Pastor pushes residents to exercise rights

African American Wellness Walk partnered with census

YOUNGSTOWN — The Rev. Lewis W. Macklin II said he was pleased to see more Mahoning Valley residents stepping up to exercise their bodies and rights.

“I want to make sure we’re counted, healthy and involved,” said Macklin, pastor of Holy Trinity Missionary Baptist Church in Youngstown and a longtime community activist.

The pastor was referring to having led the annual African American Wellness Walk virtually, because of the pandemic, which preceded a Census 2020 mobile questionnaire assistance event Saturday in Wick Park on the North Side.

Hosting the gathering, which also included a voter registration drive, were the Youngstown Parks & Recreation Department and Divine Nine, a group of nine traditionally black Greek letter fraternities and sororities. Five of them were established at Howard University, a private, federally chartered and historically black university in Washington, D.C.

Census employees were not given clearance to speak to the media.

It’s vital that people vote in the Nov. 3 general election and beyond, practice healthful lifestyle habits, get tested for their general well-being and participate in the census. It’s also incumbent upon them to encourage others to follow suit, Macklin said.

Doing so takes on added urgency, because many people have a general mistrust of government, coupled with a cynicism that their census responses and votes don’t matter anyway, he added. Enlightening and educating such people can help them “understand they can make a difference,” Macklin continued.

Jerome Parm, president of Kappa Alpha Psi’s Youngstown alumni chapter, noted his organization is connected with voter registration and census efforts.

“It’s very important to our community, with its needs for social services,” he explained. “When it comes to voting, it’s a right for every citizen to vote.”

Parm added that the local Kappa Alpha Psi chapter also has partnered with the Ohio Unity Coalition, the national Unity Voter Empowerment Campaign’s state affiliate. The OUC works with numerous other entities to ensure black voters are prepared for elections, its website states.

Specifically, the fraternity has been calling and working with those who had been dropped from the voting rolls and launching an effort to contact people statewide to get them to the polls, said Parm, who noted that the Mahoning Valley is behind in the 2020 census count.

“As a fraternity, we’re definitely engaged in both of these: voting and census,” he continued. “This is our mission at this time.”

Parm also noted that citizens can respond to the 2020 census via their iPhones by texting 313131. That will take them to a link to answer the questions.

In addition, area churches must continue to get the word out to their parishioners about the importance of casting their votes — a move that can improve the communities’ quality of life, Nate Thompson, the local Kappa Alpha Psi’s records keeper, said.

The registration deadline in Ohio for the Nov. 3 general election is Oct. 5; in-person absentee voting begins Oct. 6, according to www.vote.org.

Dawn Turnage, the Parks and Recreation Department’s director, noted that Saturday’s gathering was a community-outreach collaboration among Divine Nine, census officials and health advocates. Answering census questions usually takes no more than 10 minutes, she said.

Macklin explained that the wellness walk was conducted virtually largely by encouraging participants to walk through their neighborhoods, regardless of any distance limitations, as a means to promote greater health.

“It’s all the right reasons and all the right stuff to build a healthy community,” he added.



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