I started writing a post about going to the gym after the pandemic all the while a movement was growing. That movement is Black Lives Matter. My original post just felt so pointless after the murder of George Floyd. I took to social media like everyone else and shared my outrage, my support for Black Lives Matter (because all lives can’t matter until Black Lives Matter), and my hatred for police brutality and oppression of humans based on race that has been supported by a flawed criminal justice system (among other things) for far too long. I did all those action items, I donated to charities, and I posted a black square, but I want to help the movement in a more personal and sustainable way.
As I wrote my post about returning to the gym or maintaining your home fitness routine, I realized I was unaware of so many amazing black-owned fitness businesses- whether it’s apparel, health, or personal trainers. That’s when a friend suggested I reach out to THE BEST trainer I know (she legitimately kicked our asses in grad school in the best way possible, I still have nightmares about those high kicks during boxing or the Christmas Tabata music), who happens to own a gym, personal training, and nutrition company in Philadelphia called Next Level Personal Training. When I reached out to Shani Harvey and Traci Horne (co-owners), I learned so much more from talking to these two ladies than information about a gym (though check out their services, details below). Here’s what we discussed:
1. We need to have conversations with each other about uncomfortable issues.
I led the discussion by telling them to let me know if I say anything wrong or ignorant, the classic white girl in me wants to help but does not want to offend. I felt so at ease when Traci told me “there is no protocol” and that saying something on behalf of the movement was better than saying nothing. Shani mentioned that by “doing your own research, you’ll be less likely to say the wrong thing.” I love that sentiment, be more knowledgeable rather than pleading ignorance, but I loved, even more, when Traci chimed in that being knowledgeable doesn’t mean we have to constantly insert ourselves into all these conversations. It’s okay to listen, but…
2. “Use your privilege to make people aware of the challenges of the black community”- Shani
This seems so obvious, right? But most of us live our lives knowing these challenges exist but doing nothing about it. What I found exciting was the optimism and hopefulness about the current state of the BLM movement. Both Traci and Shani explained to me how this time, it already feels different- in a good way. This time, “a lot of people are fed up not just black people, the movement is more diverse, you look to your left and your right and you see many different walks of life and nationalities, everyone together that can see the injustices and working in unity to change them.”
3. “No one wants to see a riot happen, but they have to happen because we’ve been peacefully protesting for years.”
You have probably read in the news people outraged over the rioting but more specifically the looting. Even Shani and Traci were fearful of their building being damaged and looted, but you have to look beyond the few that do wrong (we don’t condone violence and stealing) and see the bigger picture. When Colin Kaepernick took a knee, he was peacefully protesting, but that’s not how white people wanted him to do it, so he was essentially blacklisted from the NFL. Two years ago, then Eagles safety, Malcolm Jenkins held up a sign in the locker-room that read, “You Aren’t Listening” and that powerful message went in one ear and out the other for many. If everyone stood quietly in the street, nothing would be accomplished, and we can say that with confidence based on history. Making some noise woke us up, rioting got our attention, and because of that, you have already seen the beginning of tangible change in cities across the country. Specifically, change in our police and criminal justice system (Minneapolis, Los Angeles, and others). I asked that if we never saw the videos of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, would the movement be where it is today? Their answer was an emphatic no! Both explained to me the police officers were very comfortable with their actions and because there are not many convictions (of police officers for their crimes) these officers (with laundry lists of complaints) feel untouchable because they always have been. The time has come when not just black people, but all people have joined to finally hold the police accountable for their brutal actions.
4. We can learn so much from the black-owned businesses and their leaders.
Talking with Shani and Traci was inspiring. I’ve known Shani for a few years, but I just met Traci. Shani has dedicated her life to “pulling women up” from any situation they are facing and giving them the tools and mindset to improve their circumstances through fitness and nutrition. Traci is a labor and delivery nurse at Temple University Hospital by day and Shani’s partner as a trainer and nutritionist at Next Level Personal Training. The two have known each other since they were teens and they refer to their fitness/nutrition business as a true labor of love. They started training in the local park with their kids running around going from a few people to training 25-30 people by the end of their first summer. Their mission is to give back and “this isn’t hard, this is who [they] are naturally – caregivers, mothers,” it is in their spirit to pull all women up – “look past color and creed to create unity.” I find the inspiration in their desire to help everyone, despite maybe not always getting that in return. Our black-owned business leaders have overcome so much to find success, and yet they are the first ones willing to invite us in, have these conversations, and provide support when they deserve our support.
5. How do we continue to support black lives after this initial wave of outrage?
The change we need in this country will not happen overnight and our efforts can’t be limited to a few weeks or even months of outrage and protest. We need to find sustainable ways to engage in the topics of racism, equality, criminal justice reform, and all injustices. When I asked Shani and Traci, what can we do, they quickly pointed to this list:
- Register to vote
- Check-in on your black friends, family, partners, employees, and colleagues
- Educate yourself about what it means to be actively anti-racist
- Share and repost resources to educate others around you
- Identify your privilege and condemn it
- Stop supporting brands and organizations that do not support this cause. Unfollow.
- Continue to fund, support, advocate AFTER the outrage ends and…
6. Support black-owned businesses
In addition to racism and inequality, these businesses have also been affected by the pandemic in our country. Shani and Traci told me they didn’t receive any small business loans or unemployment from the government in what they described as “a kick in the face” because these small businesses are “the backbone of America” which makes it even more frustrating. But as you’d expect, these two found ways to survive by moving quickly to a virtual training platform and using technology to continue working with clients. The good news is, we can still make a difference by supporting black-owned businesses. I am starting here with Next Level Personal Training because now, you too (wherever you are!) can train with them because they are keeping the virtual platform due to its success! Traci described the online platform as “the best classes, the best trainers in a one-stop-shop” but more than that, “you got your planet fitness and your Next Level personal training”- it’s not even close! I’ve had my fair share of trainers, I played Division I college lacrosse, and Shani is easily the best fitness instructor I’ve ever had. I wish you could have seen our classes at Temple Health Science Campus to believe me when I say, these classes were the most diverse, family-like atmosphere with strangers that became friends because of Shani’s training style.
Aside from Next Level Personal Training (info listed below), I asked Shani and Traci to highlight some other local black-owned businesses in the Philadelphia area, and you can see all their information here:
1. Next Level Personal Training, Specializing Group Fitness, Personal Training, and Nutrition for Women. Virtual options available as well.
2. Nostalgic Eye Care – Comprehensive Optometry Services, www.nostalgiceyecare.com
3. Knights Gym – www.knightsgym.net
4. A Women’s Touch, Mobile DJ Entertainment Services, www.djladyfx.com
5. The Yoga Doctor, Athletic Yoga Therapy, www.theyogadoctordc.com
6. The Bling Print – Home Goods, www.theblingprint.ecwid.com
7. Shay and the Domestic Divas LLC, Cleaning Services, email@example.com
8. ARTrageous Brush & Flow, Providing Paint events, parties, classes, and Grab-n-Go paint kits, www.artrageousbrushandflow.com
9. Fromatics – Hair Love Inspiration and Merchandise – IG @fromatics
10. Cotton Candy Artistry, Makeup Services - IG @cottancandy_artistry
11. A Mazin Print & Designs – Apparel Printing, Logo Creations, Website building, Graphics, Business Cards, Flyers and more. www.amazindesigns.com
12. Creative Mind Productions, Photography Services, www.allmoneyshots.com
13. B.O.S.S. Building Opportunities Supporting Sisters, www.bosssistersforlife.com
14. Gregory Graphics, Branding/Strategy/Design, www.positiv-media.com
15. Curls, Kinks & Coils Curl Studio, Specializing in Curly Hair, www.frizzisok.com
16. Clare – Paint www.clare.com
17. Dionne Watts-Williams, PR & Personal Branding, www.inspiredcreativegroup.com
18. Massi Abaya, Imported luxury abayas, www.massiabayas.com
Additionally, other black-owned businesses that are fitness related include:
19. Trilogy Solutions, a functional fitness clothing brand (located in the UK but ships to the US, https://www.trilogysolutionsuk.com/
20. Game Face Wipes, Revolutionizing the wipe for athletes, https://www.gamefacegrooming.com/
21. Fitnesse, Athletic platform to help you build and train like the pros, https://www.fitnesse.fit/
Just by talking to Shani and Traci, I learned so much, but I want to end with a few take-home points that seemed to be the crux of our conversation. If you don’t read this entire post I hope you at least acknowledge that we must continue to talk about uncomfortable issues and by doing so, we need to help people understand “all lives matter but black lives matter.” On that note, let’s get to sharing and supporting our black-owned businesses because we are in the fight for equality and justice together!