Community Voices

Walk a Mile With a Child health fair in Overtown seeks to prevent childhood obesity

Dr. Nelson L. Adams, M.D., center front, at the Walk a Mile with a Child health fair in Miami’s Overtown.
Dr. Nelson L. Adams, M.D., center front, at the Walk a Mile with a Child health fair in Miami’s Overtown. Photo provided to the Miami Herald

Imagine just eating healthy food at the park!

Fresh fruits including oranges, pineapples, coconuts, along with yogurt and water, were favorites at the 11th annual Dr. Nelson L. Adams’ Walk a Mile With a Child health fair, according to Dr. Cheryl Holder, a physician and associate professor at Florida International University’s Wertheim College of Medicine.

The health fair, sponsored by the James Wilson Bridges Medical Society and Sunshine Health in partnership with the Southeast Overtown Park West Community Redevelopment Agency, is designed to help prevent childhood obesity.

“The alarming rate rate of obesity in our children compels us to act now," said Holder, past president of the James Wilson Bridges Medical Society (JWBMS). "We must help to prevent the next generation from suffering and succumbing from diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and other obesity related illnesses.”

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Dorothy Jenkins Fields

The health fair was held 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, May 5, at Gibson Park, 401 NW 12th St. in Historic Overtown. Named for Civil Rights leader and Episcopal priest the late Rev. Theodore R. Gibson, the park is one of the many landmarks included in the neighborhood tour. The group, composed of about 100 adults and youth, walked in historic Overtown to music by the Booker T. Washington high School band and spirited cheerleaders. Following the walk, the group returned to Gibson Park for games, screenings, refreshments and fitness demonstrations.

Walk a Mile With a Child, the signature program of JWBMS, was was launched in 2007 after Dr. Adams was sworn in as president at the 112-year-old National Medical Association during the annual convention and scientific assembly in Honolulu. Since then, each NMA national convention begins with the walk reminding members of the need to increase awareness of childhood obesity and emphasize health education in communities throughout the nation.

A native Miamian, Adams was born in Overtown, attended Dunbar Elementary School and graduated from Miami Jackson Senior High, Howard University, and Meharry Medical College. He completed his internship and residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Emory University in Atlanta.

Growing up in Miami in the 1960s, Adams said there were at least 12 black medical doctors located within the one mile walk included in the current tour. Adams was mentored by some of the pioneer medical doctors whose offices were located on the route including the late Dr. Clarence Smith, Sr., Dr. Edwin Shirley, Dr. Aubrey Henry, Dr. J. O. Brown and Dr. William A. Patterson.

Adams continues to keep in touch with Dr. Dazelle Simpson, Dr. George Simpson and Dr. James Wilson Bridges.

Dr. James Wilson Bridges, one of the first African-American obstetrician-gynecologists to set up practice in Miami, holds one of many plaques of recognition in his Miami home in 2016. Marsha Halper Miami Herald File

Adams also had personal contact with notables including civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., world boxing champion Muhammad Ali and entertainers vacationing in Overtown. Adams shared first-hand stories from his experiences as the group walked past familiar landmarks.

Within the mile are memories of sites of former offices of physicians, dentists, pharmacies, grocery stores, fish markets, travel agency, funeral homes, hotels, restaurants, an insurance company, churches and theaters. Most of the early buildings and businesses no longer exist.

At a remaining site, the historic Lyric Theater (The Black Archives Cultural Arts Complex-BAHLT), there is currently an exhibit of blacks in medicine and health in celebration of Jackson Memorial Hospital’s 100th anniversary.

The exhibition was designed and installed by Timothy A. Barber, executive director of BAHLT. He is a graduate of Miami Central High School and Florida A&M University.

Titled, “The Evolution of Black Health Care in Miami-Dade County from 1896-2018 in parallel with Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Evolution” it is striking in composition and detail. The well-placed reproduced news articles, historical documents and artifacts define health and medicine for black people in South Florida during the first half of the 20th century and highlights recent accomplishments. While viewing the arrangement, a continuous pulsing heartbeat can be heard that brings the exhibit to life.

The exhibition’s timeline, originally researched by Dr. George Simpson, summaries the evolution of the Colored (Black) healthcare community from 1896 to 2018, along with the evolution of Jackson Memorial Hospital. Key events, occurrences and firsts are shown. Simpson’s findings were previously published in Miami Medicine, the official publication of the Dade County Medical Association.

For the first 60 to 70 years, the timeline focuses on the first known midwife, physician, nurse, dentist, pharmacist, and Christian hospital in Overtown, Coconut Grove, Liberty City. The last 50 years, the focus is on the first black accomplishments at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

The exhibition is open to the public 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays through June 29. Admission is free at The Black Archives Historic Lyric Theater Cultural Arts Complex, 819 NW Second Ave. Individuals, families, churches, camps, seniors, Vacation Bible School, Sunday School, civic and social groups are welcome.

Upon entering, sign in and request a free exhibition booklet at the welcome desk.

Sponsored by Jackson Health System, information and material for the exhibition has been donated by the public including photographs, articles, obituaries, church programs, family albums, documents. Anyone interested in donating to the collection should contact the archivist: email or leave a message at 786-708-4610.

Beyond this year’s “Walk a Mile With a Child” Health Fair and the medical exhibit, other activities are available to parents, guardians and committees planning for the 2018-19 school year. Contact JWBMS at for updates and information regarding scholarships for premedical and medical students in South Florida.

STEM Saturday

Youth can enjoy fun, hands-on activities with FIU undergraduate and medical students September through May at the Neighborhood HELP Education and Pipeline Program for ages 5 to 15. Program activities throughout Miami-Dade County have included making ice cream, dissecting an eyeball, playing with slime, playing with circuits, dissecting a kidney, dissecting a shark and dissecting a heart.

For details of upcoming activities, contact

Dorothy Jenkins Fields, Ph.D., is a historian and founder of the Black Archives, History & Research Foundation of South Florida. Send feedback to