Archive for the ‘Health & Wellness’ Category

My name is Vernon Lloyd Johnson, and I am many things. A violence prevention advocate and practitioner, a youth initiatives coordinator, and as I like to put it, an interdependent ally. When I was 11 years old, I was robbed and assaulted. It took me awhile to adjust to my surroundings, and to trust the communities I stepped into. I soon realized that being an advocate in Chicago’s violence prevention movement requires me to put it all on the line, and that includes my life, my dedication, words, and attitude. I am okay with that. I can not be afraid or scared of the very people I intend to help. I can not look down upon them and make judgements neither. This is the essence of being an interdependent ally. Other people’s struggles is always connected to your own oppressions, and in unison, you embrace and support one another. There is no neighborhood I will not venture into, and no young person that I do not want to have a profound touch of positivity on.

I recently held peace circles for elementary girls on the west side of Chicago. They are the bright stars I see in the night even if it is still daytime to them. There are so many trauma informed situations, environmental, and societal issues that restrain Chicago youth from reaching their potential. I call it ecological oppression. Oppression at a multitude of levels that creates a negative and lasting perception that these young people begin to internalize. Those young girls have already seen many forms of interpersonal violence, bullying, loss of loved ones to violence, jail, or due to health-related ailments. They suffer the brunt of emotional, psychological and physical abuse from those who have issues that they wrongly displace upon them. Communities are ravaged by poverty, health disparities, and other issues. Amidst all of this, these young girls were able to tell me their stories. I told them that I saw them as royalty for having the bravery to share their experiences. Their puffy wet eyes looked up with a spark of surprise and an awkward feeling of happiness and peace they did not foresee. There has to be a reclaim on hope and value of life for our young people. The human spirit is the only unbeatable variable on earth. That ideology has to filtrate from the individual, to the community, and to the policies that effect people so that we may see the positive social change we all yearn for in the great city of Chicago.




Dear Friends,

My name is Vernon Johnson, and many of you have known me for a very long time now. I have had the esteemed pleasure of meeting folks all at different points in my life. I am participating (running) in the 2011 Chicago AIDS Walk/Run 5K with my agency and need your help. I am asking for a donation of $20, or any amount (I mean any!) that you are comfortable in giving as soon as possible. You can follow this link to make a safe and secure donation: *The date of the event is October 1st in Chicago, IL. I am hoping to raise $500 for those who suffer from AIDS and research to help with treatment and a cure. Please help me to exceed this goal, we can do it! Thank you for your time! Please spread this message to your other networks as well! Have a great afternoon.


First, to be clear, I’d rather have a healthy woman than one who is unhealthy due to her attempt to be thick (fit in). Second, it is not my place to tell women what they should and should not do; however, as a being,  I do believe that I have a place to voice my concern and/or opinion about the situation. Now that is out of the way. In the Black community, it can be extremely difficult to get women (And, sometimes men) to think about living a healthy lifestyle and to be honest, I have always been perplexed by this phenomenon. As Vernon may know, this isn’t nothing new—there is history behind it. Moreover, I find that a majority of women (not all) find excuses to avoid working out or just eating healthy, which to me is worse than just being honest and simply saying “I don’t want to.” I don’t like excuses—but I also recognize that we all use them (don’t want to be hypocritical). Additionally, a large number of women (again, not all) believe that being thick is what an overwhelming majority of Black men are attracted to–so , in turn, they aspire to be thick and unhealthy ways. However, I must be self-reflexive, a lot of men are silent on their role—I think it is also important that men challenge their notions of what thick is? Do they prefer thick in an unhealthy way or in a healthy way? To be honest, a lot men have these ideas/ideals of what a thick women means, for some, it is often unhealthy. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with being thick—I just think there is a healthier way.

Also, when discussing these topics, I think its important that we construct our arguments in away that is not sizist in any way, it would be counterproductive. Instead, if we feel this is a concern within the community—we should be willing to speak out while also providing alternatives and showing that we (men) are attracted to healthy women. I think it is offensive to berate a person because of their size; sometimes it is inherited, which can be another challenge in it self. Additionally and more importantly, we must remember the economic factor, some women who do went to loose weight or live a healthy lifestyle may not have the financial means to do so. This is a sad but true fact. Similarly, many of them may not be able to afford a gym membership (I recognize they can do some exercising in their homes or YMCA) due to their finances. For example, the price of cheap and unhealthy food is increasingly on the rise—so one can only surmise that the price of “more” healthy food choices are also increasing in price. To be clear, this is not an attempt to give men/women more excuses but it is important that we acknowledge this fact.

Finally, if we are to change the way women think about health and weight, we must be willing to ardently challenge  Eurocentric and I’d even argue some Afrocentric beauty standards. More importantly, we as men must be willing to show our support in women living a healthier lifestyle. African American people have always been a communal culture, somewhere along our journey we have lost this paramount and crucial aspect of our identity. Women must also work to become more confident in who they are (not what noone else think they are), they must be willing to invest in a healthier lifestyle, and the must realize that motivation is key to achieving anything. I think it is equally important to note that more and more women are beginning to live healthy or healthier lifestyles—going to the gym, running, healthier food options, etc).

To start the dialogue, I think some important questions/talking points are: What are some of the honest reasons women choose to be “thick?” Where did this notion/ideal of being “thick” surface from? What is your (women/men) definition of being healthy? 

Oh boy… I wonder who I might piss off with this post.  Do I care? No, not at all!  This needs to be discussed because it’s a major issue in our community.  Body image probably ruins more young women’s love for self than anything else they encounter.  They would rather continue to stuff their face with saturated fats and empty calories, increasing their chances for all the health issues associated to obesity just to keep a couple of curves.  I’m sorry ladies, but that is the dumbest load of crap that I have ever heard of.  Risk your health to attract a man…. You’re CRAZY.

I do my best to stay healthy and live a healthy lifestyle and it is an ongoing challenge but I make sacrifices so that I may see my grandchildren finish college and actually meet my great-grandchildren.  Life is about being here long enough to live it.

I feel as though when it comes to working out that many African American women use their hair as an excuse.  This has and always will boggle me.  Yes, women spend astronomical amounts on getting their hair to look as European and as far from what it naturally looks like as possible.  So, God forbid that they break a sweat and ruin hair that probably cost more than the Louis Vuitton purse they carry with no money in it LoL!!!  JUST DOESN’T MAKE SENSE TO ME!

More often than not, I encounter a woman who says I would work out but I don’t have anyone to go with… I understand the importance of having a support system but eventually this too has to stop being the EXCUSE.  Reason being is this has to be a lifestyle change not just something to do to look good this summer…

The bottom line is that in order for you to get healthy you have to be self-motivated and want it for the right reasons.  Healthy motivators that will last I think would be working toward longevity, quality of life, and life itself.  By focusing on these things the weight loss and body image that comes with it will just be another added bonus (Even if that body image is an unattainable Eurocentric body standard that no one can really achieve)…

I can only hope and encourage women to stop being consumed by what everyone else is thinking and to focus that energy inward directing it toward a life of self-improvement and empowerment.  And ladies believe me when I tell you there is nothing sexier than a woman who is healthy, active, and motivated.

Recently I have been contemplating and discussing with peers about why we (humans) are so recalcitrant about our sexual frustrations, sexual desires, or sex in general. An emotion that is abosolutly normal for humans seems to be so alien. Several of my friends have expressed that they don’t talk about being horny, sexually frustrated, and/or sexually inactive because they are afraid of embarrassment. While, I understand this rationale, I still believe that this is an important topic to talk about. To be frank, this is a part of communicating one’s emotions. At times, I tend to be afraid of talking about sex or being sexually aroused—at least on social networks. Why? Why are we afraid to admit that we are sexually aroused or not on Twitter or Facebook? Or, just in general. Now, I won’t be too naive as to think that every one is reticent when it comes to discourse around sexual arousal and desires.

On Twitter, the discussion of sex is omnipresent—there is no doubt. With occasional trending topics such as: #Twitterafterdark (which I have engaged in), #Confession or #Morningsex, it is obvious that some are having the discussion, lol. BUT, I question the “LOL” that often follows the statement, why must we end with “lol?” Is it to cover up that honest fact that what we say is indeed serious (true)? For example, last week, someone on Twitter said, “I enjoy having great morning sex…lol,” if that person actually enjoys morning sex, why must there be a “lol?” If you enjoy, you enjoy it! It is my contention that we avoid talking about our sexual desires on sexual networks because we are afraid of what others will think or that we don’t feel the whole world needs to know. All of which is understandable. However, I find myself reading topics/stories that have nothing to do with sex but somehow it becomes sexualized. For example, in the recent Twitter craze #Planking, I saw it go from just normal #planking to sexualized #planking. It is hard for me not to think about how sexually repressed some of us are.

Being sexually aroused is something that all humans experience, some more than others. It is nothing to be ashamed of nor something to hide, it doesn’t help. Trust me. Given all of the other things that are tweeted, surely talking about sex won’t hurt…unless you are too embarrassed about a natural bodily function. Today I found myself extremely demure in respect to tweeting about by urge to have sex (no I am not in a relationship). By the way, I DON’T believe in nonconsensual sex, there must be mutual consent. As I get older, I realize that a lot of these “rules of expression” become increasingly antiquated. Additionally, I believe that being more vocal and willing to talk about sex amongst each other would increase the discussions around sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). It is ok to express yourself sexually—it’s a part of the human experience. If you do, please use protection (condoms or other means), especially if you are unsure of your partner’s sexual status. There is nothing wrong with safe and mutually consensual sex. If you are interested in more on what I mean by “consensual” please email or stay tuned for a forthcoming piece on consensual sex.

Two years ago I saw an AT&T commercial featuring this guy who had a great idea. He delivered simple, comfortable, stylish, and exceptionally made shoes to impoverished children in different parts of the world. His name is Blake Mycoskie.

Many of these children grow up barefoot and can develop soil-transmitted diseases such as Podoconiosis(a debilitating and disfiguring disease), which is reported to affect millions of children across the world. He opened TOMS Shoes with the, “One for One” shoe campaign. For every pair of TOMS purchased, a pair of these shoes will go to a child who needs them. This in my eyes, is a noble public health and humanitarian initiative. The shoes are based on an Argentinean farmer style. The shoes are made in Argentina, Ethiopia, and China. Blake Mycoskie took the initiative in making sure the work conditions and wages are fair and safe for the workers. Can Michael Jordan say this of his shoes? I think not. Buy a pair of TOMS today, you are doing more than you think. Furthermore, you are looking pretty stylish doing so.


TOMS for Women & Men


Cheating has become a socially accepted behavior despite sexuality, race, gender, and/or ethnicity. When we look at the high contraction rates of STDs/STIs, it is often linked from another partner that may have had a physical relationship with someone else. Infections such as Gonorrhea and Chlamydia often go undetected without any physical symptoms, at least according to medical studies. These bacterial infections can cause infertility if left untreated. There is of course the chance of contracting HIV, herpes, and genital warts. There are more than just the physical ailments that make cheating a public health issue; there are mental health repercussions as well. People’s psychic and thought’s of what they had in their relationships is misconstrued. It creates a sense of vulnerability, insecurity, low self-esteem, and in all actuality, will make that person more prone to cheat or hurt themselves (physically/emotionally). Most people, in most instances, if not always, need to feel a sense of belonging; this is where you will see a person stay with someone who cheated on them. The emotional and mental health of people is equally important as their physical dwelling due to their reciprocal nature.  We have to change the acceptance socially of cheating to curve the epidemic state of this issue. Staying with someone who has cheated on you will only hurt you more mentally and physically in the future. Take a stand for yourself, and overall health.


“Be the change you want to see in the world.”

–   Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi