Kirk Franklin is a recording artist known for promoting Christ’s message with his popular blend of contemporary and urban hip-hop gospel music.
However, Franklin will be singing a different tune come Sunday at St. John Missionary Baptist Church, 5700 N Kelley.
He will be making a presentation on behalf of the American Heart Association, touting the organization’s healthy heart mantra and new stroke prevention campaign “Get to Goal.” The new blood pressure management campaign is designed to motivate people to make lifestyle changes to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke.
“I’ve been very pleased to do it, honored to do it,” Franklin said of his ongoing work with the heart association.
Franklin said he has partnered with the organization for the past four years to promote a health message that is important not just to the black Americans but all Americans.
The Grammy Award-winning recording artist, whose most recent album “Hello Fear” produced hits like “I Smile” and “Give Me,” gave a free concert performance in 2009 at Fairview Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, in partnership with the American Heart Association’s “Power to End Stroke” campaign. His presentation on Sunday will not include a concert.
Franklin said he wants to let people know that they can prevent stroke and find ways to manage their blood pressure. Franklin said the solutions can be as simple as changing the way food is prepared or making time for regular exercise.
“We can do things to take ownership of our own recovery,” he said.
Franklin said he encourages people to make long-term changes instead of temporary adjustments.
He said black churches are great places to convey positive messages because of their integral role in the black community.
“I think it’s been a great marriage between what I do and the church,” he said, adding that the black church is the hub — the nucleus — for civil rights, cultural and community issues to be discussed.
Health risks increased
Dr. Janet Spradlin, a rehabilitation psychologist and member of the American Heart Association Oklahoma City chapter board of directors, said the heart association has been pleased with the partnership with Franklin because his talent and popularity helps convey the healthy heart message to more people.
Spradlin is chairman of the Oklahoma State Stroke Systems Advisory Committee and leader of the free Citywide Stroke Support Group for stroke survivors, their family members and caregivers that meets monthly in Oklahoma City.
She said Franklin is particularly helpful in spreading the word about the importance of reducing the risk of stroke in the black community. She said this is key because high blood pressure is the single most significant risk factor for heart attack and stroke and high blood pressure numbers in blacks in the United States are the highest in the world.
“He can really, in a very powerful and passionate way, send a message that stroke and high blood pressure are disproportionately higher in the African-American community,” she said. “He also tries to stay fit and healthy himself.”
Other key statistics include:
•Blacks have almost twice the risk of first-ever stroke compared with whites.
•Blacks between 35 and 54 years old have four times the relative risk for stroke.
•More than 100,000 blacks have a stroke every year.
•Blacks have higher death rates from stroke.
The Rev. Major Jemison, senior pastor of St. John, said his congregation is excited about Franklin’s visit. He said he is hoping the general public will come to hear the recording artist’s message.
Jemison said Franklin’s message is important to churches.
“Anytime someone is talking about improving health of African-Americans, it gets the attention of the pastor and the congregation,” he said. “You can’t exclude our physical lives from our spiritual lives.”