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We’ve all seen summer fitness programs for kids. And we’ve all seen summer reading programs for kids. Aaron Perry, founder of Rebalanced-Life Wellness Association, thought to himself: what if we brought the two together?

“When you look at disparities, especially health disparities, we are at a critical point right now where we have to have this ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking because we can’t continue down this road of doing the same thing yet we’re getting the same results,” Perry tells Madison365. “Then we wonder why.

“Because we have to get creative and think out of the box,” he adds. “It’s just like my Men’s Health and Education Center that’s right in a barbershop. This is about thinking outside of the box because we have to move on from what is not working.”

With that in mind, the first-ever “Black Men Run, Brown Boys Read,” an exciting new summer fitness and reading initiative, will take place tonight, 5:15-6:45 p.m., at Olin Park, 1156 Olin-Turville Court. The event is being organized by Perry along with Joshua Wright and Alan Chancellor.

Perry does have an office right inside a popular barbershop – JP Hair Design on Madison’s west side – where he helps people with their health and fitness needs at the Men’s Health & Education Center of his Rebalanced-Life Wellness Association, whose vision is leading Dane County as the healthiest in the State of Wisconsin for Black Men to live and thrive. Rebalanced-Life Wellness Association is responsible for helping launch this summer fitness and reading initiative for middle school boys that will take place Wednesday evenings during the summer at Olin Park.

Members of the Madison Chapter of Black Men Run

Members of the Madison Chapter of Black Men Run will read and run with middle school males to promote literacy and fitness and it’s all part of the Black Men Wellness Sustainable Initiative.

“It’s part of the Wisconsin Partnership Program and part of the grant that we received from them,” Perry says. “The goal really is to keep our young men active and to keep them focused on reading proficiency. We don’t want them to lose anything they learned or comprehended from the school year. This event is really about opening that door to keep these young men reading.”

With a fitness component to it. “So we’ll be having some of our Black Men Run members that will mentor some of the young guys,” Perry says.

At Olin Park tonight, there will be a brief introduction and check in with everyone from 5:15-5:30 p.m.

“We’ll see what challenges these young men are dealing with in their lives and if it is something we can help with we will help them resolve it,” Perry says. “At 5:30 p.m., we will distribute books to everyone and all of our books are by black and Latino authors. The books are relevant to middle schoolers.”

The young people will read for about 30 minutes before heading out into a group run.

“We will be running anywhere from one to three miles or it will be a combination of run/walk given the ability of the young men,” Perry says. “Really the goal of the program because we want to begin this process of having these young men sustain their fitness and having this be a critical part of their journey moving forward.”

Javion Harrison, a recent graduate of Glacial Drumlin Middle School, with Aaron Perry

But why is it called “Black Men Run, Brown Boys Read”?

“It would have been easy for me to say “Black Men Run, Black Boys Read” but we want this to be relevant to all kids regardless of ethnicity,” Perry says. “We just want any mom or dad out there that has a middle school child that they would like to be a part of this, we just ask them to get their boys to Olin Park tonight by 5:15 p.m.”

Perry has dedicated his life to lessening racial disparities in health but also wants to host events that are welcoming to everybody in the community. “Especially in this political climate where we seem so divided,” he says. “We recognize that if kids are living in poverty or are struggling with their health or reading, it doesn’t matter what the ethnicity is … they are going to have some of the same challenges and so what we’re saying is that we’re going to bring all of these young men together and we hope that it brings a culture of wellness among them. We also want these friendships to develop so those that can also be sustained.

“More than anything, health is the priority. But we also want to make sure that these young men are building their reading proficiency. We just feel that this is a great way of making all of those things happen,” he adds.

The first-ever “Black Men Run, Brown Boys Read” will take place tonight, 5:15-6:45 p.m., at Olin Park, 1156 Olin-Turville Court. For more information, e-mail Aaron Perry at ironmanaaron49@gmail.com or Joshua Wright at wright.joshua526@gmail.com.

Written by David Dahmer

David Dahmer

A. David Dahmer is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Madison365.

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