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Terrie Williams gets ‘Happy’ at the Schomburg

Demetria Irwin | 3/20/2014, 3:26 p.m.
The event ended with a fittingly “Happy” onstage dance party.

Public relations pro and mental health activist Terrie Williams launched her New Legacy Leaders Project (NLLP) at a Schomburg event in Harlem last week. The new project aims to go beyond just mental health and encourage a broader approach to healthy living that also includes physical fitness and financial security.

For the launch event, the cofounder of the NLLP, writer and actress Madeline McCray, performed her one-woman play “A Dream to Fly,” about the story of Bessie Coleman. The first Black woman pilot in the world has a very interesting story and McCray’s one-hour performance took the audience from Coleman’s humble Texas beginnings and her Chicago adventures to her sky-high accomplishments in France and her untimely death in Florida. The moral of the story definitely seemed to be about the audacity and strength of the human spirit.

After the play, which garnered a standing ovation from the audience, Williams and McCray sat down for a panel discussion about mental and physical health. They were joined by Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee (voted “Greatest Female Athlete of the 20th Century” by Sports Illustrated) and McCray’s son Terahshea McCray, a fitness and nutrition expert.

Joyner-Kersee disclosed that she was diagnosed as asthmatic when she was a freshman in college, meaning that she earned her five Olympic medals (three gold, two bronze, one silver) in track and field events while she endured a significant health issue. On top of that, Joyner-Kersee’s mother passed away while she was in her first year at the University of California, Los Angeles. She had to overcome several physical and emotional issues to become the sports legend we know today.

“I’m thrilled to be a part of the NLLP launch. The project focus encourages people from all walks of life to recognize the connection between achieving one’s dreams and investing in your health,” said Joyner-Kersee of her involvement with the program.

Williams made a poignant comment during the discussion. She said, “The only way to be safe is to belong to the future.” That means taking care of your entire being so that you are present in the future. Several audience members commented and asked questions, and one recurring theme was the frail physical health of the Black community and the stigma and/or lack of wherewithal when it comes to addressing mental health.

Numerous people pointed to different fitness and nutrition programs offered at the Harlem YMCA, and a HealthFirst executive was in attendance to listen to people’s issues and to inform the community of health care options. Joyner-Kersee noted the importance of keeping a journal with which to track diet and fitness. Terahshea McCray also suggested going hi-tech with a Nike+ FuelBand, Fitbit or some other wearable technology that will log physical activity.

Fittingly, Williams ended the evening by inviting everyone onstage to dance to Pharrell’s hit song “Happy.”

Find out more about NLLP at www.newlegacyleaders.com.