One of the top resolutions on everyone’s list is losing weight and getting in shape. Working out can be no fun at all, but over the last few years people have created dynamic fitness programs that are fun and effective. Below is a list of not only the most fun and effective fitness programs but they are all black-owned businesses.
If you spend enough time on social media you have most likely come across YouTube clips of Keith Thompson’s high-energy cycling classes. Thompson is the lead instructor at Atlanta-based KTX Fitness, an enterprise that specializes in helping people meet their fitness goals in a fun atmosphere. It is not uncommon to see Thompson dancing alongside cyclers as some of today’s top urban and hip-hop songs blast from the speakers. His cycling classes blend calisthenics with cycling to create a high-impact aerobic workout in which individuals burn approximately 1000 calories and ride approximately 15 miles, but cycling isn’t all that KTX Fitness does. They also have step classes, total body workout classes and a bootcamp. The majority of KTX Fitness class are held in Atlanta but Thompson also travels to bring the cycling classes to different cities such as DC, NY, Cincinnati, Toronto most recently and more. For more about KTX Fitness click here.
Mr. Shut Up and Train
Another Atlanta-based fitness expert who you may have seen on social media is Rahman Grayson aka Mr. Shut Up and Train. The Mr. Shut Up and Train moniker might be familiar to you because of your friends who participated in his free fitness challenges. Through his fitness challenges, Grayson crafts a workout plan that forces people out of their comfort zones and into the training zone. Yet he seeks not only to whip people into physical shape but he trains minds to pursue and accomplish goals that seem impossible. The free workout plans are but a small portion of Grayson’s work toward creating fit and healthy people. He also offers personal training services everyday people and athletes and celebrities alike. For more information about Mr. Shut Up and Train click here.
Black Girls Run
Black Girls not only Rock but they Run too and they have been running under the Black Girls Run banner since 2009. Founders Toni Carey and Ashley Hicks created BGR in an effort to tackle the growing obesity epidemic in the African-American community as well as to provide encouragement to novice and veteran runners. Six years later, BGR has expanded to 69 running groups in 30 states across the United States with over 52,860 African-American women running. The organization commits itself as much to its veteran runners as it does to new runners. On any given run they suggest that novice runners find a “running crush” and pace themselves with that person as a way to establish goals. As you can imagine, BGR fosters a sisterhood among women who begin as strangers and transform them into sojourners on the journey to optimum physical fitness. To find out about BGR runs in your city, click here.
Brukwine is not for the faint of heart nor is it for those scared of the four-letter word “sexy” as it pertains to the female body. With that out of the way we can get into the grit of what Brukwine is. Created by dancers Tavia and Tamara, Brukwine is a Reggae/Dancehall-based fitness class that provides women with a total body workout while teaching them the latest moves from popular Caribbean culture. Tavia and Tamara are both trained dancers who, among other dance disciplines, studied dancehall in its birthplace of Jamaica and have toured the world and served as dancers for artists such as Sean Paul, Rihanna, Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez, and many others. Brukwine is currently only holding classes in New York. For more information on Brukwine click here.
So who will you workout with this year?
This list is far from comprehensive so if you know of any other black-owned business fitness please leave them in the comments.
One of the many quotes from Maya Angelou that people are share is:
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
My The Conversation colleague, Aaron Nyerges, has written a beautiful acknowledgement of Maya Angelou’s contributions as a poet, or as he states borrowing from Shelley, an “unacknowledged legislators of the world”. I want to acknowledge how Maya Angelou made me feel as a young black American woman, and how those feelings have defined how I experience myself as a complete human being.
I can honestly say that I actually felt Maya Angelou before I knew who she was. I was 17 years old and attending the Academy of Achievement’s Golden Plate Awards held in Chicago in 1989. I had walked to the ballroom where the keynote speakers, such as President Ronald Reagan, were to speak to those considered some of the top high school students in the United States. I opened the door, stood at the back, and instantly felt electricity go up my spine. I began to tremble. Within the first minute of her speech, I was overcome with tears.
I don’t remember what she said. All I remember is how the power of her presence – the warmth, the wisdom, the elegance, and the compassion – moved me in a way that I’d never responded to a person before. When she completed her speech, I fought my way through the crowd to meet her. Standing before her with tears streaming down my face, I blurted out, “Thank you for moving me.” I remember she took my hand in both of hers, smiled, and said: “Thank you, your response moves me.”
I vowed then that I would cultivate that kind of presence – that ability to move people’s souls. Her words have guided me on that journey by giving shape to my feelings.
And Still I Rise
As Aaron Nyerges has pointed out, Maya Angelou’s poem And Still I Rise was published in 1978. I would have been six years old. Yet, I know the refrain from either my mother or my favourite Aunt reciting these words during our annual Kwanzaa celebrations, which is an African American holiday established by Maulana Karengal. Like a secular The Lord’s Prayer, every time that I experience the bitterness of institutional racism and anger threatens to close my heart, I whisper the words “And Still I Rise” and feel myself float above the fear and anger.
With dark skin, wide-nose, kinky-curly hair, and curvy hips, my ability to appreciate my own physical beauty is only due to a historical accident. I grew up steeped in the Black is Beautiful movement, which had reached its peak in the 1970s. As part of the Black Arts Movement, Maya Angelou’s Phenomenal Woman articulated in words the powerful images of beautiful black women who appeared on posters, magazine articles, and Blaxploitation films. Even now, I call upon those images to express my intellectual ideas, such as my QAME (questions, assumptions, methods, and evidence) Song music video.
On the Pulse of Morning
Aaron Nyerges concludes his acknowledgement with the poem On the Pulse of Morning that Maya Angelou performed for former President Bill Clinton’s 1993 Inauguration.
This poem is what reconfirmed my decision to become an anthropologist instead of a neuroscientist, which was my original intent when attending Bryn Mawr College. As a young black woman of academic promise, one is expected to become a medical doctor, lawyer, engineer, or educator in order to contribute back to the black community.
Choosing to become an anthropologist was a risk. When I watched her on TV call forth our connections to the trees, to the rivers, and most importantly to each other as human beings, I felt that I had made the right decision. That the path of anthropology would bring me closer to my need and responsibility to promote greater respect, understanding, and love among all people, minerals, plants, and animals.
The Way You Make Me Feel
Since the moment I first felt Maya Angelou, I have actively chosen paths that would cultivate my warmth, wisdom, elegance, and compassion. I am privileged to have stood in front of crowds of hundreds, and sometimes just one-to-one encounters, in which I have given people goosebumps, made them tremble with excitement, and even moved their soul to tears.
I acknowledge that Maya Angelou, by taking my hand in both of her hands, connected me directly to a little bit of the power of her presence. But she only gave me a spark. Every day I have to work hard in opening my heart to maintain it.
Thank you Mama Maya, my great ancestor. I will never forget how you made me feel.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos wants to get rid of an Obama-era policy that sought to end racial disparities in school suspensions and expulsions. Statistics show those disparities mean black students are four times more likely to be suspended than white students and two-thirds of black males will be suspended at some point during their K-12 careers.
Even if DeVos does scrap the policy that sought to end racial disparities, schools can still end the disparities on their own.
To do that, schools must first rethink the way they carry out school discipline. Instead of kicking students out, schools can take a positive youth development approach.
I study ways to create conditions children and adolescents need to thrive academically and socially, and as employees and citizens. The Center for Promise, which I head, is a research center for America’s Promise Alliance, a nonprofit that convenes people and organizations to help young people thrive.
Just as prior research has shown, the young people we spoke with stressed the need for school teachers and staff to get to know them and the reasons behind their behaviors. As one student in our study said, “All you got to do is to get suspended one time and you’re labeled. I see it, like they follow the same kids around, like everybody knows, ‘Hey, those are the bad kids…‘ Every time something happen, they either go to them or they [c]ome to me and [my friend] and be like, ‘You know what happened?’”
School leaders spoke about the need to change the cultural norms in schools from punitive to positive. As one school administrator in our study stated, “For us, it’s about keeping kids in school, keeping kids connected. Because we all know the research: the more connected a kid is, the better they do.”
Bias in school discipline
That kind of change, however, is less likely if a school safety commission headed by DeVos has its way. The commission wants to scrap the Obama-era guidance that asked schools to keep track of racial disparities in school discipline. Without such guidance to raise awareness of how exclusionary discipline is implemented, research suggests that schools will disproportionately punish students of color.
The school safety commission headed by DeVos was formed in response to the Parkland school shooting. There is no data to suggest that students of color are more likely to perpetrate school shootings, especially mass school shootings. Still, the commission seems to believe getting rid of the Obama-era policy memo meant to reduce racial disparities in school suspensions and expulsions will somehow reduce school violence, which is its primary charge.
At first blush, this seems to make little sense, but here’s how their thinking goes: Earlier this year, conservative leaders called for Secretary DeVos to rescind the Obama-era memo. They argued that it has made schools less safe by keeping dangerous students in school.
But experience and research shows that kids with problematic behavior don’t have to be removed from school to keep schools safe. Instead, there are very promising and proven alternatives that can lead to safer schools, improved behaviors for individual students, and more positive school climates. My research shows the key is to make sure these alternatives are implemented with the right support for teachers and school administrators.
Exclusionary disciplinary practices – that is, suspensions and expulsions – on the other hand, can create divisions between students and teachers. They also place educational attainment further out of reach for students of color and students with disabilities, who are suspended more frequently than other students.
Indeed, the consequences of being suspended extend far beyond missing a few days of school. A 2014 study from the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University found that a single suspension doubles the odds that a student would drop out of school.
Alternatives to kicking kids out
Fortunately, more schools have begun to implement practices that may actually improve student behavior without removing students from the classroom. These are practices that could begin to give teachers hope that there are effective tools to maintain productive learning environments, even amid recent district-wide bans on suspensions, such as in Los Angeles and Philadelphia. In these districts, teachers are pushing back against these bans because they are not being given enough professional development and school resources to effectively implement effective, alternative practices. Armed with the right tools, proper training, and school administration buy-in, schools can confidently begin to move away from using the blunt instrument of suspension in favor of practices that engage all students in safe, supportive and healthy learning environments.
At their core, these practices help schools rethink discipline by rethinking young people: from problems to be remediated to assets to be supported. Punishment is not seen as separate from the rest of the learning environment, but as part of the overall school climate. Two illustrative examples are restorative practices and the Building Assets, Reducing Risks program, or BARR.
Restorative practices, often referred to as restorative justice, involves getting school teachers, staff and students together to identify and understand the harm done. These approaches are meant to resolve the impacts of the behavior on other students and the broader school through appropriate reparations or reconciliations. They also involve the repair of any relationships that have been disrupted. California, Colorado, Pennsylvania and individual districts throughout the country have implemented restorative practices.
Teachers can still remove students from classrooms for dangerous behaviors when using restorative justice. However, the removal is not a punishment, but rather a first step in understanding the reasons for the behavior and helping the student understand the impact of their behavior on themselves and others.
Significant focus is placed on how the student brought back to class after the issues have been resolved. Studies have found that restorative justice leads to improved student-teacher relationships, improved student behavior, and a reduction in suspensions, particularly for students of color.
In Denver, for instance, where restorative justice had been introduced in 2003, suspension rates for black students fell from 17.61 percent in the 2006-2007 school year to 10.42 percent six years later.
Since disciplinary alternatives are part of the learning experience, the impacts should go beyond suspension rates and should consider the learning environment for all students in a school. In Denver, students attending schools that have done a good job implementing restorative practices show improved rates of attendance and courses passed.
A more proactive approach, the Building Assets, Reducing Risks, or BARR program, focuses on building relationships between students and teachers that include mutual trust, respect and understanding of their respective lives — not on creating punitive policies. Developed at one high school outside Minneapolis, BARR is currently in 84 schools throughout the country.
BARR programs create structured activities for students and teachers to build positive relationships and set aside time for teachers to reflect on their students. BARR programs also call for continuous data collection on student strengths – such as motivation, empathy and social competence – and challenges faced by students – such as homelessness, learning differences and food instability.
Results from a set of rigorous studies show BARR positively impacted on academic proficiency, credits earned and courses completed.
I have never celebrated Kwanzaa. Neither my immediate nor extended family has ever celebrated, or barely even acknowledged Kwanzaa. I only know of one personal friend who celebrates Kwanzaa or knows what it is. When I was growing up most people in our family and social circles viewed Kwanzaa with suspicion as some kind of offbeat, anti-religious, maybe even anti-Christian, observance. Apparently my experience is not an outlier.
A 2011 article on The Root.com, “Who Actually Celebrates Kwanzaa?” discussed the results of an unscientific survey of its readers which indicated that only 35% of those surveyed celebrate Kwanzaa. It’s curious why a holiday created by us, for us is still—almost 50 years after its creation—experiencing such lackluster participation. Different explanations have been offered for Kwanzaa’s failure to capture either the imagination, finances, or national interest of the black American community: the after-Christmas timing of observance—December 26-January 1—is not ideal because it taxes people during the busiest holiday time of the year; blacks don’t really understand the purpose of the holiday and haven’t been able to contextualize its celebration to make it meaningful or practical; the scandals that surrounded its creator, Dr. Maulana Karenga, who was convicted in 1971 of felonious assault and false imprisonment following charges that he tortured and beat women members of his activist circle. Whatever the reasons may be, we can’t deny that the stated principles and purposes of Kwanzaa are relevant to the social, political, and economic realities of black people’s lives, especially now as we struggle against renewed assaults on our very value, freedom, and right to exist.
Cultural grounded-ness is at the heart of Kwanzaa as it was created to “serve as a regular communal celebration to reaffirm and reinforce the bonds between us as a people,” and to “be an ingathering to strengthen community and reaffirm common identity, purpose, and direction as a people.” Its origins as a tactical resistance measure against white oppression in the mid-1960s and its presence as part of the Black Freedom movement reveal striking parallels between Kwanzaa and the burgeoning protest movements rising today. #BlackLivesMatter co-founder Alicia Garza describes her effort as a “tactic to (re)build the Black liberation movement.” Activists have already begun to recognize and highlight the common ground between our struggles today and the antecedent conflicts of yesterday. The night the nation was notified that there would be no criminal indictment of former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for killing teenager Michael Brown, online images almost immediately surfaced that compared photographs of interactions between protesters and police during the King civil rights period, and those between residents of Ferguson and its police. We know we’re both re-living and creating history.
How do we stand our ground against this re-emerging tide of anti-blackness manifesting itself in unjustified killing, mass incarceration, school-to-prison pipelines, police brutality and racial profiling, cultural misappropriation, rapes and violent assaults, lower wages, job discrimination, predatory lending, re-segregated schools, and all the other mayhem coming against us? What was once the war-torn environment of large urban areas like Chicago, Philadelphia, Oakland, and New York has now migrated across the country and blacks feel like embattled refugees in our own country. Tweets from the black community and allies call for unity, resilience, and focus. Black mothers are reminding families to hold their children close and stand up for their rights to a demilitarized education and to live free from unwarranted surveillance, harassment, and targeting. Leaders of established organizations urge protest leaders to identify shared objectives that can unify our concerns and forge a path ahead for results-driven action. Local communities are holding town hall gatherings to discuss their options for protecting their children and getting their voices heard and heeded by politicians and other neighborhood leadership. Spoken word artists, muralists, poets, writers, bloggers, and actors are expressing their and our fears, hopes, frustrations, and resolves over the conditions we face. Even President Obama has weighed in with his My Brother’s Keeper funding and policy initiative. All are good strategies and all are encompassed within the principles of Kwanzaa.
Modeled after traditional African “first fruits” celebrations, Kwanzaa outlines seven principles of focus and practice to uplift and strengthen black identity and community, one for each day of the weeklong celebration. Umoja (Unity) promotes cohesion in the family, community, and race. Kujichagulia (Self determination) says we can define, name, create for and speak for ourselves. Ujima (Collective work and responsibility) encourages us to “build and maintain our community together and make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems.” Ujamaa (Cooperative economics) stresses entrepreneurship and supporting each other’s businesses for our mutual benefit. Nia (Purpose) reminds us to work together for restoration of our people to original greatness. Kuumba (Creativity) speaks to our ability to use our talents, gifts, and ideas to beautify and enhance our community. Imani (Faith), encourages us to believe, with all of our hearts, in our people, parents, teachers and leaders. Without faith, nothing is possible.
Grassroots activists are already living these principles everyday through die-ins, shutting down of freeways, silent vigils, and large-scale marches. It’s just a small step to de-centralize our activities and set time aside in our families and churches to honor their origins and reaffirm our identity as black people striving, dying, and resisting together. Sometimes we must revisit previously discarded aspects of our culture and revive what’s good and helpful for our advancement as a people and Kwanzaa might just be the perfect way to regroup after a tumultuous year.