WASHINGTON — On Saturday, African-Americans rallied on the Mall in Washington to urge other African-Americans to lose weight in what organizers are calling the 50 Million Pound Challenge.

The founder of the challenge is Dr. Ian Smith, a doctor and medical and diet expert on VH1’s “Celebrity Fit Club,” who will offer a keynote address in June at the Club Industry East show in Orlando. Smith is also author of the book, “Fat Smash Diet.”

The rally featured Patti LaBelle, Yolanda Adams, Steve Harvey and New York Giants football player Michael Strahan. Attendees also participated in a one-mile walk and health screenings.

Between April and November, Smith plans to hold similar events in at least 13 other cities: Atlanta; Baltimore; Chicago; Cleveland; Detroit; Houston; Memphis, TN; Miami; Oakland, CA; New Orleans; New York; Milwaukee and St. Louis.

Those who want to participate in the challenge can sign up at www.50millionpounds.com where they will have free access to a personal weight tracker, diet tips and recipes. The site will also provide updates on the total pounds lost by all participants. State Farm, which is sponsoring the initiative, will provide at its agent offices free Challenge kits, pedometers, and a CD and brochure from Smith with health and food advice.

Smith says the 50 million pounds of lost weight is an attainable goal if just 25 percent of the 20 million overweight African Americans participate and lose 10 pounds each.

Two-thirds of adults in the United States are overweight or obese, but the rate is even higher in the African-American community. Eighty percent of African-American women are overweight or obese while 67 percent of African-American men are overweight or obese.