For months we’ve been focused on helping folks move in these pandemicky times, and now, in light of actions for racial justice and against the oppression of Black people and state violence happening all over the world, I feel I need to communicate the importance of antiracism work, what we’re doing as a company, and what we still need to do.
For our Nutritious Movement family who are persons color, have family of color, and especially those who are Black, I am holding space for any feelings or needs you might have right now. I know an exercise company is a small portion of a life, but know that we are in this fight with you, giving time and money where we can and doing our own personal antiracist work as well. It’s not your job to educate us, but if there are resources of any kind you think we should be learning from, please feel free to send them our way. We understand that we may make missteps as we engage in the work of dismantling white supremacy, and we’re receptive to any “corrective exercises” you may identify we need. (Again, not your job, but we’re open to hearing from you!).
For our readers, movers, and fans who are white, I’m taking inspiration from my friend who has a tattoo on his throat that says “SPEAK PLAINLY”:
I began personal, deliberate antiracism work a few years ago, and I believe all members of a dominant culture should do work in this area. When we talk about pelvic-floor issues we identify “internal work” (soft-tissue work done inside the vagina). Sometimes internal work feels scary. It can be physically uncomfortable, but it can also bring about improvement and change in how you live and move going forward.
Similarly, antiracism work is done deep inside, can feel scary, and is physically uncomfortable, but it needs to be done by the white people controlling, usually unconsciously, the framework for everyone else’s lives. Just like we control the movement possibilities for our children as they grow, many times unconsciously, so do we all participate in an invisible structure that affects the freedom of so many others.
I decided long ago that I needed to prioritize my narrow, deep (family, local, community) life before addressing the wider, shallower version of my life (online presence). As far as recent antiracism work, this has meant more physical, in-person work/demonstrations, time with community members struggling/affected as well as my most important antiracism work—educating my children on how to be anti-racist and supporting them as they deal with what comes up for them when faced with live, dissenting anger and fear. Next, I've turned to staff and the teachers in our organization to figure out what work we need to do (that will be in progress forever) , and now I have this post and list of resources to be shared with our widest, online community.
Resources specifically for movement teachers:
- You can review this webinar recording, Anti-Racism and Allyship For Rehab and Movement Professionals, led by Dr. Jennifer Hutton, DPT, for $25.
- Skill in Action: Radicalizing Your Yoga Practice to Create a Just World by Michelle Cassandra Johnson is short but essential reading (or listening!) for white movement instructors.
- While not movement-specific, Holistic Resistance’s integrated approach to antiracism work includes deep connection and body awareness which might resonate with many of you working with bodies. They are loving, kind, funny, and have the ability to hold, beautifully, many folks new to antiracist work, all at the same time.
Books for all of us looking to dismantle white supremacy in ourselves and in our movement spaces:
Some of you have asked me for book recommendations. There are so many excellent books written to help us see more clearly the racism we participate in. Below are lists including some of the most popular/foundational titles plus suggestions I think are relevant to the exercise/movement/yoga spaces many of my readers might find themselves within:
- Here’s a list from Layla F. Saad, author of Me and White Supremacy and the host of the Good Ancestor podcast, compiled to carry the momentum of this time forward
- Time Magazine has a list of books to read if you can’t get your hands on some of the most popular antiracist titles right now
- Being Black and Radical Dharma by angel Kyodo Williams
- The Body is Not an Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor
There are really so many books out there, this list is tiny and in no way comprehensive. Just start by picking a title that resonates and once you get started you will tune in to the many authors and ideas you haven’t been seeing. Also, note I’ve linked resources to author or publisher’s websites. If you can buy from an author directly, do it! If not, buying from publishers is also beneficial. Indie bookstores are also golden.
In addition to books that act like guides to help me dismantle my racism, here are a few of the books I use for different elements of my life, books that are playing a part in my work to be less racist.
PARENTING: As a family, having the Gaither Sisters series by Rita Williams-Garcia under our belts made the context of recent events, including the recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, to name only a few, clear. These are chapter books for young readers and I appreciated my kids learning various facets of racism, activism, as well as the differences in culture the sisters find when visiting family in Oakland, California and visiting family in Alabama in the 60s, from young girls they can relate more to. A masterful series I wish every child access to.
Here is more information on how to diversify a library of children's books, and you can find some specific titles here.
RESEARCH: As for my movement work, Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples by Linda Tuhiwai Smith is a must-read for understanding how dominant-culture biases influence research design and the data gathered. Tuhiwai Smith is Māori, but I feel her takeaways apply to how I approach the work I do with tribal citizens as well as how I interpret and use papers featuring hunter-gatherers hooked up to activity counters.
A BOOK I REFER TO ALMOST DAILY: Farming While Black by Leah Penniman. My beliefs about movement include the idea that movement outsourcing relates directly to racism (a key feature to dominant cultures is that they need a group of people to do their physical labor for them). Part of my antiracism work is to move more for the things I need, thus decreasing how much another group has to physically work on my personal behalf. Because FOOD is something we all need every day—it’s the most essential, so to speak—moving for one’s food can be part of taking the load off another. Working with and supporting Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC)-led food movements is another arm of my NM-work. I feel this book is a must-read when it comes to “stacking” the work of getting to the deep internal racism we hold in our minds as well as getting to some of the deep infrastructure of how that racism plays out, physically. It’s so much more than a book about farming; it’s also a book about how elements of our often community-devoid, spirituality-devoid, nature/growing-skill-devoid lifestyles are indeed part of the racist structure.
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LEADERSHIP: Emergent Strategy by Adrienne Marie Brown. I found this book to be essential when it comes to running an organization or organizing groups or projects. I’ve altered the way I approach teaching and leading projects and events due to insights gathered from reading about less dominant-culture styles of working with groups. I’m a super-linear thinker, but A.M.B. is sooooo much poetry and beauty and swirls and parts and people. Part of my personal healing includes learning how to process information in new ways. I have “sticky spots” in my brain that keep me organizing and classifying in a repetitive way. This book was like a Calf Stretch for my brain.
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COMMUNICATION: Race After Technology by Ruha Benjamin. "Professor Ruha Benjamin pens a most prescient book in which she argues that automation will exacerbate racial discrimination, even if its surface appears benevolent and helpful to our technological society."
This book isn’t out yet, but I’ve got it pre-ordered and can’t wait to dive it. My personal beliefs are that technologies can be oppressive, if only for the fact that the nuts and bolts of technology are moved for in tragic conditions—conditions we would not accept for ourselves, for our children. Technologies can also be liberating, but it’s not clear (at least to me) what and for whom the costs/benefits are, as these have not been made apparent. I await this next book in the hopes it can shed more light on how I’m feeling about these matters and my work to be less oppressive in the world.
One foot in front of the other
I've still got so much work to do personally and as far as Nutritious Movement is concerned. I’m always thinking about how to continue to work to address the privilege of exercise and movement while simultaneously getting everyone to move more, and I’ve decided to focus next on WALKING (which surprises no one, I’m sure).
Alongside demonstrations calling out the more blatant dangers faced by individuals of color moving through the world, the pandemic is revealing further inequalities between white and racialized communities when it comes to the rates of death from Covid-19 as well as access to the simple, immune-system-benefitting suggestion that folks take a daily walk. Getting our bodies moving has never felt more urgent and we don’t have equal access to this seemingly simple act. I’ve decided to put my time towards creating a short podcast series that strives (or is it strides?) to get listeners moving while taking a dive into the intersections of Covid-19 and race and built environments and mobility justice. I want us all to ask, "How are we keeping others from moving?"
I’ve been thinking more and more about this idea that “these times are challenging.” My feeling is that the ease was the façade. The work has always been here; now it’s palpable. The work is everywhere, pouring out of the cracks. The backlog of the work we haven’t been doing is immense. Let’s get moving. Let’s get to work.
Reading through this, I wonder, was all of this above plainly spoken? How about this:
“Justice is what love looks like in public.” - Cornel West