On Thursday June 7, a cross-sector group gathered at Top Notch Boxing in Louisville for AHA! Moments: Mind/Body Health as part of the Year of Arts, HeALIng & Action! The #YearofAHA was born out of a collaboration between IDEAS xLab, the Muhammad Ali Center, and the Louisville Health Advisory Board (LHAB) to engage Louisvillians around creative approaches to improve social, mind/body, environmental, and economic health through lightning talks, art+health activities and arts/culture performances.

The June event, facilitated with strong leadership from the Louisville Sports Commission, featured lightning talks from Carlos Rivas (ProFormance Health & Wellness), Dr. Val Slayton (Humana and LHAB Behavioral Health committee), Herb Henry (former University of Louisville football star; Competitor's Edge Sports Apparel) and Montre Davis of Linkin' Bridge, along with an arts and cultural performance demonstration by David Thurman of Developing Excellence Together. From the ring, each speaker delivered a unique yet complementary message about mind and body, our ability to take action, and inspiring others to improve our community's health.

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Carlos Rivas opened the event with a focus on two words: “I am.” Two words with the power to attribute anything that follows to ourselves; yet, every morning most people say “I am tired.” That, Carlos explained, gives us a negative start to our days. When we think about change, we ought to begin with spirit and positivity. Carlos highlighted how Muhammed Ali did that perfectly, by making his mantra “I am the greatest.”

 Photo by  Josh Miller

Photo by Josh Miller

Dr. Val Slayton took to the ring next, providing the history of his work with the Louisville Health Advisory Board (LHAB), a community-based organization comprised of nearly seventy businesses, government, schools, civic and nonprofit organizations focused on Louisville’s well-being. Dr. Slayton shared a personal story to create perspective and gravitas to an initiative the LHAB is spearheading for September 9th-15th, National Suicide Awareness Week: setting a world record in the number of people trained in Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR). The LHAB will facilitate QPR—an established program dedicated to reducing suicidal behaviors and save lives—training the entire week to achieve this goal. To get trained or host one of the 90-minute classes please email louisvillezerosuicide@gmail.com.

 Photo by  Josh Miller

Photo by Josh Miller

Next up, Herb Henry provided some inspiring advice. To improve our health, we ought to be mindful of what take in, and put out. When working on ourselves, we have to do research, work slowly, and be confident. Herb provided the perspective of a former athlete: in order to change the game, we must play the game. He finished with a call to action: by actively creating ways to improve our communities, our individual spaces will transform, as well.

 Photo by  Josh Miller

Photo by Josh Miller

Montre Davis of Linkin’ Bridge graciously shared his journey. America’s Got Talent, he says, changed his life. By believing in his dreams endlessly, he was able to achieve the astounding success that Linkin’ Bridge has. However, Montre knows fame isn’t all good: his touring has made him careless with his health, and he’s now taking action to work with Heuser Health, a local physical therapy facility in Louisville, to lose 250 pounds. Good luck Montre!

 Photo by  Josh Miller

Photo by Josh Miller

James Dickson entered the ring next with ease—after all, boxing is his wheelhouse. James told us about his experience in foster homes, and when he was formally adopted at 13. His adoptive parents gave him the opportunity to pursue his dreams, and now he’s able to give back. Now, James works with children from all around Smoketown, providing them with academic and athletic support while simultaneously being an incredible role model.

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The event closed with a performance demonstration by David Thurmond, a former dancer with the Louisville Ballet, along with a multitude of other roles. David led the audience, including the previous speakers, in a dance lesson. However, this wasn’t just any dance—the dance was comprised of sports movements supplied by the audience, strung together into fluid motion. The demonstration got the audience up and moving, but it also served as a comfortable gateway into dance for non-dancers.

Before everyone left, there was a call to action. We were handed forms to say what we could do to help the greater Louisville community in the goal of becoming more active. The morning was filled with inspiration, and the audience was finally able to reflect on how we can exercise everyday activism to shape our community’s health. After all, the amazing speakers at Top Notch Boxing once asked themselves that same question.

Photos by Josh Miller