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The State of The BE’s Diversity & Inclusion Initiatives

By August 19, 2020September 13th, 2020No Comments

The BE was created to be a safe space for people to do their work, to feel seen, accepted, and respected. Recent events have shown us that we need to do more, and do better, to ensure that our BIPOC community is just as comfortable within our walls as everyone else.

We have been asked to open our eyes to the lack of diversity among our staff and clientele. In the past we assumed that if we simply continued driving our mission and vision of inclusivity, that it would magically result in a colorful community representing all of St. Pete.  After all, we never considered ourselves to be just a neighborhood studio. We envisioned The BE as a destination for EVERYONE looking for a peaceful, supportive place.

Well, we were wrong. That dream of diversity by and large did not happen. And now we realize that it’s going to require more effort, new ideas, and a greater commitment of resources to create something that’s more than lip service. To stay relevant and meet the demands of our very own mission statement, we have to prioritize our diversity and inclusion work, and not let it flounder when things get tough.

We are prepared to show up for this work.

BE members will see these external manifestations of our efforts:

We amplify marginalized voices

We seek out, learn from, and share the perspectives of underrepresented groups in the yoga and mindful movement communities, especially those of local thinkers, teachers, coaches, and activists.

To this end we are actively seeking out BIPOC leaders in the yoga and fitness communities and developing new relationships. We have made our existing partnership with Urban Yoga Foundation more robust, giving graduates of that program a presence on our schedule and in our social media, and initiate and share conversations between UYF and BE leaders. We are also hosting a UYF Teacher Training at The BE in 2021, to support the work of diversifying voices in the yoga teaching world and putting more BIPOC in the front of the room.

We give

We are formalizing our philanthropic efforts, allowing for more transparency and impact, with a focus on improving health equity in St. Pete and beyond.The BE gives via four different avenues. The first is offering free or discounted services or resources to the public or to local groups for which The BE takes little or no compensation; the second is in offering in-kind donations to local non-profits to be used by their clientele or auctioned for their fundraisers; a third is in cash contributions and paid sponsorships; and the fourth is via fundraising efforts taken by us on behalf of charities. The BE has always been serious about giving what we can to our community, but we haven’t been particularly strategic or intentional about it. Examples of what we are doing now through those four avenues include (but are not limited to):

  • Pay-What-You-Can: In the past month The BE has put three Pay-What-You-Can classes on the weekly schedule. Two offerings, Pre/Postnatal Yoga and Baby Optional Workout, target new parents and parents-to-be, offering support, education, and community at a critical time. We are getting the word out through various platforms and by way of Healthy Start, “a free home visiting program that provides education and care coordination to pregnant women and families of children under the age of three. The goal of the program is to lower risk factors associated with preterm birth, low birth weight, infant mortality and poor developmental outcomes.” The third class is People’s Practice, offered in-house and virtually. The goal of People’s Practice is “restoring indigenous presence to practice while inspiring a peaceful union with mind and body.” This weekly class is led by Urban Yoga Foundation trainers and all class donations benefit UYF.
  • Partnerships: We continue partnering with local businesses and the City of St. Pete to provide free and low-cost yoga and mindful fitness classes, in order to break down barriers to entry, expand the reach of wellness, and create greater health equity in our hometown. For years we have offered free monthly yoga at The Sundial, at Crescent Lake Park, and now we have two free classes per month at St. Pete Pier. Donations collected at our bimonthly Pier events benefit local charities chosen each month that reflect The BE’s vision, mission, and culture. Our first month’s proceeds benefited the Pinellas County Chapter of the ACLU, “a local champion of civil liberties and as a defender of the freedoms embedded in the Bill of Rights through education, outreach and advocacy.” Upcoming beneficiaries include St. Pete Free Clinic and Outdoor Afro, “a community that reconnects African-Americans with natural spaces and one another through recreational activities such as camping, hiking, biking, birding, fishing, gardening, skiing — and more!”
  • Facilities: The BE Athletic hosts the Lakewood High School boys’ basketball team and boys’ and girls’ soccer teams for free, supervised weekly workouts. We also offer a discounted membership to parents of Lakewood High athletes. Lakewood High is near our gym in South St. Pete and has a minority enrollment of 65%.
  • Sponsorships: The BE gives many gift certificates to area organizations for fundraisers of all kinds, but especially to support those organizations concerned with mental and physical health, children, and health equity.  We are an annual sponsor of several groups including St. Pete Run Fest, and Girls Rock! St. Pete, which “empowers girls and women through music.”
We are creating more racial diversity on our staff, as we prioritize it in our recruitment, programming, and retention efforts.

We are actively seeking BIPOC staff and instructors. With better staff diversity and different voices guiding our programming, we will be able to better understand and serve the needs and preferences of a broader community of people. With success, this should in turn create better racial diversity in our clientele.

We support local BIPOC-owned retail vendors

So far we carry RANI Goods and Blue Sage Eco Boutique products. We are actively searching for better representation of BIPOC-owned retail in our store.

BE staff will see these internal manifestations of our efforts:

  • We created The BE Mentorship Program, ensuring open lines of communication, professional support, and a greater heterogeneity of voices to lend guidance and feedback to new hires.
  • We serve our local community reaching out to better learn how we can serve those who have felt excluded from the benefits of yoga and mindful fitness in general, or The BE specifically. Staff has shared that these efforts are important to their professional development and job satisfaction.
  • We evaluated, discarded, and created systems around hiring, evaluations, opportunities, raises, and communications. It has become clear that transparency and consistent systems create the atmosphere of trust necessary for staff happiness. We want to ensure that there is no question that ALL staff are given the same opportunities for growth and advancement.
  • We have clear diversity and inclusion goals, and plans to implement these initiatives in all of our systems: staff hiring, training, class and events programming, employee evaluations, opportunities, philanthropic efforts, and community outreach.
  • We have zero-tolerance for bigotry of any kind, including common microaggressions and problematic language.

Personally, we are also committed to continuing this soul work. Yoga philosophy teaches us to identify unconscious patterns of thought and habit, and then discern if those patterns are helpful, hurtful, or benign. And when we conclude that a pattern is not helpful, we set about replacing it with a new habit that IS helpful or benign.

We believe strongly in The BE, in what we stand for, and in what we DO. We’ve heard hundreds of stories of healing over the years. But with your help, we can do better. If you have ideas, questions, concerns, or recommendations PLEASE reach out to us. We are all ears!  Mail to:

Thank you!


Author Jenny

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