Grammy-nominated singer headlines diabetes campaign

Angie Stone at South Side YMCA. / Photo by Ignacio Madrid

More than 300 South Side residents turned out Saturday to help recording artist Angie Stone kick off a campaign to raise diabetes awareness among  African-Americans.

The Grammy-nominated singer, songwriter, producer and actress performed two songs from her popular 2007 album, "The Art of Love and War," during the event, which took place at the South Side YMCA at 6330 S. Stony Island.

Stone also spoke of her own experience with the disease.

Stone was diagnosed with Type II diabetes eight years ago after suffering from common symptoms of the disease, including excessive thirst and frequent urination. "It was actually my mother who thought I might have the disease after she had been diagnosed with it herself," Stone told the audience.

The campaign, Fearless African Americans Connected and Empowered (F.A.C.E.), sponsored by drugmaker Eli Lilly and Company and Glory Foods, began in 2007, and will continue throughout 2008.

The campaign is targeted to reach African-Americans, who are 1.8 times more likely to develop diabetes than non-Hispanic whites, according to the American Diabetes Association. Nationally, 3.2 million African-Americans over the age of 20 suffer from either Type I or Type II diabetes, the ADA reports.

Participants were offered diabetes information, free back massages, and exercise demonstrations in between performances.

Stone urged the audience to take the time to learn about diabetes.

"I was one of those people who thought that it was an older person's disease," Stone told the audience. "Visiting the doctor and getting tested is the first step," she said.

Don Davis, a 59 year old veteran and West Chesterfield resident, agreed. "I went to get tested because family members on my father's side suffered from the disease," Davis said. "I came out today because I want to be more informed and encourage others to come out to future events."

Stone, who has visited Chicago three times since last November with the campaign, said there is still a lot of work to be done. "The main reason most people aren't getting tested is fear," she said. "Fear of the unknown keeps people from taking care of their health."

Stone, who begins an international tour to promote her album later this month, told the audience that diet, exercise and taking a break from stress are key to managing the disease. "When I'm on tour, I make sure to get rest and take time out for myself," she said.

Later, Stone helped demonstrate exercise routines led by YMCA fitness instructors.

"You can't get enough exercise sitting on the couch watching soap operas for 24 hours," she teased.

Stone returns to Chicago in June to perform at the Taste of Chicago.