Denim Moore from The Justice League speaks at the first AHA! Moments event. | Photo by Chris Radtke

From its inception, IDEASxLab has looked to be an active force for creating structural support and programming that can forward holistic community health in underserved neighborhoods throughout Louisville, with a frequent focus on Smoketown, the oldest African-American community in Louisville.

Last weekend, IDEAS joined with the Louisville Health Advisory Board (LHAB) and the Muhammad Ali Center to launch the “Year of Arts, HeALIng and Action,” or AHA! for short.

Insider caught up with Josh Miller, IDEAS’ chief of operations, who talked about AHA!, its collaborators, goals and methodologies.

Josh Miller | Photo by Clovehitch Productions

Miller, along with Theo Edmonds, IDEAS’ chief imaginator, have both worked with LHAB before. Miller discussed LHAB’s founding and some of its accomplishments.

“The Louisville Health Advisory Board was launched by Humana in 2015, and it basically brings together, at this point, over 70 businesses, nonprofits, government representatives, educational institutions, all focused on improving the health and wellbeing of Louisvillians,” said Miller.

Edmonds co-chaired LHAB’s cultural and social impact committee, while Miller co-chaired the communications committee.

“We were trying to think of how we could expose people from across the membership of LHAB and Louisville neighborhoods like Smoketown and Russell and neighborhoods in South Louisville to different creative approaches that people are taking to health and wellbeing,” Miller said.

These ideas hopefully would help individuals help themselves, but also give them to tools to replicate programing in their own neighborhoods.

Another hope from Miller and Edmonds in their roles at LHAB was to put together socially engaged business leaders with community leaders at the grassroots level.

At the same time, the Ali Center was looking for ways to operationalize the six core principles of Ali — confidence, conviction, dedication, giving, respect and spirituality.

Darryl Young of the Muhammad Ali Center at the AHA! Moments event | Photo by Josh Miller

Edmonds and Miller, in the roles at IDEAS, were trying to create an art and health neighborhood toolkit, a series of short activities, recommendations and frameworks that can be made available to neighborhoods and communities in Louisville for free.  

The toolkit also would aim to help neighborhoods and communities lift up different stories and narratives, and become able to identify and create action steps to support their own initiatives or policies that could improve health.

IDEAS, the Ali Center and LHAB decided to merge their diverse efforts and create the “Year of Arts, HeALIng and Action,” which would put the ideals of Ali to work, put business leaders together with community leaders, and help create and begin to disseminate the art and health neighborhood toolkit.

“It can be a year of community discovery,” said Miller.

To active the initiative, IDEAS is launching a series of events called AHA! Moments, performances that correlate with quarterly focuses on different kinds of health — social health, mind-body health, environmental health and economic health.

Trinidad Jackson of the Youth Violence Prevention Research Center at AHA! Moments | Photo by Chris Radtke

The times and locations of these events will vary in an attempt to help more people attend, despite economic restrictions like work schedule and transportation.

Miller said inclusion is vital for to social justice work — “both to create that network and to expose people to the different cultural assets that exist across our different communities, so we can take programming out into the community and create a partnership with neighborhoods.”

On Friday, April 13, the first AHA! Moments kicked off, starting at the Ali Center in the morning and in Smoketown that evening. These events are free and family friendly, and each one includes “lightning talks” from individuals, artists or organizations that are taking creative approaches to health and wellbeing, arts and cultural performances, and an art and health neighborhood toolkit activity.

These performances help get the content and ideas from the “Year of Arts, HeALIng and Action” out into the community.

“The most difficult part has been, how do we share this out in a way people don’t just look at it and they’re, like, ‘Wow, that’s too much,’” said Miller.

It comes on the heels of the third iteration of another successful Smoketown-based project from IDEASxLab.

The “What’s Your WHY” billboard campaign has recently unveiled its third round of billboards aimed at replacing ads seen as detrimental to the mental health and wellbeing of Smoketown residents. The billboards feature Smoketown community members, whose actions spotlight a specific health or community goal.

An example of a “What’s Your WHY” billboard | Courtesy of IDEASxLab

The messaging is inspired by author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek, who says successful leaders don’t focus as much on “what” or “how,” but rather keep their eye on the “why.”

“And that really inspired us as we were thinking about this third billboard campaign, and how we could continue to feature Smoketown community members and their stories,” he added.

The current round of billboards spotlight The Justice League, a group of students from Meyzeek Middle School. The group has been meeting after school for the past few months with Hannah Drake, ShawnNika Queen and several teachers at Meyzeek.

The students have been talking about justice in their community.

“They think about it in terms of their school environment, what things are they seeing that are just or unjust, how can they use their collective voice and do research, and think about proposing solutions that can improve the environment in the schools,” said Miller. “So we were really excited to feature them on a billboard with their call to action.”

You can find more info about AHA! Moments online, and keep an eye out for the “What’s Your WHY” billboards.

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Eli Keel
Eli Keel is “pretty much” a Louisville native. You may have seen him around town reading poetry, short stories, dancing or acting. He’s a passionate locavore, so you may have also seen him stuffing his face at one of Louisville’s amazing restaurants. When he isn’t too busy writing short stories, he blogs at amanwalksintoablog.wordpress.com.