Webb joined the conversation as it shifted to the importance of diets during the pandemic. When asked how we should prepare ourselves and be ready against Coronavirus, Webb advised that we need to start “realizing the power of life changing foods,” such as fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts. “All of those things are going to give us the health and boost our immune system like we need to make sure we do not catch COVID-19, and if we do, to make sure we heal from it.” She continued to explain the healing power in a single walnut, which is ironically shaped like a pair of lungs, to give the lungs strength. Webb further suggested staying away from processed foods and intaking more complex carbohydrates, leafy greens, and whole grains. “Our healing is in fruits, in nature that come from God,” she said.
As the conversation shifted back into COVID-19’s effects on the cardiovascular system, Dr. Ashby gives a message to the people about the importance of daily movement. “Just because we’re practicing social distancing doesn’t mean you can’t get out,” he adds. Dr. Ashby then encouraged people tuned it to take it step by step, even in fear, to go to a park, doing calisthenics inside or even a quick 10-15 minute exercise in addition to the diet. In summation, don’t use the quarantine as an excuse for your health and dietary choices.
Webb pops back into the conversation to speak on the importance of mental health and what we can do to keep our stress levels down. She highlighted that breathing regulates our nervous system. “The breath is spirit. It is the energy we get when we enter this world and what we won’t be doing anymore when we leave,” Webb said before instructing people to take a deep inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth. Before passing it over to Styles P and his wife, Adjua Styles, Webb adds, “None of us are immune to anxiety and none of us are immune to fear.”
The Juices For Life founders, and husband and wife, Styles P and Adjua Styles tuned into “REVOLT BLACK NEWS” to offer up advice on how to increase your ability to stay both mentally and physically ready to fight Coronavirus. “We realized that we’re a brown people from a brown community and most of us weren’t raised or taught to eat right. We don’t look up the things that affect our bodies. We’re misinformed when it comes to the hood,” Styles P begins, as he reflects on his own upbringing, and experience with health issues from eczema and anxiety to post-nasal drip, and being overweight.
Styles P deemed it as his job and responsibility as someone in hip hop, which he referred to as “a braggadocious sport,” to explain to people the importance of treating your body like a temple and working on your own body first. Adjua adds that “we should hold ourselves as doctors to a regard,” when it comes to managing and maintaining the health of our own temples. About the foundation of Juices For Life and its importance to the immune system of communities of color, Adjua said that “we were able to see that we’re able to target the core issues of the problem, as opposed to putting a band-aid on it and weakening the immune system.”
Angela Yee, also an owner of her Juices For Life store in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn; jumps in with the positive effects she’s seen in her own body since ridding herself of processed food intake. As a morning radio show host, she does not have the luxury of taking her time to exercise in the morning, so she took accountability for her diet. “I feel like because I couldn’t do everything I needed to do for my health, I could at least eat right. That was one thing I could control and there were no excuses when it came to that,” said Yee.
Up next, Nick Cannon popped into the chat to touch on the importance of education and awareness of traditional and non-traditional wellness, more specifically from the lens of someone living with an autoimmune disease. Cannon begins by quoting Plato, “Human behavior flows from three main sources: desire, emotion and knowledge.” As he works on the Dr. Sebi documentary, originally started by the late Nipsey Hussle, the Wild N’ Out host challenges his way of thinking about traditional medicine versus alternative medicine and holistic teachings.
He reflects on his diagnosis of Lupus Nephritis in 2012, where “your immune system is acting as an enemy to your body instead of a protector,” and though Cannon thought he was perfectly healthy, he had to embark on an entirely new journey to learn what works best for his body. For those who are beginning to shift their diet, Cannon says “welcome to the party because I’ve been living this way since 2012.”
Bringing the conversation back to the importance of stress level maintenance and mental health, Webb advises to put your phone in the other room when going to sleep to lower radiation, and start your day with gratitude and movement. From a media perspective, Yee shares that there has indeed been a pivot in coverage, and there is a sense of responsibility of sharing information and expertise from politicians and public health professionals during this time. “People do want to learn more,” she shares. “People are really thirsty for that knowledge and that access to it.”
While speaking on the risk factors, warning signs and symptoms, Dr. Safiya Lyn debunks the myth of the direct relationship between cannabis, vaping and worsening COVID-19 symptoms. However, she does relay that smoking generally diminishes the capacity of the lungs and increases your risk. As an advocate and prescriber for medical cannabis use, she goes on to explain that cannabis has been proven to help with anxiety and stress, and dispensary sales are projected to spike during the pandemic.
Although we’ve all fallen victim to “the fake news olympics,” as Dr. Ashby refers to it, we should only seek emergency medical care when symptoms are severe such as distress in breathing, bluish lips and chest tightness. Though mass testing is not available at the moment, Dr. Lyn shares, medical professionals are learning the disease process, how to diagnose, and how to manage it as time and efforts move forward.
“In the medical profession, you want to talk to, and listen, and observe those who are telling you facts,” Dr. Lyn advises all who may be hesitant to trust medical professionals. “Evidence-based medicine, who are actually treating patients and evolving with the process, and changing their style of practice.” Cannon bounces off of Dr. Lyn to promote the importance of understanding truth and understanding facts.
When asked about the vitality of hip hop’s role in the pandemic, Styles P says that “hip hop is the voice of the people and the voice of our people.” He continues to emphasize the need to understand that we all have a responsibility to ourselves, our loved ones and our communities. “Sometimes, you have to put the goals of the community above our own personal goals.” Yee then adds “we have to realize that we’re not invincible,” and poses the question of “who else is going to do it the way that we’re going to to do it?”
Before passing the torch of the conversation along to the next round of panelists, Lathan takes a pause in the programming to pay homage to those on the frontlines of Coronavirus — namely, Dr. Bernard Ashby and Dr. Safiya Lyn. “It is not a situation that you probably signed yourselves up for,” he said jokingly. “We love and appreciate what you guys are doing.”
Though appreciative of the gratitude given by Lathan on behalf of REVOLT and its viewers, Dr. Lyn combats by stressing that this is bigger than doctors and emergency responders. “We are your last line of defense. This is really a community issue,” she said. “The communities are now the front-liners, as well. They have to protect themselves and by protecting themselves, they’re protecting us.”
On the topic of social distancing, before signing off, Yee leaves the viewers with a message. “Let’s make sure we stay in contact with each other, but not in person. Right now is not the time to be a part from one another.” she says, as she encourages people to find comfort from others, especially those in toxic family situations. Webb added that “every thought and message matters right now,” and offered prayer, good vibes and virtual hugs as means to connect with others without being within arm’s reach.
The next panel consisted of Chris Paul, Kelly Slater and Dr. Deepak Chopra, and discussed the relationship between the wellness of the mind and the body. Paul kicked off the conversation by admitting his eating habits of fatback, pig feet and chitlins during his upbringing in the south, but later realized the importance of monitoring your diet. “Your gut is your second brain. Things started changing for me when I started becoming a lot more conscious about what I was putting in my body,” he says about becoming a recent vegan. “Everything moves a lot better because of how I changed.”
Slater, currently located in Australia, is not too affected by COVID-19’s impact when it comes to physical and mental routine because surfing already practices social distancing by remaining 10 feet away from everyone. When it comes to finding a balance between those regularly dependent upon physical activity, Slater says it may be a bit difficult for some. “It is driving a few people kind of crazy,” he said. “There’s always that balance. You want to have that physical activity, but also not be selfish for your community. There’s a balance surfers are trying to find.”
Dr. Chopra adds in research he conducted about the statistics of health disparities and mortality rates against African-Americans and Latinos. “That’s a very useful statistic to have,” he says about the direct correlation between chronic illnesses and zip codes. He continues to say that you can tell everything about a community by its zip code from its socioeconomic status, care providers, insurance carriers and average income. Dr. Chopra also brings light to the importance of building community within ourselves in a post-colonial era and to not depend on the government for assistance. He concludes his research findings and expression of community togetherness with a Hindi tradition that states, “Take refuge in your community, take refuge in your spiritual bonding, and take refuge in yourself.”
The last group featured in the episode included Jhene Aiko, Doug E Fresh and Andre Berto. Kicking off the final collection of panelists, Aiko expressed that quarantine has been a bit easier on her than those who are used to being out and about at all times. “I was homeschooled, so this is something that I’m used to,” she admitted. She then revealed that she had been preparing to go on tour and was getting nervous about time lost with her 11-year-old daughter, Namiko Love. But, she now gets to spend more time with her.
The singer has also taken the time to realize the importance of putting intention behind her work and drawing creativity from all sources. “My intention is to heal people through music,” she continued. Aiko discussed reading a lot more and implementing the art of sound healing into her tracks to match her intentionality. As an introvert and one who is at peace with creating at home, the possibility of social distancing traveling into June 2020 only made her become more retrospective. “I draw a lot of inspiration in traveling and meeting people. It’ll make people go deeper inside of themselves,” Aiko said, as she urged creatives to tap into their inner innovation because “when you’re a creative, that’s what you do.”
Doug E. Fresh came in next, saying that “It’s unfortunate that we’re connecting on these set of circumstances,” while reminiscing about the time that he had the opportunity to meet Dr. Deepak Chopra in-person. He took the time to speak on his position as Vice President of Entertainment at Hip Hop Public Health, where they are educating the youth about the importance of exercising, eating right and identifying health symptoms in their parents. The rap pioneer then went on to address his collaboration with Artie Green and Gerry Gun to create the viral music video “20 Seconds Or More” with appearances by Ashanti, Michael Blackson, Lori Rose Benson, Charlie Mack, Cedric The Entertainer and more.
Closing out, Lathan thanked everyone for taking the time to engage in the conversation with “REVOLT BLACK NEWS” for its Sunday night premiere. He leaves everyone with, “If you take the time to keep yourself healthy, keep your family healthy and keep your loved ones happy, you are actively doing the most important thing for the culture that you could possibly do right now. You’re keeping yourself breathing.” Ending on a note of positivity, Lathan wishes everyone health, encouragement and prosperity.