On Monday we celebrated the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
While the many celebrations and service projects are commendable, we have yet to realize Dr. King’s dream. For sure, we have advanced beyond segregation, but today, systemic racism continues to plague nearly every facet of black life: wealth gap, wage gap, employment, housing, education, mass incarceration, health disparities, physical and psychological violence, third-world maternal- and infant-mortality rates, environmental injustice, food insecurity, and yes, even access to healthy green lifestyles and exercise.
It’s 2019, and black men, women, and children still face tremendous odds. Is it any wonder that we have higher rates of obesity, diabetes, stress, and high blood pressure? Decades of research now tell us that day-to-day discrimination, microaggressions, and old-fashioned institutionalized racism cause intense and continuous stress that can lead to disease and/or premature death.
Even though the odds are squarely stacked against us, I remain an eternal optimist and believe the best way to honor King’s legacy is through our daily actions and determination to never quit. Staying spiritually, mentally, and physically fit are the first lines of defense.
No, we cannot control racism, but we can control our $1.2 trillion consumer purchasing power by reinvesting in our selves, our communities, entrepreneurship, and community health and fitness initiatives.
Movement is essential to every aspect of our lives. Period. Humans are designed for movement, and when we don’t get our optimal level of physical activity, we become sluggish and systems begin to break down in and out of the body. Don’t get hung up on going to the gym or some fancy fitness center. Just start moving — dancing in the living room, down-dog in your bedroom, stroll down Broad Street, or do a moving meditation in the park. However you do it, it is essential that you make movement and exercise part of your daily life.
What we eat impacts our health, too, and we know we’re at the top of the list of those suffering and dying prematurely from poor nutrition. Nearly all of the top fast-food and neighborhood takeout joints are loaded with high calories, salt, sugar, and bad fats and offer little in the way of nutrition. A simple cheeseburger and fries can easily cost you a whopping 1,600 calories and that doesn’t include the 300 to 400 calories in that large sugary beverage you drank with it.
If you look at the intersection of almost any bustling urban area, you’re likely going to find it is dominated by these types of eateries. Do your health and pocketbook a favor and stop supporting the fast-food industry.
We all know about the prevalence of food deserts throughout urban communities, right? So what can we do? We can do a lot. We can start a personal herb garden, community gardens, support and learn about urban farmers, and start our own food co-ops. We are not beholden to anyone, and the knowledge is already within reach.
For example, The Food Trust is one of the local organizations dedicated to building strong communities through healthy food initiatives. Their mission is to improve access to healthy foods, provide nutrition education, and farmers markets.
If you’re sick and tired of the limited nutritional options in your area, contact the Food Trust for help and recommendations. Their website is thefoodtrust.org.
Exercising personal nonviolence means we aspire to be less violent and more compassionate with ourselves. Stop beating yourself up, stop comparing yourself with others, and resolve to make lemonade out of whatever lemons life has handed you.