Eric Seals is an African-American filmmaker who explores the health disparities within his community through the lens of his father, Donnie Seals Sr., who almost died after three open-heart surgeries. Nearly 20 years later, Seals’ makes a miraculous health recovery after discovering his love for cycling.

At the age of 67, and after three open heart surgeries, Donnie Seals Sr. has defied the statistics and renewed his lease on life through his new-found passion for cycling. To date, he has logged over 15,000 miles on the road and has inspired his son Eric Seals along with other family members to join him on his journey of living healthy.

About Bike Vessel

Liverwurst sandwiches, ribs, and pulled pork, these were just a few of the Southern delicacies filmmaker Eric Seals grew up eating alongside his father, Donnie Seals Sr. Living in Wheaton, a west suburb of Chicago, he also watched his dad drink and smoke for more than 15 years, until 1995 when he almost died. Donnie Seals Sr. would undergo his first open-heart surgery before the age of 50. And over the next five, he would have a total of three quadruple bypass surgeries and be forced into early retirement.

Today at 67 years old and with over 15,000 miles logged on the road, Seals heart problems have all but disappeared. ‘Bike Vessel’ tells the story of a man defying health statistics and renewing his lease on life. The film takes a hard look at the health disparities plaguing Black men, and the systemic racism that has elevated them to the lowest life expectancy and highest death rate of any other racial or ethnic group.

“I thought I was spending too much on bikes, then my doctor said I would spend more on medicine,” said Donnie Seals Sr.

Intended Audience 

Eric Seals says, “Our main goal is to educate the Black community on prevalent health issues. It is important to us that we not only showcase what an unhealthy lifestyle can lead to but also provide a pathway forward and show what types of adjustments can be made to live a lasting, healthy life. We intend to make Bike Vessel an easily accessible film. We will do this by hosting free screenings in Black communities across Chicago, and if budget allows, across the country.

“We truly feel like Bike Vessel the film is really the Trojan Horse for the bigger project we have planned: A cross country tour that celebrates healthy living and a love for cycling. Our campaign will include partnering with health organizations to host screenings and produce literature that people can take with them after seeing the film. We want the community to leave our events with a greater sense of love for their body, love for their, and hopefully a new curiosity of exercise through cycling.”

Why This Film and Why Now?

African-American men are dying at alarming rates, with complications of the heart being the leading cause of death in Black males older than 44. Efforts to eliminate the racial and ethnic inequities within our healthcare system have often overlooked Black males, whose life expectancy rates have continued to lag far behind Black women and white Americans. A film showcasing the inadequacies in our healthcare system when it comes to Black men is crucial, and time-sensitive.

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Quick Facts

  • The amount of Black men uninsured is almost double the amount of uninsured white men.
  • Compared to white men and women and Black women, Black men have the lowest life expectancy rate, both at birth and after age 65.
  • The death rate for African Americans is generally higher than whites for heart diseases, stroke, cancer, asthma, influenza and pneumonia, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and homicide.

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