What an exciting week! Launching our collab project with Fit Appeal by Kim Sealy has been months in the making. A lot of time and heart went into putting this together - and part of that was finding the right non-profit to give back to. We wanted to make sure our missions aligned. And although giving to charity is never a bad thing, we didn't want to donate for the sake of donating; we really wanted to connect and make some sort of impact.

Enter: Project Onyx. As I'm sure you've seen over the past week, we have been flooding your feed and our stories with diversity and mention of Project Onyx. We've shared their mission but I wanted to dig a little deeper and give you guys the voices behind PO.


Thirteen Fit Apparel + Fit Appeal: Introduce yourself! Who is behind Project Onyx and who IS Project Onyx?
Project Onyx, Elijah: I'm Elijah Muhammad, 32 business owner, husband & father of 4. 2x CrossFit Games Athlete & former Strength & Conditioning Coach at Tennessee Tech University. Project Onyx is a Community! A way to bring youth together and teach about health & wellness.

Patrick: My name is Patrick Ford. I am a husband, father, CrossFit enthusiast and a Doctor of Physical Therapy based out of Des Moines, Iowa. Although founded by Elijah and I, Project Onyx is much more than the two of us. It's an ongoing project to create a diverse, healthy, and fitness forward community that empowers its members to live long, fulfilling lives absent of racial inequality. Anyone who is actively anti-racist, recognizes and wishes to narrow the racial health gap, and enjoys some fitness along the way, is living the Project Onyx mission.

TFA + FA: What was the inspiration behind launching your non-profit?
PO: The idea for Project Onyx was largely driven by the multiple incidents of police brutality and negligence throughout 2020 (specifically the murder of George Floyd). These incidents along with current events in the crossfit world and the subsequent stories that people of color in crossfit spaces have spoken about (see @blackatcrossfit on IG) propelled the idea of Project Onyx into becoming an actionable idea. After these events I, Patrick, started researching the racial inequalities in representation, treatment, and health outcomes throughout the history of America. With the increasing emotional stress and new knowledge, I had no choice but to take action and approach Elijah with this idea to eliminate health disparities by creating a new system absent of racial inequality.

TFA + FA: How did you come up with your name?
PO: I had come up with a variety of names that attempted to capture the essence of our mission and vision. We settled with Project Onyx as a result. 'Project' indicates that this is an ongoing effort that will take everyone's help to achieve. A "Project" relies heavily on the members to work cohesively to produce optimal results. The "project" represents our youth members, our mentees, our communities, and ourselves indicating we are always a work in progress.

When I think of "onyx" I am typically envisioning black onyx (a rare gemstone) which quite literally is meant to represent black people and other people of color. But, if you dig deeper into what onyx is, it comes in a spectrum of colors. No matter what type of color an onyx stone is, it's still considered onyx. The same goes for us as humans. No matter our gender, race, upbringing, we are all humans. Celebrating our differences and overcoming our unique challenges is at the core of our mission.

TFA + FA: What does 'diversity' mean to Project Onyx?
PO, Patrick: To me, diversity simply means the healthy and welcomed differences observed from one person to another. This includes our race, ethnicity, culture, sexual preference, gender, and so much more. To be immersed in diversity is highly desirable and allows our communities to have a healthy perspective and consciousness of the individual struggles our members are facing and the strength and value they provide to us.

Elijah: Inclusivity for all. Bringing all colors, walk and people into one room to better understand each other. Learn from one another and show compassion to each other. Teaching people these qualities as the maneuver through society.
TFA + FA: Of the 13 words we've used in our campaign, which one(s) speak mostly to the mission of Project Onyx and why? (community, empowerment, vulnerability, passion, leadership, growth, movement, individuality, fearlessness, diversity, authenticity, resilience, hope)
PO: Our core values are quite literally 'empowerment', 'Community', and 'health and wellness' . Health and wellness can be captured by your words of 'growth' and movement'. All of these words embody an important component of what Project Onyx values. We hope we can instill each of these qualities in our community members from the youth to seniors. It's also important for us to help our members define these words for themselves and use those ideas to live healthy, fulfilling lives.  
TFA + FA: Lastly, what are your goals as a non-profit, short and long term?
PO: In the short term, the goal is simply to set a foundation for this organization to help the greater Des Moines community. This includes establishing our youth programming, affordable fitness, health/fitness workshops and future professionals mentorship program at multiple locations in Des Moines. Achieving this requires building connections with a diverse group of health and fitness professionals and the sub-communities they serve. This is all in an effort to overcome the unique barriers that our BIPOC and underserved community members face (wage gaps, transportation and access, etc) all of which may prevent them from living healthy and active lives.

In the long term, we are wishing to expand this program across the US in any city possible. The idea is for Project Onyx to be a self-sustaining organization in which its mentees and youth participants take the torch from their mentors and coaches in order to help the generations that come after them. It is important for us that this is facilitated by having diversity in our staff, volunteers, and membership to make sure we are serving all of our BIPOC community members and their unique needs.

Thank you for reading, for following, for supporting, and for being a part of our mission!

Paige Festa

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