By Nadine Matthews
Special to the AFRO
When vocalist and Duke Ellington School of The Arts graduate Arte Auré was seven years-old she ran to her teacher and said she wasn’t feeling well. Her pleas were brushed off.
“I can remember,” Auré told the AFRO. “Minutes later everything just turned white. My lips were numb. I heard someone say, ‘Oh my gosh, she fainted!’” The next thing Auré remembers is the appearance of paramedics.
Auré lived with the type of symptoms that brought the paramedics to her school for 20 years until she finally got an official diagnosis of endometriosis in 2019.
Although there aren’t many outward signs, with an illness like endometriosis, sometimes called “endo,” symptoms can vary wildly. They include fatigue, nausea, pain with intercourse, pain with menstruation, pain with urination and bleeding in between periods among others. “That’s the thing with endometriosis,” the Washington D.C. native stated, “You don’t look like you have anything wrong with you. There’s all these different things, and you just have to listen to your body.”
Auré, who can sing in six languages, started writing songs at seven and performing with her musician father- who also performed with the relatives of the Jackson Five. As the eldest of five children, once her siblings were old enough, they all performed together at local talent shows. “I always knew I wanted to be a singer,” Auré emphasized.
Describing her music as “pop soul” Auré stated, “What I’m doing is bringing positivity to the forefront, and it’s great that people are receiving it so well. My music is empowering, inspirational, good times. It’s all family friendly music.”
A search on the social media platform Clubhouse connected Auré with Endo Black, a community run by a non-profit organization of the same name started by Oxon Hill, Md. native Lauren Kornegay.
“I had to start doing pelvic rehabilitation therapy. My therapist gave me a list of resources for advocates and support and I joined but I never saw any geared toward African-Americans.”
Auré said she was elated to find Kornegay’s Clubhouse group. “I’m a part of these communities and I don’t feel so alone with this disease anymore. I was elated to find out there was something out there especially for us. In the medical field, we are excluded from a lot of different things and it’s very empowering to not feel so alone,” the vocalist explained.
Kornegay, who also spoke to the AFRO, echoed some of Auré’s sentiments, which initially drove her to start the group in 2015. “In the support groups, I would ask if there were women of color with endometriosis,” Kornegay said. “And I would get shut down with people saying things like, ‘race doesn’t matter.’ Many of them didn’t know about the race disparities in health.”
Kornegay said she started the organization in 2015 because of the panoply of issues she had been dealing with for a few years, stemming from the condition, and the relative feeling of isolation she had as a Black woman in the endometriosis community. “I wanted to create a safe atmosphere, when people don’t feel safe they shut down and when you shut down you don’t get the help you need.”
Endo Black also strives to create educational dialogue around reproductive health, create genuine bonds within the endo community and examine laws, regulations and policies to see how they affect women with endometriosis.
In addition to finding the group a salve, Auré also connected with Kornegay personally and shared some of her music. This resulted in Kornegay asking Auré to perform at the group’s first annual conference March 19-21.
“It’s a full circle moment for me,” Auré said. “Living with endo my whole life, singing my whole life and now performing for Endo Black.”
The conference covered an array of issues, including: endo and business, health equity, motherhood and endometriosis, and a “state of Black endometriosis address,” Kornegay explained. Actress Tia Mowry, who has been very open about her struggles with endometriosis, will also be a featured guest at the conference.
Auré will also get a chance to share her story with the community, which regularly has people from all over the world tuning in to its weekly discussions on Clubhouse. “I’ll be talking about my struggles with endometriosis, my journey, as well as a few tips.”