Eugene Fitzhugh Q&A

Updated: Mar 8

Less than a week after Martin Luther King, Jr., Commemoration Day, I had the opportunity to chat with University of Tennessee associate professor and Alliance House Martin Luther King, Jr., Health Corridor Committee Member Eugene Fitzhugh. Here’s a snippet from our exchange:

Q: What is the mission and primary goals of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Health Corridor Committee?

A: “… we hope to make the corridor more inclusive and safe for people living near the corridor. It would be nice to change the corridor to allow people to use active transportation (e.g., walk and cycle) to get to destinations (e.g., parks, church, restaurant) near where they live. This would provide another outlet for active living that would contribute to reduced risk for disease and better quality of life.

Q: How do you think that addition of shared bike lanes, pocket parks, and exercise areas will benefit the East Knoxville community?

A: “Oh, yes, without a doubt [these resources will benefit folks in East Knoxville]. I also think improved pedestrian crossings and protected bus strips are important factors that will make people feel safe when walking to a destination or to catch a KAT bus.

Q: Why are these sorts of public resources and infrastructure lacking in the East Knoxville community and how has the absence of such resources contributed to health disparities?

A: “Well, that is a question that I don’t know how to really answer. I recently did a project looking to see if East Knoxville had inequities related to parks – we found that parks in the city were distributed fairly, and actually the East Knoxville and MLK Corridor have a good degree of walkability. However, when we interviewed people and key gatekeepers, they clearly expressed the notion that East Knoxville was not treated fairly when it came to resource distribution – that West Knoxville got most of the resources.”

Q: How did you personally become involved with the committee and the Alliance House?

A: “I’m doing a health study of the Knoxville Urban Wilderness, where I learned that only six percent of users of the trails were people of color, so I approached De’Ossie [Dingus] and his bike club to see how we might be welcoming to more people of color cycling. It sort of took off from there.

Q: How can Alliance House newsletter readers help with this initiative?

A: “Good question. Once we have completed our proposal for the project in the next six weeks, then they could contact their city representative [to express their support], and of course, [they can always] reach out to De’Ossie.”

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