The purpose is to provide everyone in attendance with a greater sense of self-worth, personal confidence and service to the city of Cleveland and Bradley County.
It is with those things in mind that local professionals are coalescing into a “Community of 1.” The theme of the conference is “Getting Things Started.”
Just to help get things started, Food Network celebrity chef Jenard Wells of Chattanooga Wing Co. will be the featured food vendor. There will be a free giveaway of a 32-inch flat-screen TV.
Conference organizer Solomon Williams said the giveaways will be given only to those present throughout the entire conference.
Speakers include Kelly Runyons, Staff Management; coach Frank Walker, Tennessee Christian Preparatory School; Quantal Langford, Langford Design; Del Baker, former Cleveland High School Basketball All-American; Shaun Cox, Golden Orchid Photography; Michelle Styles, Overcoming Faith Christian Center; Tiffany “Tipp” Wood, Omega Salon; Danielle Farrell, Raw Art & Dance Studio; and gospel recording artist Ashlyn Prather.
Reggie Parker, a former Marine drill instructor returned to Cleveland where he is a Christian, husband, father, college student, fitness trainer for his own company, Team Tiger Fit. He volunteers time to help make his hometown a better place to live.
He is a “Community of 1” committee member and a featured conference speaker.
His role is to talk about physical fitness and its relation to mental fitness.
“Physical fitness is a great part of mental health — it’s a huge part, because if you are physically fit and you work at it, you are going to feel more confident about yourself because you know that you can do it,” he said.
“If you set a goal and accomplish that goal, you feel better about yourself and it’s going to show in everyday life. It’s going to show in your relationships. It’s going to show at work and when that happens, you feel better longer and there is a greater chance you are going to live longer.”
One of the things he will speak about is that September is National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.
“Black men are prone to have prostate cancer and it kills a lot of men,” he said in a Sept. 3 interview in the senior center. All of the deaths are unfortunate, but some are untimely because in this culture, “men do not go to the doctor. Without women, men would not survive in this world because we would not make it to the doctor. A lot of times, we do not take it upon ourselves to put us in a better situation to provide for our families.”
Men work and find ways to make money; however, “What good are we if our health is not there? If the man is healthy, then more than likely, his home is going to be healthy. His wife will be healthy. His children are going to be healthy. They are going to follow what they see and what a man’s children see is what they are going to be.”
He agreed with Tiffany Wood, owner and stylist of The Omega Salon, the subject of a third story later this week. She said parents teach children through body language without ever saying a word.
“You don’t have to say one word. It’s just body language, body actions. Body language speaks volumes,” Parker said. “As a fitness instructor, I want your body language to speak volumes. I want it to say I care about my body. I care about the body I was blessed with.”
He said obesity is epidemic, but it is an epidemic of choice. Obesity is not hereditary. People choose to eat and people choose not to eat. It is a choice to workout or not workout just as it is a choice to put on a particular shirt or blouse in the morning.
“No one made you do what you did, you decided. What is happening in our society today is men are not on the forefront,” he said.
That statement is glaring at his boot camp-style fitness workout in a small area in Benny Monroe Stadium at Cleveland High School, which is for public use.
Of the 11 students, two were men: Demetrius Ramsey, executive director of Cleveland Bradley Services Agency; and Cleveland Police Officer Richie Tanksley, who was there with his 10-year-old son, Heath.
Tanskley, 38, is a school resource officer at Arnold Memorial Elementary School. He works out at the Cleveland Family YMCA every morning to stay in shape for his job, but the evening workout is a father-son activity.
“He likes working out and I like to get him out of the house and stop playing video games. This is a real good activity he can do and stay in shape with me,” Tanksley said.
But, Parker said, most men are not like Tanksley. Most men choose not to train because they played football or wrestled and believe they know what to do.
“But that’s not the truth,” he said. “Guys can use as much help as women. When you look at athletes on television, they all have some type of trainer. Guys who live a normal life like you and I tend to not train.”
Obesity, he said, was not a problem in the 1950s and 1960s. Men went to work and men took care of their homes. Young children went outside to play or they worked. They were healthy children.
“Look at society. If you are drinking a soda, you are doing the right thing. If you are eating at a fast food restaurant, you are doing the right thing versus drinking water or eating healthy foods,” he said.
“Someone once said to me that if your grandmother does not look at something as food, then you should not eat it. Grandmother would not go to one of these fast food restaurants and buy food that is not real, it’s imitation. Grandmother grew her food.”
Men, especially black men, need to take care of their bodies and take care of their health so their children are wise, “our cities will grow and prosper. If a 13-year-old boy is playing basketball with his buddies and a 35-year-old man walks into the gym with his pants sagging, what do you think that 13-year-old kid is going to do?” he asked.
Or, he continued, if that man is obese, what is the kid going to think about?
“We need to feel better about ourselves. I believe the best way to do that is through health and wellness by educating our mind, nutrition, going to the doctor and getting a regular checkup.”
Melinda Nicodemus, 36, is a wife, mother of three children and professional photographer. Sixteen years ago, she intended to join the Marine Corps and was in shape for that. Instead, she got married and has had three children since then and no fitness — at all.
Her husband, Paul, encourages her and helps facilitate her journey toward physical fitness. He kept two of the children with him that evening while she took the third with her.
“Our kids are involved in football, track and cross-country. They’re just involved in a lot of stuff and he never complains at all about me coming to do anything and having someone to support you is key,” she said.
She said Parker held morning sessions only, but added the evening workout in June.
“I’ve been coming since the beginning,” she said.
She had been working out on her own for about a year, just to get into better shape and to get down to her goal weight. While she has not lost much weight, she is down two pant sizes and lost 5 inches from her waist and sees better muscle tone.
“I had health issues that made me gain some weight and that’s what made me decide originally to start working out, just to get control of that before it got out of control,” she said. “I feel 100 times better. I can keep up with my kids now.”
Earlier that day, she and her daughter went for a walk while he son practiced cross-country running. That, she said, was something she would have struggled to do before June.
She heard about Parker’s boot camp and decided to try it, “to push me a little bit harder and have more one-one-one attention. He’s great. Anyone at any level can workout with him. You don’t all have to be at the same level, which I really like.”
Nicodemus said that as long as Parker holds workout classes, she would attend. The term “boot camp” is misleading, she said.
It is more like a group exercise class. She likes the atmosphere and the friendships that have developed.
“I like that he is very supportive and patient without yelling and being mean like a drill sergeant,” she said. “It’s really fun and I really enjoy it. He helps with form and he has never made me cry, which is huge.