R&B Singer Jazmine Sullivan Is Using Her Voice to Push Health Equity for Black Women (Video)
This has been a good year for Jazmine Sullivan.
In January, the 34-year-old R&B singer broke her six-year music hiatus and released her fourth EP, Heaux Tales — a deeply confessional album that explores sex, womanhood, and relationships. The critically acclaimed project indulged her hungry fans with her signature atmospheric sound, vulnerable storytelling, and raw lyricism. Heaux Tales also peaked at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top R&B Albums chart and ignited conversations about empowering Black women to voice their needs, desires, and insecurities.
In February, the Philadelphia native entranced millions of viewers with her riveting rendition of the national anthem with country singer Eric Church at the Super Bowl. Furthermore, Sullivan, who confessed to being in an abusive relationship years ago, happily proclaims that she and her boyfriend, musician and producer Dave Watson, are approaching the four-year mark.
Sullivan’s year of personal and career highs climaxed on Sunday when she won “Album of the Year” at the BET Awards, besting albums by The Weeknd, Megan Thee Stallion, DaBaby, Nas, and Chloe X Halle. However, for Sullivan, that moment would have meant nothing if she could not share it with her mother.
“My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago. So, we didn’t see any of this happening, but God has been so faithful to us,” said the songstress during an emotional acceptance speech with her mother by her side. The “Tragic” singer also shared that her mother is now in remission.
“It means more to me than anything that she’s here with me. She’s supported me all my life, pushed me, and loved me all my life. So, I’m so grateful for her.”
Sullivan’s mother, Pam Sullivan, was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer back in 2019. The songwriter shared a heartfelt Instagram post on Mother’s Day last year about how much the diagnosis changed her life.
“Late October 2019 our world was flipped upside down when U [sic] were diagnosed w IBC (inflammatory breast cancer). our days were no longer filled w [sic] convos of u telling me to hurry up and finish my project, but of chemo treatments and hospital visits,” reads Sullivan’s caption.
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Fortunately, the “Pick Up Your Feelings” singer says her mother received her last and final chemotherapy treatment in January and is back to feeling like her old self.
“Today is my mom’s final day of chemo! This is a huge milestone!” Sullivan tweeted.
Today is my moms final day of chemo! This is a huge milestone! Of all the blessings that are pouring in rt now… that is the only thing that matters to me!! I’m in tears and in awe of God’s grace n mercy! Anyone going thru breast cancer please know I’m praying for u!❤️❤️
— Jazmine Sullivan (@jsullivanmusic) January 10, 2021
Now, the artist is using her voice to advocate for health equity for other Black women battling breast cancer. According to the CDC, Black women with breast cancer are approximately 40 percent more likely to die compared to white women in the U.S. Black women are also more likely to be diagnosed at a later stage. Plus, Black women under the age of 35 are diagnosed with breast cancer at twice the rate of white women the same age. To combat the racial disparities, Sullivan partnered with Novartis’ “More Than Just Words” campaign to raise awareness about breast cancer and save Black women’s lives.
“The numbers are jarring,” Sullivan told BLACK ENTERPRISE.
“I’m so glad that I have [this] opportunity with Novartis and [the] More Than Just Words campaign because I feel like it was destined for me to be here and to do this,” she said, adding she’s on a mission to empower Black women through music and in health.
“I love us, and I want us to continue to be on this earth and continue to spread our light and be the magical wonderful beings that we are.”
Both Sullivan and her mother are advisers for the new initiative alongside leading experts in breast cancer and health policy. Together, they aim to identify the most pressing issues facing Black women in breast cancer and collaborate to build solutions.
“I always say, ‘I don’t think that you can tackle Black issues without Black people at the table.’ And they really are concerned about that. And that’s why I’m really happy and passionate about working with them,” said Sullivan about Novartis.
The disparities affecting Black women’s health have been heightened during the pandemic. According to Novartis, breast cancer became the most commonly diagnosed cancer worldwide in 2020, but breast cancer screenings decreased drastically due to COVID-19. With breast cancer disproportionately impacting women of color and drops in screenings threatening timely diagnoses and cancer care, Novartis is urging women to get a screening or the care they need as soon as possible.
“I think as a Black person, we are used to kind of getting the short end of the stick. And we’re used to disparities in our education system, the judicial system, housing, income,” said Sullivan. “That’s why this campaign is so important, because they are really doing the work to drive the health equity of breast cancer care.”
Sullivan went on to stress the need for Black women to prioritize their health.
“We are so used to kind of taking care of everybody else and making sure that the kids are good, our man is good, our partner is good, our moms, [and] everything else. We usually don’t take care of ourselves and will be the last person that we think of,” she said.
“The message that I want to drive home to us is, girl, go get your mammograms, go get your screenings, girl, and do what you need to do for yourself.”
Watch Jazmine Sullivan’s full interview about her mission to empower Black women to fight breast cancer, her career, and the pressures women face to conform to unrealistic beauty standards on The New Norm With Selena Hill below.
Visit www.MoreThanJustWords.US for more information.