Dear wh*te Pilates community:
My name is Sonja R. Price Herbert and I am the founder of Black Girl Pilates™ and Co-Founder of Melanin Brothers of Pilates. My Black community is hurting. Yesterday, Louisville KY, ruled that Breonna Taylor’s murder was not as important as the wh*te people’s walls in which the bullets penetrated. Her family was paid off in millions BEFORE the court ruled in hopes that would shut them up. Money doesn’t give a life or bring one back. We want justice for her life and the many before her.
I am writing to you all today because in June, many of us Black instructors were inundated by your IG/FB messages, emails, text messages (if you considered us friends), and IG interviews to talk about our pain so you can cry online. You posted Black squares and attempted to amplify us for at least about a month or so. Some of you “backed up” our claims of racism/exclusion against Balanced Body, Pilates Method Alliance and many other major platforms. A few of these organizations reached out to me to “figure out what to do next.” We heard: “We hear you, we are listening, and we are learning.” We received opportunities that we should have received anyway because we are the best of the best. Some of you attended my Introduction to Anti-racism webinars in droves and wrote me “dissertations” about how you have felt this way for so long (yet you never did anything) until now. Many of you posted a Black square and closed up shop after that. Some of you are “slowly bring us on your platforms in hopes to not disturb the wh*te natives.” Of course, you don’t want to lose your wh*te followers and the money that comes with that. I have tagged many of you to attend my webinars and even called you out by name and some not. Yet, silence.
The Black community is experiencing George Floyd and Emmitt Till (Google is free) all over again. I have seen a MAJOR drop in what you felt was “amplifying Black voices.” We have been given scholarships without you even considering the fact that we will walk right into a racist studio because you think that some form of money will shut us up or give you what you want (i.e. not working on your own inherent racism because it’s easier to pay to get rid of something). You have and continue to fail the Black co-workers, staff, friends, family etc. because you have not even tried enough. We are nothing more to you than just tokens.
I asked all of you in June: “Where have you been and where were you before George Floyd?” Just as I got silence then I am seeing silence now as we suffer once again at the hands of a racist judicial system. Today, we have to go to work (or open our computer) and teach wh*te clients for wh*te studios with wh*te managers and wh*te owners. We have to smile, shuck, jive and tap dance like the good Negroes you hope we will be. We have to cry in the bathroom or between clients, suck it up so you won’t feel uncomfortable with your complicity. We have to speak to you nicely because “we will cause division.”
You are colorblind and do not see us in all of our Blackness, beauty and royalty. We are the culture of the world which has been stolen (and continues to be) and appropriated. Any wh*te person can be Black but only when it benefits them. We are Black all day everyday…born into a world where once our feet hit the ground, we are hunted like animals.
The one Pilates Elder, Kathleen Stanford Grant, that we have to connect us to the Pilates method has been co-opted for your monetary use and wh*tewashed for your pleasure. The erasure of our Blackness even in Pilates is indicative of how the wh*te Pilates community feels about us. Although, I am not the voice of the entire Black Pilates community, I am the voice for many of them. It is evident you do not care about US because if you truly wanted to be “human” those Black squares would not have been enough for you. Do not “other yourself” because the very same wh*te people I am speaking to includes you. You are ALL complicit. So, I ask again: Where were you, where are you? What are you going to do about it besides giving us scholarships, interviewing us and few seats at the table?
If you feel guilt or shame, those feelings are just your body’s way of telling you something is wrong. You are a MAJOR part of what’s wrong. Don’t blame me or any other Black person who is speaking out at this time. We just want to live.
I STILL have MANY questions; I WANT answers and I WANT action. You are either racist OR working towards antiracism; there is NO gray area. So what side are you going to be on?
Sincerely in ALL of my Proud BLACKNESS,
Sonja R. Price Herbert