August 17, 2020

From Darrell Wade, Founder of Black Men’s Wellness

About 8 years ago I caught up with my former mentor over the phone after a 5 year gap in communication. Listening to us go on, you wouldn’t have been able to distinguish whether or not we’d gone days or years without speaking. In the midst of sharing memories, throwing barbs and trading new experiences with one another, he shared one with me. He spoke about his health issues and how close he’d come to losing his life as a result. Stunned and caught off guard, I was unsure of how to respond. My hero was in need and I was feeling powerless to help him. I threw a dig at him and then we resumed our conversation laughing and joking the way through. He passed a month later due to ongoing cardiac related complications.

Not long after, I noticed my friend Duo struggling with similar health issues. I immediately thought about my mentor. I also recognized the need and struggle with my own journey to achieve health and wellness. I needed a hero and my hero was in need. I asked Duo to join me on some morning workouts informing him I could use some accountability. He reluctantly accepted my invitation. We began to hit the gym early mornings and eventually this led us to hiking, biking and other outdoor activities. My friend lost over a hundred pounds on our journey together, while I was able to bring my anxiety and hypertension under control.

Duo encouraged me to start the Black Men’s Wellness health initiative which is aimed toward addressing hypertension and heart disease in black and African-American males. I came to realize that access to health and wellness is a civil right. Like a lot of our rights here in America, we as black people are unaware and or made to feel as if said rights don’t apply to us. Nothing has shed more light on wellness disparity in communities than Covid-19 and the resurgence of Black Lives Matter protest in response to the slayings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Avery. The hope of Black Men’s Wellness is to equip every black male who interacts with us with the tools to start on a journey of wellness that will create lasting change in their overall lifestyle.

Thinking back to my mentor and our final conversation, I’m not certain he was aware of his right to pursue wellness. I am quite positive I wasn’t at that moment. We need a major cultural shift in the way health and wellness is approached when it comes to our health as black males.

Health and Wellness

One thing that can be done to help this happen is improving the way mental health and primary care providers treat their black patients, specifically when addressing hypertension and illnesses related to it. There needs to be a normalization around introducing wellness practices into our treatment plans, while acknowledging the fears and barriers to accessing white dominated resources. Medication may be needed, but is often just a band aid that seldom leads to a lasting solution. Providers should be prepared to offer treatment plans that reduce dependency on medication and transition to healthy lifestyle choices. Finally, all of this can be done by forming lasting partnerships with culturally specific community-based organizations geared toward health and wellness. Those relationships become resources shared with black patients who may not know about them.

With Black Men’s Wellness we are aiming to become one of those organizations. All of our workshops are introductory level, ranging from targeting anxiety, healthy eating, physical fitness to lifestyle. By putting our participants in direct experience with resources and communities living those practices (judgement-free), we help develop empowerment based on first hand engagement in culturally meaningful ways. At the end of the day, the idea is to have black men leaving our workshops knowing they have the right and capacity to pursue wellness on their terms.

For more information: Follow Black Men’s Wellness movement on Facebook, Instagram and the website www.blackmenswellness.org which is coming soon.