The city that never sleeps has in many ways been snoozing for months, but that isn't stopping this organization from pushing city-dwellers out the bed and onto their feet.
It's the first of its kind – a city-wide virtual health festival – where thousands of New Yorkers will have an opportunity today, June 5, to digitally participate in a highly curated line-up of fun activities promoting healthy lifestyle choices.
The HealthJox Virtual Festival is a six-hour event that will start at noon and include virtual sports clinics, exercise classes, entertainment, and even a dance-off.
Organizers have also partnered with several NYC teachers to host a 'virtual school trip' to inspire kids to stay active and make healthy choices while at home, according to Dewry Bradford, the festival's founder.
"Initially, my decision to launch HealthJox was out of my desire to bring the community together to begin a conversation about health: Healthy bodies, healthy food, and a healthy environment with a sports and entertainment component that gave local up and coming artists a place to showcase their talents," Bradford explained.
Watch a trailer for the festival below:
We Can't Forget About COVD-19
But as many New Yorkers grapple with stricter lockdowns, new curfews, and the increased violence sparked by agitators who have hijacked peaceful protests, Bradford and many other local leaders say New Yorkers cannot lose sight of the fact that the deadly coronavirus is still a looming enemy which can continue to ravage the city if left unchecked.
"This year the festival was not only moved to an online platform but is less about a showcase and more about providing a much-needed service to the community. The fact that NYC has lost thousands of lives to an invisible enemy was not lost on me or my team," Bradford assured.
"Our line-up is very intentional because we understand that the information we deliver must serve as a guidepost for families looking for realistic ways to make new lifestyle choices during and post-COVID-19."
And what better way to curtail casualties caused by COVID-19 than to address the underlying issues that have resulted in a disproportionate amount of deaths in the African-American community due to pre-existing health conditions.
Brooklyn Borough President: Stay Active by Staying Home
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams is one of their strategic partners. He's participating this year with an endorsement video encouraging viewers to "stay active" by "staying home" and making the necessary lifestyle changes that promote health.
"It's important that you are treating your body well by keeping up with your exercise and eating lots of healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains…staying active is the most healthy thing you can do," Adams said.
We Must Address Mental Illness
But it's not just diabetes, high blood pressure, hypertension, poor diets, and lack of activity that plagues many New Yorkers according to Brooklynite Bishop Lester Bradford, Founder of TTN International Ministries. He applauds the HealthJox Festival organizers for also tackling mental illness and says there's a spiritual connection that was exacerbated during the pandemic lockdown: The spirit of fear.
"We all have mental issues. Some people will not admit it because of the stigma attached to it. Our minds are attacked daily by spiritual forces. We are all acquainted with the "spirit of fear. This is a crippling spirit that has robbed many souls of their purpose and blessings. However, God has given us power to overcome all enemies of the mind, spirit, and body," Bradford explained.
Bishop Bradford along with seven other community leaders will serve as panelists during the festival's virtual Town Hall that will be hosted on a public zoom conference call (hyperlink conference call – link below). The panelists will provide information in line with HealthJox's new 8- dimensions of a wellness initiative.
According to Bradford, this new emphasis on mental wellness was sparked by a very painful season.
"Last year, there was a surge of suicides by people I knew either directly or by one degree of separation. During that season I met a very creative individual who suffered with mental illness most of his life -- this is when everything changed for me," Bradford recalled.
"I made a decision to add mental health to the list of free services we provide to the public. I launched the #MentalHealthInitiative and began co-producing fashion shows during New York Fashion Week with a mental health component. When COVID-19 hit America, I knew that it was time to take it on a national level due to the massive loss of lives, jobs, and hope. Our series of events has positioned us as trailblazers merging health-awareness with nontraditional events."
My New Normal After Losing a Grandson to COVID-19
It's the mental health component that got the attention of Verizon Concierge Derrick Swindell, who recently invited several members of the HealthJox team to present to a multi-disciplinary board of executives at Verizon. Swindell says it was important to him to allow the mental health experts to educate and empower Verizon leaders who are working non-stop in a climate that is emotionally taxing.
“I felt it was important to bring mental health awareness to the forefront because it is vital to the human trifecta: body, soul, and spirit,” Swindell explained.
In an almost eerily coincidence founder of the Menturnship Organization, Joseph Watson was one of the key presenters who spoke only one day after losing his grandson to COVID-19.
"Losing a child seems to go against the essence of being a parent. It forces you to function within the sacred parental mental space, once filled with joy, humility, and vision, that is now filled with anguish, despair, and void," Watson explained.
"Spiritually, most of us have been prepared to answer the "why's" with answers like "God knows best" or "you shouldn't question God," while mentally we may struggle to answer the tangible, and more destructive questions like "what did I do wrong"? or "What could I have done to prevent the loss of my child?" he asked.
"These are the questions that if left unanswered, can slowly eat away at your sanity and overall mental stability. Mental Health Wellness is a necessity in life but becomes a source of life when suffering from the loss of a loved one," Watson explained.
"My message is, All that we truly have in our relationships are moments, events, and encounters that evolve into memories, it's best that we take care to make each new experience, event, and our encounter with each other.... 'MEMORY WORTHY' God Bless," he concluded.
To learn how you can join the HealthJox Virtual Festival, click here.
Join the Festival and Virtual Town Hall, click here.
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