Home Health “”Black men’s health is in a clear crisis.” “We’re Off to a...

“”Black men’s health is in a clear crisis.” “We’re Off to a Good Start” Black men’s health empowerment kickoff set for Jan. 21

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At the beginning of every year, when everybody in the United States is making their New Year’s resolutions, Aaron Perry and the organization that he founded, Rebalanced-life Wellness Association, hosts “We’re Off to a Good Start,” a physical activity and nutrition kickoff program with the goal of empowering Black men to get healthy and to keep their New Year’s resolutions by developing attainable goals they can stick with all year long.

“We’re really pleased to bring back the seventh annual We’re Off to a Good Start Black men’s empowerment event and our theme this year is mental health awareness and diabetes prevention,” Perry tells Madison365. The event will be held virtually on Saturday, Jan. 21, 1-2:30 p.m. “We’re really aiming to empower men not only to establish new year’s resolutions but we want to help support them in keeping their resolutions in place.”

Aaron Perry, founder of Rebalanced-life Wellness Association

Perry says that the average New Year’s resolution lasts for 60 days. 

“But we also know that if someone is striving for something to become a habit, they have to commit to it for 28 straight days and most people kind of fall off and get back on but that is the reality,” Perry says. ” But the bigger picture is that Black men’s health – and most men’s health, in general, who will be reading this story now will unfortunately not be alive next year unless we address the elephant in the room – and that is that Black men’s health is in a clear crisis. 

“And that is the goal of our event. We have resources here in this city to make a difference. We want to combine this event with having a top-10 university in our backyard, several multimillion-dollar health systems in our backyard, and organizations like Public Health Madison Dane County, and the Department of Health Services,” Perry adds. “We know that if we all work together, we can all figure out how to ensure that the majority of Black men reading this article when it’s published, will be able to celebrate the next 20 or 30 New Year’s celebrations. That is the goal.”

That’s the reason, Perry says, that they made the investment to bring in some big-time national talents like comedians DL Hughley, J Anthony Brown and Danny Green.

Hughley is an actor, stand-up comedian, star of the television sitcom The Hughleys, and famous for being one of the “Big Four” comedians in The Original Kings of Comedy. Brown is a comedian, actor, radio personality and the recipient of the Peabody and the NAACP Image Award. Green is an actor, writer, comedian and director of “The Executioners We All Had A Chance.” All of the men have given their talents and expertise to previous “We’re Off To a Good Start” events.

“These guys are all at the top of their game, but most importantly, having a discussion with them, they care about Black men’s health in the Midwest, even though these guys are based out of California and Atlanta, respectively, but they do care about Black men’s health in the Midwest,” Perry says.

The event will also feature Dr. Eva Vivian, a preeminent pharmacy researcher and diabetes educator and community leader.

Dr. Eva Vivian

“We will kick off the event with a lot of laughter and just having serious dialogue about Black men’s health,” Perry says. “We’ve also brought on Dr. Eva [Vivian] who is not only just a preeminent researcher and diabetes educator, but someone that also can speak truth to power when it comes to things like diabetes.”

Perry himself has been diabetic for almost 30 years now. He is the world’s first African American insulin-dependent diabetic to complete an Ironman Triathlon. He says he is excited that this year’s “We’re Off to a Good Start” event is focused on diabetes prevention and helping show men how they can live well with diabetes.

“I’d love to see a cure. But I’m also pleased to know that you can control it with lifestyle changes, obviously better nutrition and taking your medication as prescribed,” Perry says.

The other focus of the event will be mental health. Black men and suicide have especially concerned Perry during the pandemic and post-pandemic.

“This is something that has really resonated nationwide, and that’s why we’re also incorporating the mental health awareness piece because we know that Black men have a tendency to mask what’s really going on, we mask it very well,” Perry says. “And so we’re saying, let’s no longer hide in the shadows and let’s talk it out. And that’s what we’re trying to accomplish with this event.”

Perry is hoping for a big turnout at the event.

“Last year, we had about almost 18 different states join the discussion. We had someone joining from Trinidad, Tobago, and St. Lucia. But we also had someone join us from Johannesburg, South Africa,” Perry remembers. “We know that this is becoming not just a national, but an international discussion. So we want to just keep it going. Because at the end of the day, what we do know is that we want to end this senseless loss of life for something that could be prevented and that’s the whole goal.”

Aaron Perry (in the middle with a black shirt and white hat) leads Black Men Run in the heart of the UW campus.

The “new year, new me” phase comes and goes for many Americans after January. How does Perry keep it going throughout the whole year?

“Social connectedness is such a huge part of what we try to do and I’ll use our Black Men Run group as a great example. We put it out there – there is no pressure. We let guys know you can come – you can run with us. You can walk with us. And we have seen our numbers explode. Because we get it,” Perry says of his Black Men Run group that meets regularly to encourage health and wellness among African American men by promoting a culture of running to stay fit. “Guys come out and we walk and we talk. We talk about our health. We talk about our bodies. We talk about having cancer. We talk about how we can get our energy levels up.  We talk about what are some of the events that are happening so that we can join and do these things together.

“And so that social connectedness piece is really what the 7th annual ‘We’re Off to a Good Start’ is all about … just building that social connectedness so that we can do things together all year and even if it’s just meeting on a Saturday morning, for a 60- to 90-minute walk. It’s not just the walk but the discussion and that looking forward to meeting again next Saturday. It’s that consistency. That’s what we’re striving to do.”

Perry adds that the current age of life expectancy for a Black man in Dane County is 51 years of age and that is simply unacceptable. And he plans to do something about it.

“We want to give guys that opportunity to be here for their families in the future. One of the things that I tell guys often is that we are working hard to claim our seat in the C suite and we are building these beautiful homes for our family. We are becoming great providers,” Perry says. “But the one thing that Black men are forgetting to do is self-care. And, unfortunately, all of the things that we’ve built and we’ve established in the community will not mean anything if we do not take care of ourselves.

“Some day we will realize that some other man will be laying their head on our pillow enjoying all of the things that we worked for if we don’t have our health,” he adds. “And that is a clear push and encouragement for men to take this seriously. We do not want other people lying their head on our pillow and enjoying the fruits of our labor because we failed to take care of our health … and now we are gone.”

 

For more information or to sign up for “We’re Off to a Good Start,” click here.