Posts In: social justice

Our work matters

April 19, 2018

Three cops showed up when this woman asked to use the bathroom at a local yoga studio.

Yesterday I met a sister who was demoing how to make fresh juice at a wellness fair I attended.
We started talking and I told her that I owned a yoga studio.
That led her to share her experience at local Atlanta studios with me.

She told me that her most recent experience at a studio ended with her son and self being profiled… Like cops called on- profiled -because they “fit” the description of a couple that was going around the city stealing from studios.

What she didn’t know is that I knew the “description” of the couple because I had been forwarded several disturbing emails (that I’ve yet to be able to process or respond to) with “descriptions” earlier this year when the thefts started happening in our yoga community.

I memorized the description because it could easily be me and my husband or some day, me and my son.

I looked at this woman and her son. I seen, really seen her. Not just her profile.

Just like me and my family, they didn’t fit the description in any way, except they were Black.

I know that we will comment that this is terrible and shouldn’t happen. We will be sorry. We will ask, what to do.
Some might ask where and who did this. (My answer for that is everywhere… in our institutions, minds, and hearts.) Some in community who have heard about this may DM me and tell me the “version” of this they heard…

I don’t share this because I have any particular answer or need any of that today.

I share this story to ask us to reflect on our bias and how it continues to show up and be fortified in our yoga spaces vs. exposed, challenged, and dismantled.
I share it to invite yoga studio owners to pause and think about who and what greets people from the moment they walk through the door-
How are we prepared and trained to “guide” people that we don’t “really” interact with beyond screens and “descriptions”.
I share it to invite yoga teachers to keep looking around their classes and see who is and isn’t there and ask why and what it means. What does it say about you, not the other?

I share it to remind every Black and Brown Yoga studio owner and teacher that we have a particular call and journey to rise to. It is 1000 times more challenging, and yet 100000 times necessary.

The mountain is growing as we walk it. So does my faith, strength, and clarity.
So does my why.

As heavy as my sister’s story was/is, it served as a passage for me. The gaping wound affirmed this:

My work matters.

Dr. Gail Parker your work matters. Jana your work matters. Maya your work matters. Dr. Chelsea Jackson Roberts your work matters. Vanya your work matters. Rachelle your work matters. Ona Hawk your work matters. Ka Rissa your work matters. Kemiko your work matters. Jasmine your work matters. Kiesha your work matters. Kelley your work matters. Robin your work matters. Marla your work matters. Crystal your work matters. Arturo your work matters.

This is an uncharted path for us and our owning it. our defining it. our being “bout it”. our work matters.

We are each other’s breath.

No shortcut.

July 26, 2016

Those of you who live in Atlanta know that highway 285 allows us to bypass traveling through the center of our city to get just about anywhere we want to go.
You also know that there are times when 285 is painfully congested. The other option takes us straight into the heart of our city.

Transformation and change require us to get right into the center. To bypass the challenges is to skip over the rich experience derived from the feeling of every single track we lay down as we tread our path to a new ground.

As a new mother, I could not bypass the critical and profoundly demanding first two weeks of me and Oye’s life together. There was no way around the sleepless nights, cluster feedings, and painfully tender wrists from holding, lifting, and carrying him.

Returning to the work I passionately love, there is no way for me to bypass feeling both the fulfillment of being exactly where I am when I am teaching a class, private session, or CHILLshop AND the intense longing to return to my son.
The access I gain when I take a route directly into the truth of my experience drops me at the front door of humanity. There is so much strength and softness, pain and healing, misunderstanding and knowing there. I do not want to pass over any of it.

And it is intense.

The world right now is intense for many of us.
We cannot bypass this moment of feeling all of the potholes, ditches, obstructions, and debris spread out in all directions around us.

We must not take our eyes off of the road as we make our way forward.

Let us not use our yoga to bypass hard realities being re-exposed from the well-worn highways of our history, no-not this time.

What road will you take? Will you take the path that will not allow you to miss the pulsing, churning truth of the diversity of our oneness?

Is it education? Is it reading books that challenge your view about an “other”? Is it listening and feeling someone share his or her experience of being Black, Woman, Muslim, Gay, or any “other” beyond your own experience without guilt or the need to interrupt? Is admitting that you don’t know how it is for her, him, them, or even simply me? Is it signaling, like a flashing red light, to a family member, friend, or co-worker who keeps telling that same “joke” about those people? Is it investigating how and where systemic and institutional privilege exists for you more than others? It it then using that very privilege to hold our institutions more accountable to our most marginalized citizens? Is it praying for your heart to be cracked open so that you might have space for “the other” without judgment, fear, or condemnation?

As yogis, we cannot bypass our reality by simplifying oneness to a singular experience.

We can no longer stay in our prescribed and “safe” lanes based off party lines, race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and religion. Not challenging injustice, bigotry, hate, and untruths- even if it does not affect people “like” us will wreck us all.

In all of this though, we must pull over and rest before we get weary.

We need our energy to stay “woke “and present within the vessel of life- as we ride toward tomorrow, together.

love yo’self

February 15, 2016

remembering the moment I owned that I ain’t got to beg for love. or lie for love. or pretend for love. or lighten my eyes or skin for love. smooth out my hair for love. flatten my belly for love. get a Phat-er booty for love. stop choppin’ the ends off words for love.
Remembering the last night I ever waited for Love to call or come through, cause then I realized Love didn’t need me to hold my tongue, hide my Womanist/ Crunk Feminist ways, say yes all the time, act docile, or even to get dressed and go “out” looking for…it.

remembering that moment, where I felt split from the inside and torn.
yet the raw openness there is where “i found god in myself & i loved her/ i loved her fiercely”- (N. Shange)

black.mama.yogi.

January 18, 2016

The day I found out that I am having a baby boy, I cried.

I turned away from the ultrasound screen and a solid streams of tears flowed.
The tech said, “Sweetie, you don’t want to see?”
I couldn’t speak. It wasn’t that. I absolutely did want to see.
But I turned my back to the image on the screen and wondered when.

When would my Black baby stop being a baby to the world?
When would my Black boy child stop being a child in the face of institutions?
When did Tamir stop being a child to the officer who killed him?
When did Trayvon stop being a youth to the brute who killed him?
When did their lives stop mattering to folk?

I cried because we live in a world where Black men are filmed being shot in the back and choked to death by folk who are supposed to “serve and protect” and my time line and real life lines of conscious yogis and liberals remains silent.

I cried because I’ve been a public and private school teacher and seen how office referrals for little Black boys read like criminal reports even when it’s behavior that for other boys gets deemed “he’s just being a kid.”

I cried because I’m sick of the propaganda stations called “news” that just can’t get enough of “documenting” “black on black” crime when we know “white collar crime is destroying our world…. and often just considered business as usual.
Does any one else not see the connection between the images we are “fed” about groups of people and how it shapes and forms our ideas about who we assume people are… but I digress?

I wondered when will someone follow him through a store, hug their purse closer to them when he walks by, skip the elevator he is on, or call a cop because he “looks suspicious”. (Note, these are every day experiences for my husband)

I cried because I don’t know the answer. I cried because I know someone will “misread” this; convinced that because this experience I speak of doesn’t mirror theirs… it can’t possibly be true.

Then I exhaled and smiled. Because even in all of that crying and wondering
I felt an overwhelming sense of protection for and from my boy, like I do in his daddy’s arms and presence.

My baby boy will be Black and wild haired like Jemar and me.
He will probably always be a little bit taller for his age.
Cause I’m a Georgia woman, he’ll probably say “ye, ma’am” and hold doors for ladies. He will be seen and held with lots of love in our family. He will be a baby, a child, grow in to a man. He will be a Black man and human. He will be country and probably citified like his Boston folk.

He will be raised to challenge your perception of who he is and ought to be. He will be raised to walk through the world and see from all sides at all times just like his daddy tells me he learned to do by the time he was four in order to protect his Black body.

With each day and this growing belly I am profoundly aware of the charge and path in front us:
To raise a child who knows that Dr. King wasn’t simply an “I have a dreamer”, but a radical and ACTivist. Despite how we are taught to remember him in a way that makes the masses comfortable, Dr.King was a WOKE revolutionary and dissident.

I turned my gaze back to where my baby boy was wiggling and stretching and I promised him that I would raise him to see true compassion as King did. As
“ More than flinging a coin to a beggar; (but) to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”

To not be lulled into a status quo slumber, but to understand as King did that “The problems of racial injustice and economic injustice cannot be solved without a radical redistribution of political and economic power.”

And this. If he must measure himself against anything. to let it be this wisdom by Dr. King: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Chillin’ with my mama!

January 11, 2015

I think my southern yogi folk can relate:

My mama is a super church going lady, reads The Bible for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And I told y’all she keeps “Jesus on the main line.”

My sister and I lovingly call my mama “our holy high roller” when we think she can’t hear us. When I started practicing yoga in 2003 she had lots of questions about whether or not it was a religious thing, was I chanting, if so, to whom, what did the poses mean, etc?
My feisty 20 something self gave flippant responses or just disengaged.
Over the years that transformed into actual dialogue and communication about my experiences with yoga and her spiritual practices. That gave way to more conversations about faith, grace, healing, and the place of practice, ritual, and community in it all.
That transformed into understanding each others paths and deep reverence and appreciation on both of our sides. Not to mention the relational/ancestral/generational healing {I reckon that’s another post}

20150110_203130

Our blurry “we-fie” or whatever you call more than one person in a selfie. Post CHILLin’!

That is just to say that my mama’s attendance at yesterday’s CHILLshop®yoga session was at least a decade in the making.

She said this about her experience yesterday:
“I felt the kind of peace I only feel in the presence of The Holy.
I also realized it’s really really okay, to sit down and rest for a while on the journey. If you are really on YOUR path, then resting ain’t time lost. It’s time to strengthen yo feet, clear yo eyes, and connect with yo heart for the joys and turns in the road ahead.”

Y’all that’s the best endorsement ever and
Yes, God is real, real in my soul.

Welcome 2015

January 2, 2015

“There is a river near where I live. It meanders slowly, peacefully. It doesn’t ask itself why it isn’t an ocean, or a raging river, or some other thing. It just surrenders to what it is. Maybe we just need to surrender more to who we are. I think I will lie down tomorrow beside the river. And take a rest. And sweet surrender.”- Jeff Brown

These words inspired me to turn my phone & computer off, head to the North Georgia mountains, and CHILL.
I was sleeping when the clock struck 12:00am Jan. 1 2015 and woke up early the next day to go for a hike with my husband.

On long hikes I feel like I’m walking around barefoot through God’s big living room: That vastness takes me through all the seasons of being;
the necessary cold and isolation of winter,
the wildin energy of spring crawlin out the mud and dirt,
the raw- the ripeness- the untamed hot sweetness of summer,
the shakin loose- the rich harvest-then quiet undressed time-the season of my birth- autumn.

I went through some “stuff”-every season and emotion on that journey/hike yesterday.
And came out with this:
Here’s to a year of putting one foot in front of the other, to awakening more fully, to resting when we need to, to building the muscles of deep love, faith, and surrender.

To a year of feeling and being with every season and emotion as we walk {with each other} through God’s big ole living room.

Welcome- 2015.

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