Byllye Yvonne Avery (born 1937) is a health care activist in the United States of America. She has worked to improve the welfare of African-American women by creating the National Black Women’s Health Imperative in 1981. She has received the MacArthur Foundation’s Fellowship for Social Contribution and the Gustav O. Lienhard Award for the Advancement of Health Care from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Science, among other awards. Avery was born in DeLand, Florida. She studied psychology at Talledega College, and earned an MA degree from the University of Florida in 1969. In 1995 Avery received a L.H.D. from Bates College. Avery produced the documentary film ‘On Becoming a Woman, Mothers and Daughters Talking to Each Other’ (1987). It features African-American women and their daughters talking about menstruation and related topics, such as sex and love. She has said that, when her own daughter menstruated for the first time, Avery threw a party for her. (full text).
Byllye Avery – USA
She works for the National Black Women’s Health Imperative, and also for the Avery Institute for Social Change.
In 1974, she co-founded the Gainesville Women’s Health Center, a first-trimester abortion center. Four years later, she co-founded Birthplace, an alternative birthing center where families could deliver their babies with the aid of a certified midwife.
She says: “Black women all participated in a conspiracy of silence” … and: “white women were defining health in their own perspective, which was usually focused on reproductive issues. We needed to come together as black women to define the issues most affecting black women.”
While Avery was knee-deep in women’s health issues, however, she realized a significant group of people were underrepresented: black women.
Byllye Avery, president of the Avery Institute for Social Change, has dedicated the last 25 years of her life to improving the health of African American women. As the founder of the Washington-based Black Women’s Health Imperative, the 66-year-old Georgia native has concentrated on reducing the health disparities between African American women and other women. The Black Women’s Health Imperative – formerly known as the National Black Women’s Health Project – is a leading authority on black women’s health issues. It takes a holistic approach by addressing psychological and spiritual concerns, as well as physical ones, Avery says. (full text).
Recent national polls (conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and other organizations) indicate that voters ranked health care among their top concerns. An estimated 50 million Americans lack medical insurance, including 9 million of our children. About 18,000 Americans die each year because they lack medical coverage. But even those who have insurance suffer under the current system. Of the more than 1.5 million bankruptcies filed each year, about half are a result of medical bills; of those, three-quarters of filers had health insurance. Businesses and employees are financially hard hit too. Insurance premiums increased 73 percent in the last six years; that is, they outpaced increases in salaries and inflation by incredibly huge margins. Businesses canýt thrive with these overheads and they share increased insurance costs with employees whose take-home pay is thus reduced. (full text).
Byllye Avery’s book “An Altar of Words: Wisdom, Comfort, and Inspiration for African American Women” (Broadway Books) urges us to love ourselves and listen to our spirits despite the everyday obstacles that come up in our lives. As the founder of the National Black Women’s Health Project and the proud recipient of the MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Award, many women have benefited from her more than 20 years of women’s rights activism and creative vision. Unfortunately, not all women have bore personal witness to the power of her wisdom or her words. Courage, breath, imagination, agency and self-love are just a few of the words she examines in her book. She shows women the power of their “verbal sacred space.” The words we use to describe our emotions, moods and etc. can either transform or hinder our lives. (full text).