KICK Health Expo Discussions Go Beyond The Basics

Kezia Curtis of Feedom Freedom, an urban farm near Jefferson and Manistique in Detroit, talked about food justice and the barriers some have to getting good meals as part of a day-long series of topics on health presented by KICK. BTL photo: Crystal Proxmire

DETROIT - When Alfredo Smith of AIDS Partnership Michigan laid down the rules of his sexual health discussion at the Nov. 16 KICK Health and Wellness Expo, no one really expected "Don't yuck my yum" to apply.
He clarified the need to avoid making negative comments and faces, and to temper any discomfort for the sake of learning and discussion. And though there was a room full of adults, there was still plenty of squirming and giggling. But there was also an open excitement and curiosity as participants talked about issues rarely discussed at all, let alone in a public setting in mixed company.
While most presentations on sexual health tend to focus on the importance of STD prevention, Smith took time to engage the audience in a holistic view of the many ways bodies and minds are connected to sexual selves.
Other concerns were over mental and social sexual health, how a healthy body can improve sexual performance, and how to have the hard conversation in asking a potential partner about their past. The conversations engaged folks regardless of their gender. "It's important to know about men and women's parts. You never know when you're going to have these conversations," Smith said. He also stressed the ability of knowledge and good discussion in helping counter myths and pop culture expectations of gender and sex.
"I grew up watching the L Word," said one of the discussion participants. "I thought this is how lesbians should be. It's so sexualized. And as I'm older I realize we don't have as much sex. Women like to cuddle, and do stuff together. It's not just about sex."
The day-long expo featured discussions on a variety of other health topics, including a celebration of the ongoing health-focused programming at KICK throughout the year.
Rhiannon Chester facilitates the Talk Tuesdays program at KICK, where people gather to discuss a variety of topics each week. Among the recent discussions was a visit from Dr. Ravi Perry from the University of Mississippi, who talked about navigating personal spaces and looking at circles of influence, and Healthy Outing which looked at ways to be "out" and true to one 's self.
The Talk Tuesday for the recent election day focused on politics and policies. "We talked about how politicians don't do what we want, but we also talked about how people can hold them accountable. Most people don't think about how we pay their paychecks out of our taxes," Chester said.
Another KICK program with a health focus is the Woman2Woman group for lesbian and bi-attractional women of color. Tashi Kali Acket shared successes from that group. "We did a Poetry on the River outing and the women were happy to feel safe. This was on the river in a tent, and many said they would come to other events outside of the center as long as they felt safe."
Other Women2Women discussions have included Getting Priorities Right, Being Transgender, and What If? "We continue to see a sense of womanhood brewing," Acket said.
Physical health was also an important part of the day. On hand were groups doing hepatitis B and C screenings, syphilis screenings, blood pressure and glucose screenings and testing for HIV. Terrell Thomas of The Thomas Group led a calisthenics activity session and a healthy breakfast and lunch were served.

Food Justice

Kezia Curtis of Feedom Freedom, an urban farm near Jefferson and Manistique in Detroit, talked about food justice and the barriers some have to getting good meals. Her parents started the urban garden four seasons ago, and they work to teach others about farming and a love of natural foods.
"At first I did not think it was a good idea. There were bugs and dirt, and bugs. But I developed a healthy relationship with the earth and with food. After the second season I considered myself a farmer," she said.
Curtis facilitated a brainstorming session where participants considered obstacles to healthy eating. Among the barriers are transportation issues, lack of grocery stores in urban areas, people not knowing how to cook, lack of access to the internet to get information they need, and costs.
Urban gardens like Feedom Freedom offer inner-city families healthy options and empower them to grow food in their own homes or yards. Curtis suggested that people find community gardens in their neighborhoods and connect with the people who run them if possible. More on Feedom Freedom can be found at
And while healthy bodies are important, there is also a connection between physical health and spiritual health. Makini Acket of Cultural Roots Art Camp spoke about the importance of finding inner peace and connection with the universe. Acket spoke about Buddhism, pointing out that it is a philosophy and that it pairs well with religions including Christianity and Muslim faiths.
"The ailing mind brings the ailing body," she said. "It is crucial that we get to the point where we know ourselves and get rid of the delusion of the mind."
Acket recommends chanting over simply thinking positively. "Chanting helps us reveal our Buddha nature. The vibrations of sound connect our lives to the fundamental rhythm of the universe.
Acket has been practicing Buddhist philosophy for 37 years. She leads a meeting of 50-60 women each week at her home in Detroit where they meditate, congregate, break bread and share in the spirit of community that nourishes their souls. Her organization Cultural Arts Roots Camp engages youth in creation and expression. Find out more at
For more about KICK, check out their website at


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