Re-focusing, Re-branding, Race & Representation

Updated: Apr 11, 2020

Welcome to my new blog and my new brand name. Well, it’s not a huge name change, but the focus is different.

You see, for the last 10+ years of teaching Pilates, I’ve felt underrepresented as a Black woman. In my heart I knew there had to be more of us even within the entire fitness community. So, with that I decided to do something about it. To many times, we as Black people do not take action. We talk about what we could or should do but put no plans in place to address it. On May 27, 2017, I started Black Girl Pilates , a platform that would address the underrepresentation within the Pilates method.

I was first certified in 2007 as a Pilates mat instructor by Core Pilates NYC and later in 2008, I received my comprehensive certification to teach the equipment. Once I began teaching Pilates in Harlem, I noticed that there were few Black instructors and students of Pilates. I was determined to pioneer Pilates for my community, so I started my own class in Harlem. It was tough initially but later I began teaching for a friend of mine who started an organization called Harlem Center for Healthy Living. I taught there for 5 years and my classes were mostly Black women and other non-Black women from other countries. Occasionally, I had a few Black men in my class but they would eventually fall off for various reasons. Even though I had this class of amazing Black women, it still was not enough for me. Not only was I concerned about Pilates but the fitness industry as whole. My corporate gym rarely had Black female or male trainers. The management at the time was predominately white. This has since changed after my departure and group fitness management has become more diverse however, I have not seen the changes in personal training or the Pilates departments as much.

With the help of my new friend, Catrice Jackson, creator of SHE Talks WE Talks , candid conversations with women about gender, race and racial justice, I was introduced to Molly Gallbraith of Girls Gone Strong. I had been following GGS for several years and really loved their content except that I rarely ever saw anyone who looked like me. I met Catrice through Jennifer Vogelgesang Blake who is also part of the GGS leadership and had posted about how much Catrice’s workshops changed her life. I then reached out to Catrice and spoke to her about my Black Girl Pilates group I had planned to start. She was the encouragement I needed to do it. Also, during that conversation, Catrice had informed me that Molly was in search of women of color to write for them and asked me if I was interested. Of course, I was, and I love to write! The result of that conversation was Let’s Talk About the Lack of Black Female Representation in Fitness.

After the election, the nation was becoming even more racially charged. I knew I needed my Black community more than ever. I was willing to fight for representation, call out racist behavior and address microaggressions as I experienced and saw them. The formation of Black Girl Pilates and my article was only the beginning. BGPi was also the inspiration for Black Girl Fit and Well. Again, representation of my community matters. This time, the focus was within my community. How could I bring the world of fitness to my community with full representation in all modalities? I wanted my Black female community to see that we are out here and give them a space to see us all at one time. I officially created Black Girl Fit and Well in June 2017, but the launch date was January 31, 2018. My first curated event will be Saturday, April 7th and I have partnered with Pillars NYC which a non-profit based around recovery and founded by a Black woman. There will be two panels of Black female instructors/trainers discussing the state of health/fitness and self-care/mindset for the Black Girl.

All of this resulted in rebranding and a name change as I stated above. I have been interviewed and featured on podcasts and websites regarding BGPi. My most recent article about BGPi My Black Girl Pilates Group is Not Racist, It is An Essential Way to Feel Represented in Community was published during SELF magazine’s Race & Wellness discussion week along with a special invite to attend their panel. With the increase in exposure of BGPi and the addition of Black Girl Fit & Well, it only made sense to change my platform to Commando Fitness Collective.

Commandos are elite light infantry or special forces soldiers, trained for quick raid operations. I wanted a name that would best describe who I am as a person and all the things that I am passionate about: Pilates, Fitness and Black Female Representation.

#race #blackfemales #blackwomen #fitness #representation #branding #racism #pilates

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