Midtown Muse: Get involved, get informed

Midtown MuseMarch 30, 2014 

COURTESY OF WILLIAM DAVID WILLIA — COURTESY OF WILLIAM DAVID WILLIA

By mid-month, dozens of teens will canvass Southeast Raleigh, cameras in hand, to freeze-frame excess tobacco ads in our community.

The project, PhotoVoice for SmokeFREE Communities and Parks, is a youth-led initiative of Strengthening the Black Family, Inc.’s 20-member Youth Empowered Advocating for Health, or YEAH, which focuses on health disparities in their communities.

YEAH invites other interested teens ages 13-19 to participate, too.

In its three years of existence, youth-led initiatives have addressed HIV/AIDS, STDS and teen pregnancy, said YEAH coordinator Lashena Washington. This year, they chose tobacco and obesity.

For the PhotoVoice project, youth will discuss specific concerns about tobacco and then spend the next week documenting those concerns through pictures. Their photos and experience will lead to a plan of action.

From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on April 26, the youth will unveil their findings and seeks input at a community forum at Martin Street Baptist Church.

Midtown proud

The Columbia School of Law wants its 2014 graduates to announce their good news to folks back home.

And, Midtown, we’ve got our own.

Millbrook High School graduate William David Williams will lead the procession as a graduation marshal.

Williams, 28, left Midtown to make a name for himself in the classroom and on the gridiron at Notre Dame. After a stint teaching 9th-grade English in Oakland, Calif., he enrolled in law school at Columbia – and followed suit, making the Columbia Law Review, being named a Harlan Fiske Scholar, and taking on other student leadership roles.

He also landed a summer job in the Washington, D.C., offices of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP. The law firm has hired him as a first-year associate, set to start work in August.

We met Williams in December when he launched a successful Facebook crowd-funding campaign to help his mom find a home (and some stability), after a series of health-related setbacks left her homeless.

“A lot happened in my life during law school,” Williams said. “I’m just glad I was able to keep focused on school.”

Williams, who graduates May 22, is ready to help his family even more – and celebrate the honor of being his family’s first law school graduate. “It’s great to be a part of that, and I’m really excited to get to this point,” he said. “I want to make sure my hometown knows. “

On-tap: health and wellness

For over a year now, I’ve kept in touch with Voices into Action: The Families, Food and Health Project. It’s the USDA-funded initiative of N.C. State and N. C. A&T State universities and the N.C. Cooperative Extension Agency to improve access to healthy, affordable food, and places to be active in Southeast Raleigh.

I’m still a bit impressed by Voices into Action’s efforts to keep in touch with folks in Southeast Raleigh.

In the months since Kroger closed its only two stores in the area — highlighting Southeast Raleigh’s status as a food desert lacking access to healthy food and places to be active —Voices into Action has gathered and recorded information, and recently awarded 10 mini-grants to organizations and individuals working toward solutions.

The group invites all of us to find out what’s happening now at its Health and Wellness Resource Day from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Chavis Park Community Center.

On the agenda are two panel sessions. The first features Voices into Action mini-grantees from Southeast Raleigh: Agape Word Fellowship, Grocers on Wheels, NC Fair Share CDC, Fertile Ground Food Co-Operative and Passage Home. The second includes Southeast Raleigh churches that have strong health and wellness ministries — Mount Peace Baptist, St. Ambrose Episcopal, Martin Street Baptist and Church of God of Prophecy.

State Rep. Yvonne Holley (D-Wake) will discuss the Food Desert Bill she sponsored to establish incentives to encourage the delivery and availability of nutritious food in food desert zones.

Vendors, including Grocers on Wheels, Master Gardeners, Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, WIC and the Health Department, NC Council of Churches and others.

A special session of Dancing in the Park will close the event.

“By highlighting the mini-grantees and faith communities, and the work that they’re already doing in the community, we show people what services are already out there, and inspire other churches, organizations and individuals to start the same kinds of initiatives, or something similar,” Voices into Action Community Outreach Coordinator Marissa Sheldon said.

Lori D.R.Wiggins reports on the people and places of Midtown. Contact her via email at ldrwigg@gmail.com.

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