On February 18, 2011, a group of unusual suspects joined together at the Blockley in Philadelphia to raise funds for a grassroots organization dedicated to ending black childhood obesity, particularly among young girls. Included in the audience were professors, executive assistants, musicians, social workers, justice rights activists, graduate students and other laypeople of all races, gender and sexuality. This strange group of bedfellows moved in concert to the music of Black Thought, lead singer of the legendary group The Roots, and resident band to the Jimmy Fallon Show; they danced to house and hip-hop music; and pumped their fists as Rich Medina played Fela Kuti and the Jam Boys’ underground talent made its way to the mainstream. On this chilly Friday night, it seemed any and everything was possible. Change was not simply going to come, change was here.
Over 250 people with only six weeks-notice joined together to show their support for a cause that is often deemed to be the responsibility of legislatures, school administrators and the First Lady of the United States. This group of hip-hoppers, young and old, the educated and the educating, the engaged and frustrated, showed that they too care about black children and their health. This union of hip-hop and health advocacy is the beginning of a new and necessary partnership. While hip-hop culture has been blamed for fueling poor health choices, on Feb 18th, the hip hop community united and used its strength to become knowledgeable about childhood health challenges and to give back at the same time.
This type of partnership is central in the fight against black childhood obesity. In 2010, when Michelle Obama pledged to fight America’s obesity problem, she put together a powerful set of partners. The Let’s Move initiative – as it’s called – has one central pledge: to end the threat of childhood obesity. Let’s Move and its partners acknowledge and recognize that the threat of childhood obesity threatens black communities. While almost one in every three children in our nation is obese or overweight, these rates are even higher in African-American and Hispanic communities where nearly 40% of the children are overweight or obese. We support the efforts of the First Lady and the partners of the Let’s Move initiative, however, we seek to bolster their efforts and extend their lens to include the hip-hop community.
Get Up!! Philadelphia is the first step in a national initiative (Get Up!!) that will tackle childhood obesity. It unites socially active entertainers with researchers and community-based organizations focuses in cities like Boston, Washington, D.C. and Jackson, Mississippi will be to raise the consciousness of the hip-hop generation about the threat of obesity and physical inactivity. Childhood obesity is one of the central pathways to breast cancer and other diseases. Let’s Move It!! focuses on helping grassroots community-based organizations (CBOs) work with impoverished communities to address these challenges. We believe that CBOs have the best insights into the problems affecting their communities. Yet they often lack the resources and opportunities to support their transformative efforts. Funds raised from the Get Up!! initiative will be used toward programming and other activities geared toward increasing black girls’ physical activity. Resources will also be used to provide the recipient of the grant with academically trained researchers to help CBOs design and evaluate their program such that they can leverage their results for additional funding.
Get Up!! is a partnership between the GrassRoots Foundation, Black Thought and its Associates with major support from Glaxo Smith Kline and The Black Rose Foundation for Children. We welcome any ideas or new partners as we move to combat childhood obesity.
For more information about the initiative, please visit www.blackrosefoundation.org or call (901) 844-3572.
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The Roots Perform at Benefit for the Black Rose Foundation for Children Partner, GrassRoots Community Foundation on Behalf of Childhood Obesity, February 2012
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