ABOVE PHOTO: Participants in the stroll do warmup exercises before starting out. (Photo by Jim Brown)
By Jim Brown
The connection of a brotherhood gathered at Health Center #4 in West Philadelphia during the Brothas Stroll last weekend. There was a specific reason for their gathering — to encourage every Black man to engage other men and youths in a conversation about their health and wellbeing.
Approximately 50 men and women, with the support of local officials, walked through the neighborhood and were able to express the importance of helping Black men become more aware of their health issues and allowing them to learn about the health centers that offer adequate care.
“The main goal for me in the Office of Black Male Engagement is to get more health centers in certain districts, because, we know there are none in certain districts [of the city],” said Octavius L. Blount, coordinator for the Mayor’s Office of Black Male Engagement. “So, with this “Stroll,” it [lets] other people in the community to know that there are health centers in their community that they may not know about. The walk will be about a mile or two walk to Clark Park.”
The walk received support from several city agencies who believe in the importance of such outreach in communities of color.
“I’m here to support the “Stroll” and the Mayor’s Office of Black Men Engagement,” said Jeanette Bavwidinsi, director of the Mayor’s Office of Youth Engagement. “It’s so important for us to engage, because young Black men in Philadelphia, they deserve love, they deserve support, they deserve networking and networks that they know will be there when they call for help. So, we’re always here every time the Mayor’s Office of Black Male Engagement does this event, and we will be here to support them.”
Negative consequences, including loss of life, have resulted from Black men’s lack of proactive awareness of prevention.
Among those diseases are heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, prostate cancer, and mental health.
As participants gathered for some pre-walk exercises, they received a visit from Philadelphia Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole, who gave some encouraging words to the men and why it was important that they communicate with each other.
“Talk to each other,” Bettigole said. “One of the things that has always been really striking to me as a family doctor, is that women go to the doctor, and we talk to each other. We ask, are you taking care of yourself, are you eating right, are you drinking water. We need men to do that, too.”
“You need to go see somebody who knows your health,” she added. “They need to do that now. So, I’m really glad to be here with you today and that you’re walking.” Councilmember Jamie Gauthier walked with the group in her district to support the worthwhile cause.
“It was important for me to be here with Black men in our community to fight physical and mental health,” Gauthier said. “Unfortunately, because of systemic racism in our country, Black men have very unique challenges whether we’re talking about their physical health or their mental health. And right now, in Philadelphia, we also have the enormous public health crisis of gun violence that have taken so many of our Black young men. And so we’re out here, showing connectiveness, showing that we stand together and we’re prioritizing health in Black communities, particularly for our Black men.”
One of the men participating in the “Stroll” gave an eye speech about his health and story about his health with Michael Robinson from Nicetown, who appeared to be a physically fit middle-aged man.
“I have had three heart attacks,” Robinson said. “But, looking at me, you would never know if I didn’t disclose that information to you. I just think it’s important for people to come together and really discuss health and its importance.”
The walk culminated at the Clark Park across from Health Center #3 at 43rd & Chester Avenue. At the park, health screenings and other outreach services were available.
For more information about this event and resources, please call: (215) 686-0332 or by email at: [email protected] and social media at Facebook and Instagram.