February is Black History Month – by Tony Thomas


According to History.com, Black History Month initially started as Black History Week back in 1926, by an African American historian and educator named Carter G. Woodson. In 1976, it was decided the celebratory week would be changed to a month-long celebration to coincide with the February birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.

Black History Month provides us with the opportunity to reflect on some of the important contributions that Black Americans have made to American history over the years. Many of us are familiar with historical figures such as Jackie Robinson, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King Jr.

However, I am going to take a different approach and highlight some of the important health issues plaguing the Black Community. There are serious health issues that many folks in the community are facing, and it starts at an early age.

Here are a few alarming facts and statistics courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). I feel strongly that we all need to be mindful of these statistics, and I’d like to point out a few facts that really stood out to me.

Heart Disease and Stroke

  • 1 in 3 deaths in the United States is due to cardiovascular disease while people of all ages, genders, races, and ethnicities are affected. However, certain groups—including black people and older individuals, are at higher risk than others.
  • Nearly half of all Black American adults have some form of cardiovascular disease that includes heart disease and stroke.


  • Cancer is the second leading cause of death among black people in the United States. Among men, black men are diagnosed and die from cancer at higher rates than men of other ethnicities. Among women, white women have the highest rates of getting cancer, but black women have the highest rates of dying from cancer.
  • Prostate cancer is more common in black men. It tends to start at younger ages and grow faster than in men of other ethnic groups.

Obesity, Nutrition, and Physical Activity

  • Blacks are nearly 1.5 times as likely to have obesity as compared to non-Hispanic Whites.
  • From 2011-2014, the prevalence of obesity among Blacks was 48% compared to 35% of non-Hispanic Whites.
  • Black Americans eat fewer vegetables than other ethnic groups but eat similar amounts of fruit as non-Hispanic Whites.

What You Can Do for Your Health

  • Eat a healthy diet with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products. Choose foods low in saturated fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars.
  • Exercise regularly. Adults needs 2 hours and 30 minutes (or 150 minutes total) of exercise each week. You can spread your activity out during the week, and can break it up into smaller chunks of time during the day, depending on what your schedule will allow.
  • Be Smoke-free and limit alcohol use as both can lead to long-term health problems.
Our newer kickboxing class has been growing in popularity and is a great way to get an hour of cardio every week!

I have been working at the Manassas Park Community Center for several years, and know that the entire staff here wants to help all individuals, regardless of ethnicity, religion, or gender accomplish their fitness goals. We have a variety of diverse programs at the Community Center to help you get into the best shape of your life.

We also feature several recreational education classes to help stimulate your mind. These classes include: nutrition, money management, college prep, and entrepreneurship. Physical and mental fitness is extremely important and should be taken seriously. Regardless of our background, we all want the same thing, which is to be happy and healthy. Our goal at Parks and Recreation is to offer you solutions to achieve your fitness goals. We are all here to help you maintain and set new goals once you have reached your initial goal.

If you are currently a regular member or patron, keep up the great work! If you are not yet a patron, then I encourage you to stop by for a tour, sign up for a class, and experience the wonderful variety of options that the Manassas Park Community Center can offer you and your family.

Tony Thomas is the Recreation Services Supervisor for the City of Manassas Park, Department of Parks and Recreation. He can be reached at 703-335-8872 or via email at T.Thomas@ManassasParkVA.gov.

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