Celebrating Blackness: Danielle
Happy Black History Month! During February -- and literally every single month on the calendar -- we're all about celebrating Black leaders and empowering the next gen of badasses.
We caught up with DC instructor Danielle to hear what Blackness means to her, how she flexes her #BlackGirlMagic, and why making the fitness space more inclusive is so important!
Take us back to when you were a kid -- how did you experience "Blackness" growing up?
I grew up in a very affluent, predominately White town. Most Black children growing up are taught how to behave as "the only Black kid" in the room. You become a representative for your entire race and the official on all things "Black."
I remember many uncomfortable situations. Someone once told me they didn't want to share snacks because their mom told them not to play with the brown kids.
Whoa! That's crazy. How did you grow from that experience?
Years later, I wrote my college admissions essay on it. It's a testament to the fact that you can turn one person's ignorance into your come up.
How has ((305)) been a place for you to flex your #BlackGirlMagic?
It's no surprise that if you're taking a fitness class, you probably want to look like your instructor. As I started out my journey teaching at 305, I wondered, "How will our mostly White client base see themselves in me, let alone aspire to look like me?"
However, once I started teaching, I realized that ((305)) clients are some of the warmest, most non judgmental people I've met. They connect with my determination and joy for dance, regardless of my race.
Going off of that, how do you think the fitness industry can improve on being more inclusive of different backgrounds?
Marketing matters. If I log on to a studio's site and see NO people of color (in site images or bios of the instructors, etc), that's an issue. I often invite people to think about how they'd few if the tables were turned and they too had to wonder, "Will I be welcomed and accepted?"
As a black woman that works out a lot, I've also had men say things like, "I'm glad you workout unlike other Black women." It's very disheartening when this type of ignorance is perpetuated in how some fitness studios and gyms choose to market themselves.
Do you think there are ways people can appreciate and not appropriate?
A lot of non-POC struggle with the issue of appreciation vs. appropriation. Often times it is born out of ignorance, willful or otherwise. For me, it's not about utilizing something in black culture, it's about taking credit for it as a new idea.
Isis from Bring It On said it best: "Every time we get some, here y'all come trying to steal it, putting some blonde hair on it and calling it something different."
Also, if you haven't seen Bring It On, what are you REALLY doing with your life?!
Finally, what can people do to help dismantle anti-Black racism?
Listen. Too often, people are so quick to dismiss someone else's experience because it hasn't happened to them. I've been pulled over by the police before, and have never had any issues, but to dismiss other people's experiences with police brutality would be ridiculous. Listening is important.
Love Danielle? YUP.
Celebrate with her in class ASAP.