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Supportive Workshop for African American Women with Cancer

Updated: May 2, 2022

Love Letters to Our Bodies will Explore & Help Release Stories Held

in the Body of Cancer Patients and Survivors

Cancer is a scourge in the African American community. African American/Black individuals have a disproportionate cancer burden, including the highest mortality and the lowest survival of any racial/ethnic group for most cancers. The incidence of cancer in the U.S. is highest among African Americans. According to the American Cancer Society, “about 224,080 new cases and 73, 680 cancer deaths are expected to occur among black people in 2022.”

As it relates to cancer, African Americans have poorer health outcomes. For instance, statistics from the National Cancer Institute’s “Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program” reveal that:

  • Blacks/African Americans have higher death rates than all other racial/ethnic groups for many, although not all, cancer types.

  • Despite having similar rates of breast cancer, Black/African American women are more likely than White women to die of the disease.

  • Hispanic/Latino and Black/African American women have higher rates of cervical cancer than women of other racial/ethnic groups, with Black/African American women having the highest rates of death from the disease.

When confronted with a cancer diagnosis, patients often experience a range of emotions, including terror, grief, anger, depression, helplessness, hopelessness, and a sense of betrayal by the body.

“We all carry stories in our bodies,” said Gwendolyn Mitchell, Reiki Master and Chief Executive Officer of Moyo Institute, Inc., who will facilitate the workshop. “But seldom do we make the connection between these stories and our overall wellbeing. This is particularly true for African Americans who are carrying both generational and personal trauma,” Mitchell continued. “In Love Letters, we gently unpack these stories so participants can move forward in their journey unburdened.”

Love Letters to Our Bodies is a free contemplative workshop is for African American Women currently living with cancer or who identify as cancer survivors to explore themes related to how they experience their bodies, stories they tell themselves, how that has changed since their diagnosis, and how they engage in self-care.

African Americans in the US have a complex and nuanced relationship with our bodies due to historical and contemporary factors, including access to care, quality of care, access to information and limited economic resources. The women who attend the workshop will be supported gently through each process of uncovering stories in the body. These stories when surfaced will inform the next steps including acceptance, forgiveness, and the creation of Love Letters to their bodies.

“At Charlotte Maxwell Clinic, we provide low-income women with cancer the opportunity for improved health outcomes and quality of life by providing free access to compassionate, integrative care, said Melbra Watts, Executive Director. “Moyo Institute’s Love Letters to Our Bodiesworkshop gives our clients a supportive experience of the mind/body connection and compassionate relief from the day-to-day strain of dealing with cancer.”

Charlotte Maxwell Clinic in Oakland, California, where the Black/African American population is estimated at 23.75%, is one of two onsite venues for the workshop. The other is the Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in Washington, D.C., where Black/African Americans comprise about 46.9% of the population.

“We are excited to make the Love Letters to Our Bodies workshop available to community members in the Washington metropolitan area,” said Lisa Simms Booth, Executive Director of Smith Center for Healing and the Arts, whose advocacy journey began when her mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2003. “The workshop aligns perfectly with our mission of providing programs and resources that support a journey of healing and finding wholeness and gives us an opportunity to let the African American community know about the array of supportive services available here.”

Select Love Letters will be in a booklet and recorded for workshop participants. There are three ways to participate. In addition to the workshops in Oakland and the District of Columbia, the workshop will be offered online for African American women throughout the nation.


WASHINGTON, DC – Saturday & Sunday – May 14 & 15, 2022, from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., Eastern

Smith Center for Healing and the Arts, 1632 U Street, NW, Washington DC 20009 (limited space for in person attendance)

OAKLAND & NATIONWIDE - ONLINESaturday & Sunday, June 11 & 12, 2022, 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Pacific 1:00 p.m. -5:00 p.m., Central, and 2:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m., Eastern


Social distancing procedures will be in place for those who attend in person. Details are at the registration links for each session. This free workshop is made possible by a generous grant from the Lloyd Symington Foundation.


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