Gospel means “good news,” reminds exercise guru Donna Richardson Joyner. “And I’m a messenger of good health,” she says. That’s why Joyner will be leading an aerobic “party with a purpose” at Reid Temple AME Church (11400 Glenn Dale Blvd., Glenn Dale, Md.) this Saturday when BET’s Women’s Health Symposium tour comes to town.
Despite the name, the all-day (8 a.m.-4 p.m.) event is aimed at the entire family. The schedule includes a men’s basketball challenge, cooking demos, free screenings and fun stuff, including a performance by R&B star Deborah Cox. “We remove all the excuses,” says Cox, who signed on because she recognizes how challenging it can be to stick with a healthy routine. In keeping with the church setting, Cox will be belting gospel tunes, which she says always get her motivated to move.
Earning a spot on the national tour isn’t an honor as much as it’s a wake-up call, says Debra Kilpatrick, program director for BET’s Women’s Health Symposium. Washington was chosen because of its huge health disparities — African-American communities in the region are disproportionately facing high rates of obesity, diabetes and other health risks. The mission of the tour is to “break down barriers and entertain [the public], but ultimately educate them,” Kilpatrick says. And just as important is to empower them, by helping them realize that change is possible. “We promote activity, not just the gym,” she adds.
Joyner says the church location is critical because it will help people recognize the connection between faith and fitness. “Pastors will tell you that there are too many people dying before they fulfill their purpose,” she says. To make sure one’s temple is in top condition, you have to think about what you’re eating and how you’re exercising. Joyner promises to provide an all-level chance to “get our groove on.” “You know the runner’s high? We’re going to have a spiritual high,” she says. “And it feels good.”
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Photo courtesy BET Foundation