Walk with a Doc embraces black history, chronic health issues

Published 10:34 am Wednesday, February 17, 2016

A walk in the park lets people embrace nature, breathe fresh air and connect with friends, which is something Linda Fondren is excited to see people engage in on Saturday’s Black History Month walk.

The “Walk with a Doc” — held at the Vicksburg National Military Park — gives the community an opportunity to walk with physicians from Merit Health and pick their brains on health related issues.

“People are just not getting enough exercise and I know it’s because of their busy schedules or perceptions of their busy schedules or maybe they believe they don’t have a safe place to walk in their neighborhood,” Fondren said.

Saturday’s walk begins at 9:30 a.m. at Sherman Avenue Elementary. It isn’t a 5k race or walk, but serves to promote a healthy community. Drawings will be held for free park passes.

Along the walking trail set aside for the event, Fondren wants to take participants to a special monument representing black military history. An interpreter will be present to help explain the monument’s significance.

“I know that our national park has a story to tell about African Americans and this monument, called the USCT monument. African-Americans don’t know that it was the first to honor black troops,” Fondren said.

This will be the sixth year Shape Up Vicksburg and the VNMP have partnered together for a Black History Month walk. Each walk will be held every third Saturday of the month.

For the past five years, the slogan for the walks has been “Our shard history, our shared community and our shared health,” because the walks are essentially about people coming together and spreading the word about the dangers of living a sedentary lifestyle.

“We want to educate and bring awareness about these chronic diseases. We have to get people to become more active. One of the ways to do that is raise awareness and hopefully we’ll be able to activate something and have a mind shift where they start thinking about their families,” Fondren said.

When she first approached the park she was asked by then park supervisor Mike Madell about the lack of visitation from African-Americans.

Fondren replied by saying the black community doesn’t feel comfortable in areas where the confederacy was glorified. She added that exercise is at the bottom of list of priorities for many blacks, which is what she has tried to change.

“We hatched out some ideas and teamed up to talk about how we can change blacks perception of our civil war park,” Fondren said. “We wanted to get everyone to view those beautiful monuments in the park as art, the scenery as nature and the history as a narrative as restored self respect.”