Southside Spring Fest offers chance for health and wellness outreach, and to have fun while doing it

What's more important than our health? Without an able body, life just isn't as enjoyable as it could be. We all enjoy having fun, and performing our daily tasks without incident. So, it’s important that we keep ourselves healthy, visit our doctor regularly, and monitor any pre-existing illnesses or conditions. In the city of Port Huron, health officials and community leaders are ready to combine health and fun in a one-day event located on the city’s south side.

The Southside Spring Fest is planned for Saturday, April 23, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 3111 Electric Ave. in Port Huron.

The COVID-19 pandemic, I’m sure it’s still fresh in all of our minds: months of inactivity, locked in our homes, and hoping that our family and friends made it through unscathed. If nothing else, the pandemic taught us how to quickly pivot and maintain our way of life the best way we could.

Throughout the pandemic, it’s been documented that many in the African American community were not receiving vaccinations at the same rate as their European American counterparts. According to an early poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, it was found that African Americans were more hesitant than any other ethnic group.

One of the causes for the hesitancy displayed by African Americans is thought to be centered around the mistrust of government due to incidents such as the Tuskegee Experiment, a case in which the U.S. government injected African American males with syphilis and pretended to treat them, while in actuality monitoring the effects of the disease after prolonged exposure. The experiment lasted from 1932 until 1972. 

Community organizing

Kim Brown, director of S.C.O.R.E, had questions as to why African Americans are not receiving the same care when it came to COVID-19 vaccinations, and other forms of health care in the community.

“The St. Clair County Health Department is right in our community, but it seems like in terms of getting information out, hiring practices, and community engagement on the south side of town, it appears that minorities were being neglected. So, I just wanted to have a conversation about how maybe we could help improve these areas,” Brown says. “Was there a need for resources or information that just wasn't getting to the community? Was it insurance or other financial issues involved? These are the things that were brought up and discussed.”

From those conversations a committee was formed, made up of community leaders, organizers, health dept officials, as well as everyday citizens. The NSBCC is an acronym highlighting the organizations involved, which include the local Port Huron Branch of the N.A.A.C.P., S.C.O.R.E., Black Lives Matter, and the Community Committee.

From these proceedings, the committee settled on having an outdoor event that will mix fun and entertainment with education and awareness. Doing so will hopefully draw in members of the southside community to address the issue and start working toward a better community relationship, with representation, on behalf of the St. Clair County Health Department. 

An event of this scale has to have numerous organizations, volunteers, and resources working together for a common goal. Gathering the individuals and putting the ideas together was the easy part. Financing was the biggest issue standing in the way of ideas becoming a reality.

One of the sponsors that helped out was the Blue Water Area Chamber of Commerce.

“Here we are just a small group from the local community trying to figure out how we can come up with enough capital to make it all happen. The health department had barriers involving funding for such a large event so we were reaching out to see who would be interested in participating in an event like this,” says Brown. “One of the first organizations to help came from Thelma Castillo, president of the Blue Water Chamber. We also are partnered with St. Clair County Community Mental Health, Eastern Michigan Food Bank, the YMCA, the Community Foundation of St. Clair County, and many others.”

Alphonso Amos, chairperson for Black Lives Matter Port Huron, will be helping to coordinate the event as well as providing the community with resources such as mental health awareness and other health-related topics.

“Some of the topics we will be dealing with will focus on things like health equity, education equity, and voter education. I will also be working with the performers and presenters who will be making stage appearances and any other areas where I and we can fit in,” he says.

Something for everybody

So, now that we know the who, the what, and the how, Let's talk about what will be going on at the Southside Spring Fest.

“The purpose of this event is to educate the community, specifically those in the minority, on the resources available for physical, mental, and emotional health. It also will provide screenings for certain illnesses and health issues such as diabetes, blood pressure, vision, hearing, and dental. Of course COVID-19 vaccinations and education will be presented as well,” says Amos. 

Although it is a serious matter, there will also be plenty of fun to be had by all.

“We tried to make this event full of something for everyone. It’s a family event, so we have something for the little kids as well as the big ones. We will have live music entertainment, there will be a magician there, games, activities. We will be giving away prizes every half hour, free food provided for attendees, cooking demos and more,” Amos says. “There's definitely going to be something at this event for people of all ages and we are excited to be able to provide the community with something that gives us all something to celebrate and enjoy: a healthy life.”