Ambassador of RUN, to a Sisterhood of Fun
Deshala Dixon founded a chapter of Black Girls RUN! to encourage African-American women to exercise by running. The tight-knit camaraderie it creates is a bonus.
Deshala Dixon has a passion for helping others. So shortly after she moved to Warner Robbins to become a senior assistant district attorney for the Macon Judicial Circuit, she signed up to start a local chapter of the newly formed national organization Black Girls RUN!
The organization was founded to combat obesity among women in the African-American community and now has more than 60 chapters across the country. Dixon is the founder and president—or ambassador, as group leaders are called—of the Middle Georgia chapter.
Since becoming involved with BGR, Dixon, 36, has completed several races, including two half-marathons. Her involvement with the Middle Georgia chapter has given her a chance to help others find a path to wellness as well as create friendship and sisterhood for all those involved.
Dixon spoke to the Daily Report about her leadership in BGR, sharing her thoughts about the obesity epidemic among African-American women.
According to the Black Girls RUN! website, 80 percent of African-American women are overweight. Why do you think that is?
Hair. Hair is a really, major factor. It's really difficult to keep a really good head of black hair. There's sort of this (mentality): "I just spent $80 to get my hair relaxed or … to get my hair straightened, and if I go out and run or if I bike or if I do anything that lets me sweat, I've basically just flushed $80 down the toilet."
So that's a really big part of it. Even I have been like, "OK, I just got my hair done, I'm not going to run for a little bit because it looks cute and it doesn't always look cute because I'm always running." A lot of women in the group are like, "I just got my hair done, you won't see me for a minute or so." So that can certainly be an issue.
The other thing is Southern food, African-American food. I grew up in the north and we called it soul food. That was the food my grandmother and great-grandmother prepared. The fried chicken, the collards with the fatback, fried corn bread and a lot of traditionally Southern, African-American food is just bad for you.
I think for a lot of us, it's the food choices that we make and the reluctance to work out because of hair.
I don't think most people outside the black community know that. How do you get women past that? What do you tell them that makes it worth it?
What's more important, your hair or your body? I think pretty much the women who have come out and run have gotten over it. We have a lot of women who have natural hair—and by that I mean Afros essentially, or braided styles. A lot of women have adapted to hairstyles that have let them work out with it.
What do you like about being involved with this group?
Definitely the camaraderie. When I moved to Warner Robins, I didn't really know anyone and pretty much most of my friends I've gotten through this group. They have certainly challenged me.