Health and Heritage: Fair Coincides With Black History Month

Staff members at the NAACP Health Fair booth, Michele Henry (front row, left) and NAACP Bergen County branch President Jeff Carter (front row, right) greeted guests, including Bergen County Sheriff Anthony Cureton (back row, center). | Photo by Hillary Viders. BY HILLARY VIDERS
SPECIAL TO NORTHERN VALLEY PRESS

TEANECK, N.J.—In recognition of Black History Month, Holy Name Medical Center and the NAACP Bergen County Branch 2079 hosted a Black History Festival and Health Fair on Feb. 9.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., hundreds of people poured into the hospital’s Marian Hall in Teaneck to learn about wellness and to also enjoy music, dancing and healthy food.

Dozens of hospital doctors and nurses joined the crowd of show attendees that included Bergen County Sheriff Anthony Cureton, members of Bergen County school boards, police departments and organizations, and several African American sororities and fraternities.

After signing in and receiving an information packet, visitors walked around various areas where they could be given free blood pressure tests, blood work, body mass index measurement, bone density tests, colorectal screening kits, diabetes assessments, HIV screening and tests for pulmonary function and stroke risk. There was a children’s activity area to keep youngsters occupied while their parents underwent testing.

The event, billed as “Living Your Best Life,” was not only informative but also very festive. Reggie Pittman and his NYC Love and Soul Band filled the room with rhythm-and-blues, soul, and jazz music that invited people of all ages to join in the line dancing. By noon, the dance floor was in full swing and sizzling with dozens of hospital staff and guests doing the Electric Slide. Reggie Pittman—in front, holding the trumpet—and his NYC Love and Soul Band. | Photo by Hillary Viders. There was also an art display, and numerous booths manned by sponsors, such as the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, several medical practices, and the various sororities and fraternities. Many of them gave out free novelty items along with their information.

“Living Your Best Life” lived up to its name with a huge buffet of healthy food. Selections included organic chicken and pulled pork, sweet potatoes, macaroni and cheese, mixed green salad, spinach salad, collard greens, whole grain corn bread and fresh fruit. Each dish was freshly prepared to be tasty as well as nutritious, as evidenced by the steady line of diners.

Jeff Carter, president of the NAACP Bergen County Branch, explained how the event came about.

“Holy Name Medical Center has an outreach program headed by Linda Lohsen, director of community education. Her colleague in the program, Edith Conner, wanted to reach out to the African American community, so she contacted me and I invited her to attend meetings of the African American Groups of Bergen County United,” said Carter. “AAGBCU is group of 15 organizations that NAACP formed and it includes council members, teachers and residents from Englewood, Teaneck and Hackensack. This council brings together all groups of color and promotes interaction through forums, meetings and other mediums for the exchange of information and engages in cooperative programming and initiatives through various activities and events. So, when Conner contacted me with the idea of a health fair, I introduced her to our collaborative group and that got the ball rolling.”

Conner is also a member Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, which belongs to the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), a collaborative organization of nine historically African American, international Greek lettered fraternities and sororities, sometimes called the “Divine Nine.” Elizabeth Whitney, education chair of the Woman’s Club of Englewood (second from right), with her sisters from the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. | Photo by Hillary Viders. NPHC members along with numerous sponsors helped get the word out about the Black History Festival and Health Fair through their social media resources. The results were impressive, with 20 members of Alpha Kappa Alpha and 30 members of Delta Sigma Theta sorority attending the event with their friends and colleagues as well as African American fraternity members.

An important element in the health fair was a series of wellness lectures given by doctors at Holy Name Medical Center. The topics were of particular interest to the African American community, such as the presentation made by Dr. Clenton Coleman, titled “Hypertension and Stroke Risk” which emphasized the risk of high blood pressure, “The Silent Killer.”

Coleman stated that one out of three Americans have high blood pressure and two out of three African Americans have high blood pressure.

“Just at this event,” Coleman said, “we had four people who had their blood pressure taken and we sent them right to the ER!”

“I tell people what they can do to lower their pressure, such as losing weight, eating a healthy diet. Holy Name Medical Center has hosted other health events, but this is by far the biggest turnout that we’ve ever had, and I am pleased that we are able to help so many people!”

The Black History Festival and Health Fair was a huge success. Everyone agreed that it provided a wealth of wellness information as well as a great time. These youngsters enjoyed coloring at the health fair’s children’s activity area. | Photo by Hillary Viders. Carter remarked proudly, “We saved lives today! We identified conditions that people may not have known about. I am pleased at how we reached many people and got the word out through the excellent collaboration with sponsors and sororities. The information that was given was essential. Health fairs like this are really important events, and we will definitely be having more of them!”

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