Towns: Dennis, Harwich, Chatham 14.5 miles
We began at 7:30 a.m. at the start of the Cape Cod Rail Trail in Dennis. Lauren was reliably present again, and Rita, a nurse in the Providence public schools, left RI very early to join us. We started with setting our intentions for the day: to focus on all aspects of health and the disparate impacts of racism on the health care model in this country. We honored the lands that belong to the people who came before us, the Wampanoag and other tribes, who kept sacred the earth and nature which supported the health of all peoples. We touched on the disparities in access to health care related to race and income and acknowledged our own privilege in the system as we walked from Dennis, through Harwich to Chatham.
We shared books and documentaries we have become aware of in the past several months to support our learning about racism. I spoke about a film I watched at the Woods Hole Film Festival last weekend as an excellent example of what one family can do to bridge the divide across the political differences in this country. REUNITED STATES of America documentary followed a conservative, white couple and their three children as they travelled across the US to have conversations with people holding different perspectives than they did. Their eyes opened to systemic racism in health care, the economy, housing, education and other areas. Through the personal connection with people and their stories, their hearts and minds were changed. They now think of people who hold different opinions as potential “allies” with every person having a role to play in reuniting this country. Their project was similar to my Cape Cod Camino Way project this summer- build awareness, seek out information, listen to others, be open to change, change!
I had two responses to this film- the first was to ask the question: When were we ever “united”? When were people of color, indigenous peoples ever provided the same opportunities as whites? As we explored in the first walk, the establishment of our democracy included the institution of slavery. We have never been “united”. The second response was one of hope- that by seeking out information, listening to the stories, and being open to change we can bridge our divides. The film ends with two resources to check out: LISTEN FIRST and Bridge ALLIANCE. I will check them out.
After the first four miles in the rising humidity, we stopped near historic Harwich Center and heard information on health disparities for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. I shared that I was fortunate to have a conversation last Saturday with Dr. Kumara Sidhartha from Cape Cod Health Care. “Dr Sid” as he is known supports a plant-based approach with food, helping patients understand that food is medicine and eating healthy supports all aspects of health. Dr. Sid spoke about the social determinants of health such as housing, employment, health insurance, language barriers, and cultural factors as impacting health for BIPOC. He described the double burden of malnutrition, where individuals living a poor community have higher rates of obesity. This stems from the poor nutrients and excess calories in the types of food available and the socialization to choose high calorie/low quality food. Also at play is the role of sugar as an addiction in our diets and the negative impacts of sugar on all aspects of health.
The information in the chart below provided by Dr. Sidhartha is important- COVID disproportionately impacts all People of Color:
In a short period of time, I found numerous articles and resources that supported Dr. Sid’s perspective on the factors impacting health. From the CDC website:
“Multiple factors contribute to racial/ethnic health disparities, including socioeconomic factors (education, employment, income) lifestyle behaviors (physical activity, alcohol consumption) and access to preventative heal-care services (cancer-screening, vaccination). Recent immigrants also can be at risk for chronic disease and injury, particularly those who lack fluency in English and familiarity with the US health care system….” I immediately thought of the meat packing industry in this country and the disproportionate number of people of color and recent immigrants who work on the line in the chicken and meat processing plants. They are considered “essential “ personnel. If our diets reflected a plant based approach to food we change the “food industrial complex” and the resulting negative impacts on People of Color.
One final initiative Dr. Sidhartha shared with me was the “Navigators” who function in the Cape Cod Health Care model. These staff work with patients to provide information and direct service on everything from temporary housing to food insecurity issues and health insurance information. They connect a patient with all forms of support needed to navigate the bureaucracy around access to resources to support all aspects of health. The Navigators seem to be a critical part of an effective health system.
The American College of Physicians offer much information online about the Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care. From their position paper in 2010:
“Social determinants of health are a significant source of health disparities among racial and ethnic minorities. Inequities in education, housing, job security and environmental health must be erased if health disparities are to be effectively addressed.” “The health care delivery system must be reformed to ensure that patient-centered medical care is easily accessible to racial and ethnic minorities and physicians are enabled with the resources to deliver quality care. “
Statistics from “Racism, Inequality, and Health Care for African Americans by Jamila Taylor (2019)
More than 20 million people gained coverage under the Affordable Care Act. 2.8 million of them are African- Americans. However, the uninsured rate among African Americans remains at almost 10%
The average cost for health care premiums is 20% higher for African Americans when their average household income is less than whites.
African American women are three times more likely to die of pregnancy-related causes than white women.
African Americans are more likely to die from cancer and heart disease than whites, and are at greater risk for the onset of diabetes.
African American children are ten times more likely to die by gun violence than white children.
After walking a few more miles we crossed Depot Road and came across several cranberry bogs, a horse farm, and the rural nature of Harwich. As we noted on earlier walks, the Cape Verdean presence on Cape Cod and with the cranberry industry was large in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Cape Verdeans migrated here until the anti-immigration laws stemmed the flow in the 1920s, settling into East and North Harwich and the Pleasant Lake community. They fled drought and starvation at home and came to Harwich via the packet boats, known locally as the “Brava fleet” after the Island of Brava. Here in the U.S. they felt the racist and anti-immigrate attitudes but were less targeted because of their lighter skin, strong work ethic and a tendency to form tight communities apart from the white population. Eventually the number of descendants of Cape Verdean immigrants was 10 times the population of the islands themselves. Today there is a thriving connection between Cape Verde and Bridgewater State University where I work part time. The Pedro Pires Institute for Cape Verdean Studies has sponsored exchanges for students and professionals and hosted all three of the Prime Ministers of Cape Verde.
Returning to our theme of health, the three walkers discussed how we were staying healthy in the time of the pandemic and the resources available to us. As we were walking through Harwich I wanted to share a few comments from Amy Giaquinto, the founder of Personalized Fitness Solutions in Harwich. Amy is an example of a life-long learner, challenging herself and her clients to continue to grow physically, spiritually, and on issues of race and privilege. I interviewed Amy via email earlier in the week and share a few of her insights here.
“This is a stressful time, consciously and sub-consciously and focusing on self-care through general wellness and exercise is crucial to help manage stress and anxiety. When we exercise our bodies release endorphins which can help bring about feelings of joy, happiness and general well-being.”
“On both a physical and psychological level a strong core is vital. Your core, made up of not only your abdominal muscles but also your pelvic floor, lower back and glute muscles work together as a unit, vital to building a strong foundation. A strong core helps us to feel physically stable and strong, which in turn helps us emotionally feel more in control and empowered.”
“There is a lack of understanding and awareness, and it is our job to educate ourselves and to foster change….my hope is that we will all work together for change.”
Each week we encounter the presence of the Native Americans who thrived on Cape Cod before the white settlers arrived in the 1600s. Chatham has a rich Wampanoag history and current connection with the new wetu, constructed by Mashpee Wampanoag member David Weeden and his son Attaquin, behind the Atwood House. A current exhibit there, “Turning Point” tells the story of the Mayflower and the impact the ship’s arrival had on the native people living in the area.
HistoricChatham.org is rich with information about the history of the Wampanoags. For thousands of years they have lived in this area, staying near the shore during the warmer months and moving inland for cover in the winter, into a wetu similar to the one now found on the Atwood property. Prior to 1712 the town of Chatham was called the village of Monomoit, one of 67 villages of the Wampanoag nation. The current Route 28 was once the walking path for the native peoples to travel between what is now Orleans and Chatham. The Monomoyick people were hunters, farmers, and gatherers and fished the local waters. Their government and community were designed to create a balanced society between the natural world and one another.
The English colonists arrived with a grant from the King to inhabit the land. An uneasy peace existed for many years between the natives and the colonists, living in their separate villages. English men married Wampanoag women, including families such as the Nickersons and many others across Cape Cod. Many of the founders of the town of Chatham were in fact descendants of Native Americans. “They didn’t associate themselves with natives because a lot of times it was easier to not be identified as native, “ Weeden Said. “It was an easier life, to be accepted and assimilated if you didn’t identify, so that was a factor”. (Cape Cod times 6/9/20).
Entering Chatham center we stopped at Pilgrims Landing,a non-profit interspiritual center working at the intersection of spirituality, education and social justice, and is the home of the Chatham Labyrinth, established in 2010. Pilgrims Landing ( Pilgrimslandingcapecod.org) ) offers year-round educational programming and meaningful experiences for those on a journey toward a more peaceful, compassionate and just world. We were joined by five other walkers, including Wilderness for a second walk with her grand-daughter, Mary Ellen, and two members of the social justice group at the Center. Also speaking with our group was Danielle Tolley and Dawn Tolley, founders and family who with Anne Bonney, gave birth to the Center in 2013. Danielle provided information on the mission and plans for the Center and Dawn spoke to us about the heart and soul of the current work being done around social justice and resilience.
We then walked together to the Labyrinth in Chase Park. Anne helped us understand the meaning behind the labyrinth, its origins and some of the benefits of walking the path. She encouraged us to walk as individuals and as part of a group of seekers of understanding racial and social justice issues. We each walked the circuit at our own pace, and joined together for a debrief after. One participant said she didn’t know going into the labyrinth that she needed healing but that is what she felt from the experience. Another shared that even with the distractions from the noise nearby, it was an opportunity to reflect and be grateful. Everyone found it to be a powerful experience. Anne shared with us a blessing which included the phrase “May our longing for oneness, our prayers for circles unbroken, be heard and honored here”. For the full blessing please go to chathamlabyrinth.com
Extra: Please check out the comments by Rev. James David Matters of Faith Column 6/28 CC Times; Much needed advice and support for spiritual health! evensongministries.com
Our walk concluded by visiting the Atwood Museum grounds to see the wetu by the Weedens, which was similar to one we saw on Week 2 at the Mashpee Wampanoag museum. Many of us plan to return to see the new exhibit at Atwood on the Mayflower and the connections to the Wampanoags. We walked the mile back to Pilgrims Landing via Oyster Pond and relished the Chatham breeze pushing us onward.
Speaking of onward, our walk next week is our sixth one of the summer and will start in Brewster and take us through Orleans up to the Cape Cod National Seashore in Eastham. We will look at the connections between the Brewster Sea Captains and slavery and focus on the environment and conservation through the Seashore. Please feel free to check back on Monday for the route and meeting places. Please note we are starting at 7:30 am due to the heat and will conclude early afternoon. Please also tune in to Facebook Live on Friday at 10am for a summary of the Harwich-Chatham experience with additional details and observations to share. Thank you!