Spelman College, an all-black women’s school in Atlanta, GA, has decided to stop talking the talk, and start walking the walk where challenging the obesity epidemic among Black women is concerned.
Long considered a taboo discussion among Southern black families who pride themselves on the rich tradition of serving ‘soul food’ and having the iconic Sunday dinner—dinners that often feature calorie-rich, nutritionally dense, items like fried chicken, sweet potato pie, and sweet tea—the obesity epidemic in the Black community, particularly among women, has reached an all-time high in the last 5-10 years. And while it’s a issue that is slowly becoming more of a conversation, it is mostly tossed aside by those Black women who don’t want to sacrifice their “curves” just to be “skinny”.
The school’s million-dollar sports budget — typically used for uniforms, travel and referees — will now be diverted to pay for a state-of-the-art gym and campus-wide wellness programs intended to help all students on campus. This is the last year Spelman students will be able to participate in NCAA Division III sports.
“I understand this change is disappointing to those students who have been very involved in intercollegiate athletics,” said Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, the president of Spelman College. “We can use those dollars to bring in more instructors — to focus on wellness in a way that will allow all 2,100 students to really participate.”
College officials envision a yoga room, a spin room, an indoor track and new equipment that would rival any commercial gym. It is as much about a healthy weight as it is a healthy mind and life.
“Our students – most of whom are African-American women — are twice as likely to become diabetic. They are more likely to experience a heart attack or stroke in their lifetimes. Largely because of the high levels of obesity and overweight within the African-American community,” Tatum said. “This generation of young people is not likely to live as long as its parent generation because of poor diet and lack of exercise. I have been to the funerals of young alumnae – one of the things I say to our students is, we are investing a lot in you.”
As one who once participated in collegiate athletics, I champion the move as both bold and innovative. It’s no secret that this generation of youth is being raised in a society where obesity, diabetes, and heart disease is at an all-time high. Steps must be taken to ensure the health and wellness of those who will one day be charged with the task of leading this nation into its next chapter.
- Spelman’s Wellness Revolution (theroot.com)
- Spelman eliminates athletics in favor of campus-wide wellness initiative (insidehighered.com)
- Spelman Drops Sports to Turn Focus on Fitness (nytimes.com)