The twin sisters, who have been go-to experts during the pandemic, are outspoken on racial inequities in health care.
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Oni and Uché Blackstock, 44, are twin sisters and Harvard-educated doctors who have been on the front lines of the pandemic. Both run businesses that address racial inequity in health care. And both are divorced parents of sons.
Dr. Oni Blackstock is the founder of Health Justice, which consults with health organizations to prioritize issues of race in the workplace and inequities in the communities they serve. A former assistant commissioner of the New York City Health Department, she was also a leader in ending the H.I.V. epidemic. She lives in Harlem with her 9-year-old son.
Dr. Uché Blackstock, an emergency physician, is the founder of Advancing Health Equity, which also takes on racism in health care. She is a medical contributor to MSNBC and lives in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, with her 7-year-old and 5-year-old.
The sisters like to get together with their children on Sundays.
SLEEPING IN, SNUGGLES Oni Blackstock: I always think about Sunday as a day to reset, a day I want to be really easeful. Uché and I both co-parent with our children’s fathers, so we’re going to school in the morning during the week. Sunday I can sleep in a little. Uché Blackstock: My Sundays also differ depending on whether I have the kids. If they’re with me on the weekends, we all sleep together. They want to do it during the week, too, but I get up at 5:30 on weekdays to work out — I use my Peloton bike, which is next to my bed, and do strength classes on the Peloton app. I usually haven’t gotten a good night’s sleep on Sunday because they’re literally on top of me, but of course it’s lovely to snuggle with them. In a few years I know they won’t want to, so I appreciate it for now.
LESSONS IN SELF-SUFFICIENCY OB: My son knows to stay outside my bedroom when he wakes up. I leave instructions for him on the dining table, like, “Pick a country on the globe and write about it in your journal.” That’s so he doesn’t turn on the TV first thing. I typically meditate in my bed while he’s doing that and catch up on social media. My partner, Akinfe Fatou, got me this amazing bedding set, this really plush comforter, that feels like a cloud. When my son’s not with me, I’m at Akinfe’s place in Bushwick.
CONNECT FIVE OB: At the start of the pandemic I bought my son a bike and taught him to ride it in the basement of our building. I hadn’t biked in years, so I thought it would be great to bike with him. I started doing the Citi Bike thing, then I bought my own. If Uché doesn’t come up, we’ll bike at Morningside Park or along the Hudson River. UB: We usually go to the playground after the kids have had breakfast. But we try to get to Harlem for brunch. The five of us typically go to Vinatería or Melba’s or BLVD Bistro. The main thing is that they’re all Black-owned businesses. It’s important to support them because they suffered during the pandemic. OB: We can get our mimosas. The kids are always like, “Brunch again?” UB: We’re like, “This is for Mommy and Auntie.”
GREENERY, GRANDFATHER OB: Uché and I have both taken advantage of having parks and playgrounds blocks away from us. I didn’t decide to live here for the green spaces, but I never thought I’d rely on a park as much as I have these past two years. After brunch, maybe the kids will play a little in the park. UB: Or we may take the boys to visit our dad, who lives only a few blocks from Oni. Our mom died when we were 19. That really pulled the rug out from under us. She nourished our relationship. She told us how important it was to love each other, to look out for each other.
SEPARATE WAYS OB: After Uché and my nephews leave, my afternoons are pretty low-key. I try to catch up on a little bit of work and catch up with the people in my life. Uché and I have two godmothers in Brooklyn. I use Sunday to connect with them on the phone. They’re older and they have medical conditions. They’re part of our village, even though we haven’t been able to see them as much during the pandemic. UB: I take my kiddos to swim lessons every Sunday afternoon, even on weekends their father has them. We go to a place on the Upper East Side. There are two things I wanted my boys to learn at this age. One was how to ride bikes. Auntie helped with that. Two was learning how to swim, because we know that Black children have a higher rate of drowning than white children. There’s a deep history of that because of segregation.
SUSPENSE OB: Uché and I are both into suspense thrillers, like “Pieces of Her” on Netflix. The new one with Toni Collette just came out. I’ve been watching that. I thought it had a Harlan Coben feel to it, with all the twists and turns. UB: Toni Collette is an amazing actress. I enjoyed that.
NURTURING VOICES OB: I take voice lessons, opera and jazz. After my son goes to bed, I always practice. A lot of the time, he’s like, “Mommy, you’re making too much noise.” Some nerve, right? I do it just for fun. I remember hearing that it’s really important to do something creative, to use that part of your brain. It’s something I enjoy because our mom used to sing. She took voice lessons and she would sing “Summertime” and standards like “Moon River.” It’s a wonderful way to reconnect with her. UB: Oni has a beautiful voice. After the kids go to bed, I work on my book. It’s a generational memoir called “Legacy: A Black Physician Reckons with Racism in Medicine,” and it’s coming out summer 2023. It’s kind of a double entendre, because we’re second-generation physicians. Our mother was a physician. That’s my time to focus.
THE SIGN-OFF OB: On Sundays when I’m not with my partner, we talk every evening for an hour or two. I usually go to bed by 11, maybe a little after. UB: I’m in bed by 10 even when I don’t have the boys. By then, I’m tired.
Sunday Routine readers can follow Oni Blackstock on Twitter @oni_blackstock and Uché Blackstock on Twitter @Uché_blackstock and on Instagram @Uchéblackstockmd.
How Oni and Uché Blackstock, Doctors, Spend Their Sundays – The New York Times