Lifestyle, News

THINK BEYOND BORDERS: Teen Vogue Editor and Black-ish Actress Talk Activism in A Global Community

By: Shontelle Reyna

PATH’s 40 year anniversary was set at the beautiful Marion Oliver McCaw Hall in Seattle on Friday, May 12. It started out with some mingling, booths sensibly placed around the bite size food available and cash bar so those in attendance could get a look at the projects PATH has been working on. Once the last bell rung we took our seats and settled in for an evening of intelligent dialogue among some of the leading young minds in innovation, activism and women’s empowerment.

We took in a moving performance by Naomi Wachira, a local artist originally from Kenya. Dressed in bright yellows and blues, she played the acoustic guitar to her song “Run, Run, Run” and a few others before turning the mic over to president and CEO of PATH, Steve Davis.

Davis spoke with pride about PATH’s revolutionary work, explaining how they are able to create health equity by developing innovative partnerships around the world. “Everyone, we take that word very seriously. Everyone deserves a chance for a productive and healthy life, no matter where they live,” Davis asserted.

As a leader in global health, PATH helps over 150 million people a year by providing vaccines, disease-treating drugs, disease detection and tracking diagnostics, as well as devices that many of us take for granted, such as water filters, which all work to create a system for future success. “Access to healthcare should not depend on gender, or how much money you have,” Davis claimed, which garnered quite the reaction from the audience—I would assume in part due to the current state of health care here in America.

The panel was led by Elaine Welteroth, editor in chief of Teen Vogue. Welteroth became the second African American person to take on that role in 107 years of Condé Nast’s publishing history (the mass media company that houses Teen Vogue), and the driving force behind the magazine’s shift from fashion and fun to hard-hitting journalism that tackles topics such as cultural appropriation and the new faces of feminism. The magazine also now has covers featuring women of color.

The caliber of excellence didn’t stop there, though. The panel also included Yara Shahidi, activist and actress on the comedy Black-ish; Shiza Shahid, cofounder of NOW Ventures and the Malala Fund; Onyinye Edeh, Institute for Current World Affairs fellow and founder of Strong Enough Girls; and Brian Atuhaire, PATH vaccine program officer and advocate in Uganda.

These diverse, intelligent minds came together to discuss their projects and what the future holds—not only for them, but for the global community—if we continue to “think beyond borders.” Onyinye Edeh shared her experiences as a Nigerian-American woman and the misconceptions she faces from her black American peers. She recalled being asked, “Do you walk around naked with giraffes?” She explained how her experiences in America and the confidence she has gained helped her to change the lives of young girls in Nigeria.

Shiza Shahid discussed the importance of young girls’ access to information with grace and wit, and the lone male on the panel, Brian Atuhaire, explained his support for women’s rights. He shared a story about an aunt who gave birth to 13 children because she felt that she had to have a boy, “because she wouldn’t be considered a good wife” otherwise.

PATH’s fortieth anniversary was a fantastic showcase of decades of hard work, and their potential advocacy in the future. Considering the recent changes to America’s health care system, many women and children are feeling attacked or forgotten; a meeting of modern dynamic minds is exactly what the doctor ordered. Let us all strive to do better, and be better through the view of a global community.

Steve Davis ended the panel with a quote from Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., and I will do the same. “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”

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