National Organization Pursues Wellness as a Priority of African-American Community
Friday, February 18, 2011
National OrganizationPursues Wellness as a
Priority of African-American Community
By Lisa Gable, Executive Director, Healthy
Weight Commitment Foundation
1963 was a critical
year for African-Americans. Dr. Martin Luther King led the March on Washington.
President John F. Kennedy called for a Civil Rights Act. African-American
leaders throughout America intensified their organizing efforts aimed at
strengthening their community, locally and nationally. One of those initiatives
was the 100 Black Men, bringing together community leaders in New York to
explore ways of improving conditions in their community (although they chose
their name and shaped their national mandate years later).
Black History Month is
a good time to mark the work of 100 Black Men of America. Their mission is to
improve the quality of life in their communities. Their goal is to create
environments where children are motivated to achieve. Their vision is one of
intellectual development of youth and economic empowerment of the
African-American community based on respect for family, spirituality, justice
In pursuing these
goals, 100 Black Men of America recognizes the importance of wellness,
especially the need to combat childhood obesity. A member organization of the
Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, one of the priorities of 100 Black Men of
America is improving the health and overall wellbeing of young people through
structured physical fitness training and wholesome food choices. The
organization has made a strong commitment to energy balance – taking fewer
calories-in and expending more calories out through physical activity.
100 Black Men of
America is an excellent example of community leadership: Adults mentoring young
people, transmitting values through a wide variety of community tools.
But battling obesity
is not easy, especially in neighborhoods where recess and physical education
classes have been cut back, leaving young people with few structured
opportunities to burn off calories – or cost-cutting and safety concerns have
led to the closing of parks and playgrounds, leaving kids with fewer
In the face of these
challenges, 100 Black Men’s dedicated vehicle for pursuing energy balance is
called Youth Movement, a program that
helps students improve their heath, develop long-term goals and overcome
obstacles and achieve lifetime success. The organization’s Chair for Health and
Wellness, Dr. Mark Alexander, says that 100 Black Men provides an outlet for physical
activity, along with nutritional education. "We start in the fall measuring
body mass index (BMI) and testing each student’s aerobic capacity,” he says.
"Typically only 25 percent of students meet national standards. The 100’s Youth
Movement is changing those numbers, improving athletic performance and teaching
Youth Movement’s efforts
are comprehensive, and built on an extensive network of volunteers. Volunteer nurses and coaches bring equipment and
assess health and fitness levels at participating schools. After-school and
weekend programs – including track and field clubs, athletic training and
clinics facilitated by Olympians and world-class athlete volunteers – provide
opportunities for physical activities on a systematic basis.
The organization also has a clear, straightforward
sustainable school-based youth fitness programs in targeted neighborhoods.
fitness test scores of children in participating schools.
healthy food choice habits among youth.
youth athletic clubs in communities served by 100 Black Men.
academic success and enhance character development.
100 Black Men also
brings a couple of other things to the table – a positive attitude, a
comprehensive view, and long-term commitment. In the words of 100 Black Men
Chairman Albert E. Dotson, Jr., "Among
the many crises facing youth today is the lack of fitness and healthy food
choices … As we change attitudes, beliefs and behaviors about exercise and
nutrition today, we absolutely impact future generations.”
History Month is a time to pay tribute of the power of community to better
lives. 100 Black Men, Inc. is harnessing the power of community. The
organization’s effort to improve wellness and reduce
obesity among young people is an important part of that.
Lisa Gable is executive director of the
Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, a first-of-its kind coalition aimed at
addressing the challenge of obesity – especially childhood obesity.