This story was produced by a student in the Madison365 Academy, Madison365’s journalism training program.
The Alpha Kappa Alpha “Walk it Out” event, which takes place for the ninth time tomorrow on July 23, 2016, began in 2008 when the international AKA sorority asked each of its chapters to walk 1,908 steps toward Washington, DC to honor their centennial anniversary.
The local Madison chapter decided to invite community members to join them in this walk. The enthusiasm generated by that event revealed a need to expand it into a free community health event as well, organizers say. The subsequent year, they were able to partner up with the 100 Black Men of Madison and GHC to host at Madison Area Technical College.
The partnership between Alpha Kappa Alpha and the 100 Black Men of Madison is now a crucial part of the event. Chloe Brown, this year’s “Walk It Out” chair and member of the AKA sorority says, “Partnering with 100, it’s always been a good partnership with them because we’re always helping them and they’re always helping us. It goes beyond just now. It goes all the way back. It’s important to have this relationship. It all started at MATC with just a walk and boot camp. We changed things and it grew.”
Over the years, “Walk it Out” has evolved into a community health fair. Organizers say it is designed to help the community, particularly the African American community, learn and engage about their healthy lifestyles through diet, exercise and relaxation techniques. The event starts with a two-mile walk around Warner Park followed by snacks and giveaways, along with a 10 am workout class thrown into the mix.
“Everyone goes to the healthy cooking classes demonstration.” Brown says. “That will close the event this year. We learned that everyone goes to this demonstration so we moved it to the end this year so everyone stays for the whole thing. And there also will be a raffle during the cooking.” By being the Chair for Walk it out this year this means she has to coordinate, lead, and follow up to make sure she communicates with everyone. There’s a lot of pieces that go into the “Walk It Out” event that many people aren’t aware of.
Toya Johnson, a member of the AKA and frequent “Walk it Out” attendee, says, “I think that this is a wonderful family event. Not only do I benefit, but my kids benefit. They learn the importance of being healthy and are able to participate in the walk and healthy food demonstration with me.”
The goal for the “Walk it Out” event is to inform people on health topics such as Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease, stroke and mental illness. This year they will provide workshops that will include WERQ fitness (the wildly addictive cardio dance workout) and they are partnering with National Alliance on Mental Illness of Dane County to provide suicide prevention workshops.
Brown says many people will benefit from “Walk it Out.” Brown believes community members should be in attendance because “sometimes we need a restart. We all get busy in the summer.” She says people, especially African Americans, need to make sure they’re paying attention to their bodies. “During the summer you can get dehydrated and not look after your body. It takes more than one person to work out and to better yourself,” Brown says.
Brown wants the event to be similar to a workout at the YMCA, Gold’s Gym or Princeton Club where you can interact with different people and they push you while you push them to get better.
“I do ‘Double Tuesday,’ a fitness workout class at the Y. We’re having a workout with the ‘Walk It Out.’ We want it to be like just a class, talk to others and to get to know each other, to push themselves. I really enjoy these workouts and we want it to be just like that. With “Walk it Out” being like a fitness class at a local gym, it will make you feel like you’ve been doing this forever with meeting different people that are determined and willing as you are,” Brown says. Johnson says, “I would recommend this event to anyone from the most active person to the least active person. Anyone can participate and take something away from it that can benefit them in someway. We have activities and workshops to choose from so they are not limited to just one thing.”
“Walk it Out” is part of a wider commitment for Brown. She says she chooses to be a member of the sorority AKA because it helps so many people.
“I’m having an impact with other communities I was not even aware of,” she says. “It is a sisterhood. It’s nice to be a part of AKA. It’s like a family. Being the oldest and only girl (in my family), being with a sisterhood that I never had has helped me. I serve all mankind by bettering health in the community and working with leaders around the world.”
Brown chose to join AKA in 2013 and is still an active member. “The importance of my health and family was the most important part for me,” she says. “Volunteering has always been a big part of my life. That’s why I choose AKA. They’re big on volunteering.”
Being in the AKA has helped her to become more active in the community. “To support others and going to black leaderships events I’ve learned so much,” she says. “It’s about balancing your life and helping out your community. It’s more than just about you.”
The goal for AKA “Walk it Out” this year is to “engage everyone who comes to have a fun and active experience,” Brown says.“Relax the mind. Encourage the relationships that are going on. Our goal is to make sure everyone enjoys this, and to give a free opportunity. To do something is what our goal is and to just have fun and to really learn. Bring your children, co-workers and friends to get their sweat on!”
Anyone looking for an exercise- and fun-filled Saturday should attend the “Walk It Out” event starting at 9 a.m. on Saturday, July 23. Registration will begin at 8:45 a.m. at Warner Park in Madison.