SIUE makes fitness the focus of Black Heritage Month Health Awareness Fair

Trenton Banks, a sophomore majoring in computer management information systems at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville,  and Kamaron Williams, a freshman business major, enjoyed strength training at the SIUE Health Awareness Fair on Monday, February 11. “More of us should take diabetes more seriously and encourage one another to get and keep active,” Banks said

As motivation for African Americans to engage in good health choices, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s Goshen Lounge was transformed into an informational and recreational area, complete with yoga, double-dutch and strength training exercises, on Monday, February 11. 

“We are also calling it our Health is Wealth Fair,” said Kimberly Pope, graduate assistant for the SIUE Campus Activity Board’s Black Heritage Month committee. 

“You don’t have anything if you don’t have good health. We worked with SIUE’s Student Nurse Achievement Program to bring awareness of different diseases that impact the African-American community, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and lupus.” 

Trenton Banks, a sophomore majoring in computer management information systems, said his grandmother has diabetes. “I hope I don’t get it,” said Banks. “I play a lot basketball, and I stay active.” 

That is a prescription for African Americans as it relates to diabetes.

“More of us should take diabetes more seriously and encourage one another to get and keep active,” Banks said.    

Ashley Hawkins, a sophomore majoring in mechanical engineering, wants to spread awareness about lupus. 

“I was diagnosed with lupus at age 16,” said the 27-year-old Chicago native, who volunteers with the Lupus Foundation of America, Heartland Chapter. “I started having headaches. I stopped eating, and I couldn’t sit in a lighted room without my head hurting.” 

After a number of medical tests, Hawkins received a lupus diagnosis. She was initially given the following instructions: no more sports, no college outside of Chicago, no children. 

This is Hawkins’ second time enrolling at SIUE. She is the mother of two children: Kaleb, 6, and Aniah, 8. Both children were born with medical complications that were corrected. 

“It’s been a long, hard road,” Hawkins said. “I do have kidney disease, but they told me that I would have major problems with my kidneys when I was 16. But I keep going. I manage my meds, get rest and listen to my body.”

Early detection is key, she said.

“It’s important for African Americans to learn more about this disease,” Hawkins said. “Someone could be walking around with lupus and not know it. You do not want to find out about the disease at the last minute. You want to catch it early, like I did.” 

“Lupus will not define me,” added Hawkins. “I expect to live to see my great grandchildren.” 

For information on upcoming SIUE Black Heritage Month events, visit

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