Walk/run aims to raise awareness, improve health of black men in Valley

It is time for black men in the Mahoning Valley to take a more-proactive approach to their health and wellness, and what better way to do so than getting out and walking or running.

The inaugural African-American Male Wellness 5-Mile Walk/Run Youngstown/Warren was put together to raise awareness among black men that a visit to the doctor is the key to better health outcomes.

Although the target audience is at least 1,200 black men, organizers say this is not a segregated event, and everyone is welcome to walk/run Aug. 31.

The event begins and ends at Holy Trinity Missionary Baptist Church, 505 Parkcliffe Ave., on Youngstown’s South Side.

Health screenings start at 7:30 a.m. at the church, and the walk/run throughout the South Side neighborhood begins at 9:30 a.m. There also will be a children’s walk at 11 a.m. Children’s health activities in another section of church property are from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Children will get free T-shirts and goodie bags; there will be a drawing for a bicycle; and other activities include a bounce-around house and face painting.

Other churches near Holy Trinity are donating use of their parking lots for the expected crowd, and there will be a shuttle service available to bring participants to the church to begin their walk/run and health screenings.

The event honors the memory of community leader Myke Clarett, who died in January 2012 at age 53.

Also, the event committee will have memorials for all Valley black men age 18-65 who have died since 2011 due to heart attack, cancer and other leading causes of death.

Those names need to be submitted by Friday, said the Rev. Dr. Lewis W. Macklin II, pastor of Holy Trinity, event chairman, who asked that the families of those who have died be contacted first before those names are submitted.

The next AAMWW general planning committee meeting is from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday at the Newport Library’s community room on Market Street.

The walk is a culmination of the Rev. Dr. Macklin’s desire to see positive health outcomes for black men, many of whom don’t go to the doctor until it is too late and their disease has reached the terminal stage, he said.

Health statistics show a greater percentage of black men die from leading killers such as prostate cancer, diabetes and hypertension than do white males.

As a prostate-cancer survivor, I know firsthand that early diagnosis is the key to a better outcome, and it also is the answer to reducing the health disparity between black and white men.

I am one of the event’s honorary media co-chairmen along with Damon Maloney, TV personality from WKBN/WYTV, and M. Mike McNair of The Buckeye Review. The project also is supported by Douglas Franklin, Warren’s first black mayor.

The local wellness walk/run initiative is patterned after a similar event in Columbus founded by John H. Gregory, a Youngstown native who grew up in the Kimmel Brook housing project on the city’s East Side.

The first Columbus event in 2004 drew 700 men; 8,000 men, women and children participated in last year’s walk, and 700 health screenings were performed.

Some men were sent straight to a doctor or the hospital after their screenings, he said.

Humility of Mary Health Partners will provide the health screenings at the local event.

Gregory was here in May to help with the planning for the initial Valley walk/run. He reminded those at the planning session that going to the doctor doesn’t have anything to do with income. Half of the men screened in Columbus had incomes that exceeded $50,000 a year.

“The mission remains the same, which is to raise awareness, provide access and improve the health status of African-American men and save the lives of black men,” Mr. Macklin said.

Besides the free health screenings, there are other incentives to come out Aug. 31.

There will be a $500 prize awarded to the men’s ministry or sponsoring organization that has the largest number of men registered and attending the event.

All organizations are welcome to participate.

The planning committee has been busy getting the word out about the walk.

Maurice Williams from CareSource, a leading nonprofit public-sector managed-care company, and Deirdre Goliday, walk liaison, had an information section set up at Warren’s African-American Festival in June.

You soon will see public- service announcements promoting the walk/run on area television stations.

Mr. Macklin said Facebook and other social media are being used to promote the event. The Youngstown/Warren walk is listed on website www.aawalk.org, and you will find there are walks slated this month for Columbus and Toledo.

Registration forms are available at many area churches. To get a form, contact Marcia Haire-Ellis, registration-form chairwoman, at dstnubianlady@gmail.com.

If you would like to place your loved one’s name for the honor segment, contact Mr. Macklin at 330-788-1696 or Felicia Alexander, walk co-chairwoman, at 330-743-3333, ext. 238, or by email at FMA7557@yahoo.com.

The walk/run is pretty much an all-volunteer effort, so if you want to help, send your contact information to Mr. Macklin’s email address, lwmacii@aol.com, or Alexander so they can put you on the appropriate committee.

To make a monetary contribution to the effort, make your check payable to AAMWW, P.O. Box 1172, Youngstown, OH 44501. The AAMWW is affiliated with a 501c3 nonprofit organization.

God willing, I’ll be walking. Come and join me and get your free health screening. It may help save your life.

Ernie Brown Jr., a regional editor at The Vindicator, writes a monthly column. Contact him at ebrown@vindy.com