We have been asked to do more about 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 eventually 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 has not happened. 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 meet the demands of our very own mission statement, we must prioritize our work on diversity and inclusion, and not let it flounder when times get tough.
We are prepared to show up for this work.
In the coming months, 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 (black, indigenous and people of color) leaders in the yoga and fitness communities and developing new relationships.
In addition, we have made our five-year partnership with Urban Yoga Foundation more robust. The simple goal of this partnership is to diversify voices in the yoga teaching world by putting more BIPOC at the front of the room. Our plans include graduating more BIPOC from yoga teacher trainings, creating more opportunities for BIPOC yoga teachers and trainers, and continuing our work with UYF leaders, with the overarching goal of creating health equity by sharing the benefits of yoga and mindful fitness with a greater diversity of people. Our current focus is on giving graduates of UYF program a presence on our class schedule and social media platforms, while preparing to host a UYF Teacher Training at The BE in 2021.
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:
- We offer free or discounted services or resources to the general public and to local groups;
- We offer in-kind donations to local non-profits to be used by their clientele or auctioned for their fundraisers;
- We make cash contributions and provide paid sponsorships;
- We participate in fundraising efforts 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. That will be changing as we go forward. 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. The third class is People’s Practice, the goal of which 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.
- 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. Also, 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.”
- Grants and Awards: The BE Present is funded by anonymous donors and The BE to create packages and memberships for people who need them.
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.
We currently carry RANI Goods and Blue Sage Eco Boutique products, both produced by entrepreneurs of color. We are now 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 mix 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 are working to improve our systems for hiring, evaluations, raises, and internal 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, with 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 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: firstname.lastname@example.org.