Last week I week I traveled to Tuskegee, Alabama for a site visit with one of the field researchers connected with the divinity school’s study of wellness and wellbeing practices of African American church congregations. Our site researcher, Dr. Wylin Wilson, of the Tuskegee Bioethics Center, reported on two projects that caught my attention, a diabetes support group operating in 27 local churches and a new project, Emotional Emancipation Circles, that directs attention to mental and emotional well being and encourages African American families to embrace practices that nurture and support emotional healing. Dr.Wilson is conducting interviews with participants in these groups as part of our efforts to identify and document effective practices contributing to the spiritual, physical, emotional, psychological and economic well being of congregants and communities. Tuskegee is an economically depressed rural area with boarded up store fronts in the “downtown” area. It is an official “food desert,” with not much to offer in the way of fresh fruit and produce, but it is open country land. However, I saw a glimmer of hope. In one of the few restaurants in town, Tiger Pause, I had the best veggie burger ever! Imagine that! I also learned that one of the churches participating in our study has a community garden that has become quite popular, especially with those who love fresh collard greens. I left Tuskegee feeling inspired and thinking about the importance of engaged scholarship, and translational research. What started as Dean Alton Pollard’s idea for a grant proposal to study effective practices in African American congregational life is quickly becoming a model of engaged scholarship and translational research, an example of Howard University fulfilling its mission of discovering solutions to human problems.
Velma E. Love, PhD
HUSD Visiting Scholar & Project Director