ABOVE PHOTO: Kim Coles (s_bukley / Shutterstock.com)
By Kendall Alexander
Back in the day, people used to believe in the old adage ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away.’ While we now know that this is not always the case, the point of the phrase was maintaining a healthy diet and avoiding trips to your physician other than for annual checkups. Although, a lot has changed since those days, a lot has stayed the same, unfortunately. One of those things is people of color not putting their health first. The Black community is hesitant to go to the doctor because they don’t want to know if something is wrong—an attitude that more often than not, leads to catching troubling ailments too late. The American Heart Association wants to take an unconventional approach to make minorities feel better about their heart and brain health—one chuckle at a time.
The Silent No More campaign has teamed with the Power to End Stroke campaign, to educate African and Hispanic Americans on how to limit the risk of stroke. The American Heart Association of Philadelphia is hosting its inaugural Power of Laughter Health Workshop and Comedy Luncheon on Sept. 12 at 3801 Market Street at 11AM. The luncheon is designed to empower and raise awareness on the importance of heart, brain and mental health in communities of color, but in a lighthearted manner. Oftentimes, discussing health is serious to the point that it can be overwhelming, but with the help of public speaker Shavon Arline-Bradley and comedienne and actress Kim Coles, the First District Plaza is sure to have an abundance of feel good entertainment on September 12th. Recently, spoke with these two women about their relationships with the American Heart Association and Power of Laughter Luncheon, and they are brimming with excitement to be able to spread the word about health in our community.
A Brooklyn girl at heart, Coles feels a familiarity and connection to the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection. She is excited to come back to the city and spread awareness through joy and laughter. The American Heart Association asked the comedienne to work with them two years ago. “The Power of Laughter Luncheon is a wonderful day of empowerment and a reminder that people and women need to take radical care of their health,” she said. There’s a wealth of education and information and I provide the entertainment. I am the hostess with the most-est keeping it flowing. Heart health is serious [1 in 31 American women dies from breast cancer each year, 1 in 3 dies of heart disease] and that’s a serious conversation,” she continued. When you have these serious conversations, they have a way that they land. Laughter has been proven to be very healing and by using laughter, it adds more joy to the conversation and allows the message in. Laughter equals love for me.”
Describing how she came to work with the AHA, she is surprised to hear the word ‘activism.’ “It’s funny because when I think of activism I think of marching through the streets with signs,” Cole said. “I didn’t think of it [activism] as using your gift to spread a message that will help others. I’m clear that my gift is laughter and the wisdom I’ve gained has led me to this moment.” Her takeaway message for everyone attending the luncheon is that “it’s time to take care of yourself; when given the choice, choose yourself.”
Shavon Arline-Bradley has an extensive background and quite the resume in the health field, including most recently her new title as Director of External Engagement for the United States Surgeon General. A former track and field athlete, Bradley makes it a point to keep the conversation on health and wellness. “I’ve always had a passion for coronary health,” Bradley said. Health [in general] is the core of who we are. Nothing else can matter without being healthy. I’m very conscious of the challenges African Americans in this country, and you can’t be well when dealing with racism and poverty.” In her own time, she finds self-care extremely essential. “I think every woman needs to find a spa, an affordable one,” Bradley said. Find a spa where someone can use the physical touch to promote wellness. We do hair and nails, that’s one thing, that’s maintenance for how you look; I’m talking about maintenance for how you live. When I come to Philly, I’ll talk about the importance of maintenance for how you live.”
Bradley is a firm believer in fighting for your health. An activist by trade, she understands the difficulties of stress and health. “I’m thinking about these mothers [of Black boys] and they’re not taking care of themselves because they can’t, they’re trying to keep their children alive,” she said. Most black women know the message, we always hear about how sick we are, but we need to hear about how powerful we are.” Through the Power of Laughter Luncheon, all women will learn to embrace their inner goddess and love themselves as their health depends on it.