Bits And Pieces

The Power of Prayer

African American churchgoers and spiritual people who pray privately have better heart health than less religious Black people, according to a new Mayo Clinic study. A study of the benefits of religion on heart health was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA). LaPrincess Brewer, an assistant professor in the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and her team of researchers used data from the Jackson Heart Study (JHS) as a template to analyze the cardiovascular health of African Americans in Minnesota.

Since 1998, the JHS has conducted research on the environmental and genetic factors that contribute to cardiovascular disease among African Americans who live in Jackson, Mississippi. Since its inception, the JHS study has included more than 5,000 adult participants.

Brewer was surprised to find in the JHS that “religiosity and spirituality were associated with improved cardiovascular health,” she said. On every metric , regular churchgoers and those who often participated in religious activities had better outcomes than those who did not. In light of these findings, Brewer advised that health professionals and researchers should acknowledge the importance of religious and spiritual influences in the lives of African Americans—who tend to be highly religious.

Cicely Tyson Way

As a youngster, little Cicely Tyson played on the sidewalk in front of her home at East 101st Street between Lexington and Third Avenues in Harlem. In September, the block was renamed in her honor as Cicely Tyson Way. Tyson, born in the Bronx in 1924, moved to Harlem at the age of three with her parents, who were from the Caribbean island of Nevis.

Her career spanned over seven decades in movies, television, and theater. The rich legacy earned Tyson the Presidential Medal of Freedom, two Emmys, a Tony Award and an honorary Academy Award.

Tyson, known for her portrayals of strong, Black women, became well-known after her performance in Sounder (1972). Other major roles included The Biography of Miss Jane Pittman (1974) and as Binta in the ground-breaking series Roots (1977). Cicely Tyson passed at the age of 96 in January 2021.

Althea Gibson Way

One of the first Black athletes to cross the color line in international tennis, Althea Gibson won a Grand Slam title match in France in 1956. Her streak continued, winning both Wimbleton and what would become the US Open in 1958 and again in 1959. Gibson was named Female Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press in both years.

Born in 1927 in South Carolina, her family moved to Harlem as part of the Great Migration in 1930. Some of Gibson’s neighbors took up a collection to finance a junior membership and lessons at the Cosmopolitan Tennis Club in the Sugar Hill section of Harlem.

A celebration honoring Gibson and renaming the street where she grew up took place on what would have been her 95th birthday (August 25). The intersection of West 143rd Street and Malcolm X Boulevard is now called Althea Gibson Way.

Members of Gibson’s family attended the ceremony on 143rd Street in front of Gibson’s old apartment building. Her great niece, Sonia Melvin, spoke about how much Gibson meant to the family. “She was just ‘Auntie’ to us,” Melvin said. “I mean, she wasn’t this big icon to us—but we loved her.”

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