African American celebrities and influencers to amplify national conversation on health justice and equity


American Heart Association launches Empowered to Serve™ Roundtables to inspire thought leadership and community transformation

DALLAS — Black Americans continue to experience the highest death from heart disease and stroke – a nearly 30% higher death rate from cardiovascular disease (CVD) and a 45% higher death rate from stroke compared with non-Hispanic white Americans. As part of a series of historic commitments planned to confront the disparities and structural barriers that prevent access to equitable health for all, the American Heart Association, the leading global volunteer organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke, is hosting two nationwide Empowered to Serve™ Roundtables. The virtual events are designed to help the Association and allied voices meet the moment by prompting community thought leadership, conversation and transformation. Taking place on November 11 and November 12, 2020, these events will stream free online and are available to the general public.


“For far too long, structural systems of laws, policies and societal practices perpetuated inequity among races, preventing equitable health and opportunity for all,” said American Heart Association chief executive officer Nancy Brown. “These barriers have led to a public health crisis that has taken a painful and unacceptable toll on the health and well-being of people of color in this country. We intend to focus the American Heart Association even more urgently on the need to advance equitable health for everyone everywhere.”


The Health Justice Roundtable will feature an interactive online discussion with the Association’s EmPOWERED to Serve and HBCU Scholars. EmPOWERED to Serve is an initiative that accelerates change in education, business and communities in order to help overcome structural racism and achieve health justice. The HBCU Scholars Program supports accelerating the development of Black scientists and healthcare professionals through direct participation in scientific research projects, exploration of careers in healthcare and mentorship.


Angela Watson Charles, executive vice president of programming with iHeart Media, will lead the online discussion as moderator. This free event will be live-streamed on on Wednesday, November 11 at 3:30 p.m. PST/5:30 p.m. CST/ 6:30 p.m. EST.


The Association’s first-ever Community Transformation Roundtable will convene business and community thought leaders, philanthropists and volunteers and is similarly intended to promote meaningful conversations about the long-term effects of structural racism as a barrier to health and prosperity, and issue a call-to-action for more accessible, equitable solutions to drive positive change for people of color across the country.


Prominent panelists will include Mathew Knowles, record executive, talent manager and businessman perhaps best known for developing the careers of his daughters Beyoncé and Solange Knowles; Vashti Murphy McKenzie, the 117th elected and consecrated bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and the first woman elected to episcopal office in the more than 200 year history of the denomination; Amy Dubois Barnett, senior vice president and general manager of Black Entertainment Television Digital; The Honorable Joyce Beatty, (D – OH) U.S. House of Representatives; Denise Bradley-Tyson, chief executive officer of Inspired Luxe and executive committee chairman, AHA’s Bernard J. Tyson Impact Fund; Dr. Frederick Haynes, III, senior pastor, Friendship West Baptist Church; Warren Thompson, president and chairman of the board for Thompson Hospitality; and Jacqueline Waggoner, president, Solutions Divisions for Enterprise Community Partners. Moderated by award-winning journalist and television personality Roland Martin, this free event will be live-streamed on on Thursday, November 12 at 9:00 a.m. PST/11:00 a.m. CST/12:00 p.m. EST.


The EmPOWERED to Serve™ Roundtables have been designed to stimulate community conversations through the lens of faith, finance and business and are intended to help promote equitable health for all, which is a guiding value of the Association and core organizational priority.  Bringing science to life and meeting people where they are essential to improving the cardiovascular and brain health of all Americans.  To join the conversation, attend the EmPOWERED to Serve™ Roundtables and to learn more, please visit


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