Getting Onto the Balcony for Health Equity

By Melanie Gillespie

When I discover somebody amazing who's been kicking ass for decades, but about whom I was clueless, I feel a mixture of glee - at the new discovery - and chagrin that I didn't know before. Maybe even a hint of shame. Cuz, you know, I should magically know everything! Raise your hand if you also have that voice in your head… Begone evil spirit! We don't got no time for your sorry b.s.!


So, last week I discovered Nikki Giovanni, courtesy of the always wonderful Krista Tippett, where she is described as: "In the 1960s, Nikki Giovanni was a revolutionary poet of the Black Arts Movement that nourished civil rights. She had a famous dialogue with James Baldwin in Paris in 1971. Now a professor at Virginia Tech, she brought beauty and courage by way of poetry after the shooting there. Today, she is a self-proclaimed space freak and a delighted elder — an adored voice to hip-hop artists and the new forms of social change this generation is creating."

You see my joy, right? I mean seriously, poetry, civil rights AND space?? All in one human? How do I meet this woman!? Talk about a kindred spirit! Where has she been all my life?? Some of you know I like to open meetings when possible with a poem, it's been a real source of personal joy to discover so many poetry lovers among my colleagues! And even published poets like one of our 25 NEAR Expert Trainer & Speakers, Brooke Matson!

But, I digress, back to Nikki Giovanni. During her interview she was talking about sending people to Mars and opined that the people we need to send to Mars are those who really are capable of being inside themselves for a long time, because it's darn lonely. Great insight. Another score for the introverts. In researching her, I also found some lovely writing and a few of her poems at another favorite online space, Brain Pickings. I donate to support Maria Popova's wonderful work and urge you to consider doing so as well.

They also need to send poets to Mars so that they can come back and provide the rest of us with the ability to see our planet the way an astronaut gets to, as the tiny, fragile ball of life wrapped in a paper thin atmosphere that magically allows us all to exist. 

Astronauts get the broader view, they get up off the dance floor of earth and onto the balcony of space. From there they can see things differently. You know already how I believe that space exploration and learning offers us wonderful parallels and insights into health equity. Just like the astronauts, we also need to get up onto the balcony to advance our goal to create enduring health equity. We need to step back, and up, and get a broader view.

In three weeks, we'll blast off to do just that at our Science of HOPE conference when we host a plenary session with six leaders whose perspective is critical to a robust balcony view about the frontiers of health equity. They are:

  • Senator Rosa Franklin
  • Dr. Maxine Hayes
  • Ron Sims
  • Dr. Rob Anda
  • Marilyn Scott
  • Jesus Reyna

You can learn more about them in the days to come on our site and then really go deep with us after breakfast on Wed 4/20 when they talk about the critical work they have done, what they see coming ahead and how they have kept hope alive for themselves and those around them in hard times. This will be an incredible conversation, don't miss out! For those of you who still haven't registered but suddenly realize the folly, don't freak out! Here's a 24 hour promo code (flash sale!) for 20% off: HOPEBALCONY. It's only good for 24 hours, i.e. until Fri 4/1 at 6am so get in there and register! Not an April Fools!

And don't you worry, we'll find a way to get some dance party time into the Science of HOPE as well! You know how I feel about a great dance party! Maybe during that Happiest of Happy Hours on Tuesday afternoon…

Love you!


P.S. I'm about as good a dancer as this guy, so no laughing at me if we do get to dancing!