2018 AKA Walk It Out Fair
Walking the Walk
Noel Niles, the AKA Walk It Out chair (l-r) and Nichelle Nichols, the
president of the Epsilon DeltaChapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority
By Jonathan Gramling

For the 11th year, the Epsilon Delta Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority will be
hosting Walk It Out on July 28th at the Warner Park Community Center. This morning
exercise and walking program creates a sense of community that focuses on health.

Now the AKAs have been preaching health for a number of years now, talking the talk,
but it is also evident that the sorority members — or at least a good number of them —
are also walking the walk, making exercise an important part of their daily routine.

“Focusing on my health over the past 2-3 years has made a huge difference in my life,”
said Nichelle Nichols, president of the Epsilon Delta chapter. “First of all, I have found
that I’ve been reminded how much I enjoy exercising. It’s a great stress reliever. It is
like me and my time with the ear buds in playing and listening to my favorite music,
singing and being in my own world. It’s super relieving of just stress and all of the stuff
that you carry throughout the day. Or when I’m in my WERQ class, what I love is the
community of other folks who you get to know in the class and you’ve got your little spot
in the gym and you are showing out. It’s very encouraging. It’s also been great to have
increased cardio endurance. Sometimes when you haven’t been working out, you’ll find
yourself winded just going up some stairs or doing something that just doesn’t seem to
be physically challenging. But when you are working out and your body starts to adjust,
you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, I actually have more endurance. I actually feel like I have more energy. That’s been great. And then me getting off some of the weight over
the last year, has really been focused on looking at factors of heart disease and really thinking about the ways I can minimize some of those risks as I am getting
older. Working out is one part, but also trying to manage your weight is another important heart-healthy thing to do.”

Noel Niles, the chair for this year’s Walk It Out, has a different kind of exercise routine.

“My health centers around the goals that I have in terms of my passion,” Niles said. “I’m actually an equestrian. I get up at 5 a.m. every morning six days per week
and I hit the gym trying to build muscle to be competitive in that sport. After work, I go out 4-5 days per week and ride. It’s pretty intense. I’m working on it. It’s been a
new routine since January. We’ll see how the year plays out. So far, so good. The energy high coming off of working out is something that people can fall in love with
once you build the habit. But it takes a lot of effort to build that habit. Hopefully Walk It Out will open that door for a few people.”

And the AKAs must be doing something right for one of their members just hit an important milestone in her life.

“Dr. Fannie Frazier Hicklin will be 100-years-old,” Nichols said. “Dr. Hicklin actually received an award at our international conference. She got the Lorraine Greene
Award for a sorority member who has put in 75 years or more of service. It’s really significant. She was up on stage at the public meeting in Houston. It was
phenomenal for her to get recognized. There were lots of folks standing and cheering for her. She was like a celebrity down there. She has a Shorewood Hills
resolution. And she will be in Macon, Georgia for her 100th birthday. She has a celebration down there.”

And while things are looking pretty healthy for the AKAs and Walk It Out, the sorority was devastated by the news that one of their main collaborators, Chef Rod
Ladson has died of a massive heart attack on July 13th. Ladson, who changed his ways after a diabetic crisis in 2010, gave a healthy cooking class under the
auspices of 100 Black Men at Walk It Out.

“We’re devastated,” Nichols said. “I went to his service today. And you could tell just by the reflections today at the service, the same way we felt about Rod, lots of
people felt about Rod. He has just the most generous spirit and positive attitude. He made everyone he worked with feel so cared for and touched. You got the best
of him. And particularly at Walk It Out, he has been just an amazing partner. He has bought the food. He has created all of the recipes. He’s done the demo. He’s
answered questions on the spot. The crowd loved him. They loved learning from him. He was always so authentic about his own health journey and really wanted
people to still enjoy food, but to carve off some of the things that plague folks in terms of disease and illness, particularly in the Black community. And he was so
passionate about that. It’s a huge loss, just for our community overall, but specifically for our two events. He’s been an amazing man to work with, so we are really
sad. He is definitely irreplaceable.”

While Ladson will be remembered in a special way at the Walk It Out event, there are no plans to substitute someone else to take over his healthy cooking class.

“I would think that Rod would want us to continue on,” Nichols said. “I think he always loved the idea of Walk It Out. He loved that we were bringing community out
to walk, to run, to work out, to learn more about health. He was a proud partner in that way because he knew that it gave him an audience to also talk about
something that he was really passionate about. So I know that he would want us to go on with this. Just thinking about how to go on and honor him this year is really
important because he has just been a major partner in this event.”

Walk It out begins with registration at 8:45 a.m. on July 28th.  

“We’re grateful to have GHC back as a partner again this year and Aaron Perry with Black Men Run,” Niles said. “We’re looking to having both of them with us.
Aaron will lead the run after we have a fun warm-up with Soror Althea Miller and then our sorority members will lead the walk with our Walk Champion, Dr. Jasmine
Zapata. We’re looking forward to having her as a new partner with us this year. Some of our former walk champions will be with us as table hosts to share other
ways that we can stay healthy and active in the community including Lisa Peyton-Caire. She will be representing Black Women’s Wellness Day as well.”

When people register, they should head straight to the GHC massage area — massages and reflexology that are to die for — to reserve a spot.

“The reflexology and the message definitely fill up,” Niles said. “So right as soon as you register for the day, you can sign up for those. Make sure that you claim your
spot.”

After the walk, people can choose to do a WERQ workout or join in on a discussion on a mental health topic led by NAMI.

“We’ve done WERQ for the last 2-3 years,” Nichols said. “It takes the place of Zumba, which is similar to WERQ. It’s a dance-cardio workout. It’s just that the playlist
is different Zumba will pull more from Latin American songs while WERQ is more mainstream hip hop and pop songs. So depending on the WERQ instructor, they
may pull more from one genre or another. But they are usually family-friendly,
radio-mainstream songs.  Everyone should adjust their pace when they are
working out based on what their bodies are telling them they can handle. Any
fitness instructor is going to encourage you to slow down, modify the movement
or stop and drink water. We don’t want anyone falling out. We want everyone
doing it at their own level.”

And then near the conclusion of Walk It Out, everyone will come together for the
closing session.

“We will be doing door prizes again this year,” Niles said. “We have a number of
partnerships in the community. We have some healthy cookbooks. We have some
yoga classes. We have a gym membership for 30 days. There are some really
great prizes that have been offered up by the community that we are excited to
help people on their health journey.”

So come on out for the AKA Walk It Out event on July 28th. It’s a great way to start
a summer Saturday morning in community, working on health together in an
environment of support. Try it, you’ll like it!