CELEBRATE DIVERSITY

I think we can all agree 2020 has been a rollercoaster of a year. We've been challenged, stretched, and given many opportunities to grow, learn, and listen. While it's been tough, it's also been the inspiration of our collab project with Fit Appeal by Kim Sealy: CELEBRATE DIVERSTIY.

We wanted to create a project that would go beyond the surface. Furthermore, we wanted to find a way to amplify voices from members of our community. Celebrate Diversity came together over 13 words that have represented the year we've all endured thus far. Now, we are able to share a perspective on each of these words from 13 members of our community! 

We are so excited to share this project with you - not only to introduce you to these 13 incredible, diverse individuals but to also raise some money for Project Onyx's mission.

"At Project Onyx, our goal is to eliminate the barriers that people of color face by providing affordable and accessible health and fitness services, mentorship for our youth and future professionals, and empowering our communities to become more culturally proficient, healthy, and active."

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CEDRIC: COMMUNITY.

"When I think about community, another word immediately comes to my mind - family. More than a specific group of people joined by commonalities - job, hobby, cause, etc. - a community is a place where we all should be lifted up, celebrated, challenged, and ultimately supported to be the best version of ourselves everyday. A real community, a real family, doesn’t just support “different”, but makes it a genuine part of their makeup. Whether it be diversity of skin color, body type, thought, socio-economic status, religion, and endless other ways we can be “different”, a community that is truly impactful, that is truly lifting you up to be the best version of you, will thrive as these differences are made to be “normal”. Diversity in our communities, whether they are based in fitness, careers, or general commonalities, should be celebrated because they are expected. 

I’ve been lucky in my life. Like I said above, the words family and community are the same to me. And the first community I can ever remember being apart of was my family, both immediate and extended. They taught me how to celebrate diversity by loving and learning from all. That showing up as the best version of yourself is going to manifest itself differently because we all have different experiences, but ultimately is about being your best.  And your family, your community, showing up to help you get there. 

Community. Family. Words that can be thrown around in a way that can truly divide us many times. My challenge to myself, and others, is to make sure my community, my family, is lifting everyone to greater - regardless of our differences. In that, we can truly Celebrate Diversity."

JAIR: EMPOWERMENT.

"I experienced the power of this word in my life when I decided to go out on a limb and pursue opening my gym, the first of its kind in my island. It was my friends, clients and family at the time who gave me that push, that drive, that fuel with their words. Words that made me feel like my goals attainable with ease. I also harnessed the same energy from seeing others who have gone ahead of me and pursued their dreams. I felt worthy of this venture and that it was meant for me if I so desired. With all fears and doubt erased I moved forward with my plans and opened my gym. Now the road was not smooth, nor was the process easy in opening a business, however I was constantly reminded that it was not impossible and that all I had what it takes to get it done and keep it going. 4 years later we are still here. Without that empowerment found and given to me at the start and over they years I know I would not have made the first step."

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JASON: VULNERABILITY.

"I’ve never been the most open person. Growing up in a small town in rural Michigan and being bullied for being Asian in a predominantly white community, I felt the need to always put on the face of someone strong, and in-control - after a while I think that persona just became the norm. 

I see vulnerability as a way we are able to see the world through others eyes. Being vulnerable is to acknowledge that we don’t hold all he answers, understanding who we are, and adapting to the consequences. 

My fitness journey started as a yoga teacher in NYC. I remember taking Soul Cycle multiple times a week, and saw yoga training as the fastest track to becoming some kind of instructor. Little did I know the training would crack me open and change my life forever. Since then I have taught all around the city in numerous methods. I don’t think it's the methods where you learn the most, or the actual teaching necessarily. I think we learn the most from our interactions with each other. I can't remember one specific physical moment in a class that moved me, but I remember so many moments with colleagues, fellow teachers, and clients where I could connect with someone over a shared feeling or experience. So many times words and shared stories play a much bigger role in what moves me. Diversity isn’t just in who we interact with, or the color of our skin, or our background. Diversity is represented also in our experiences and our feelings. When I allow myself to be vulnerable I discover a wealth of feelings cultivated from my many experiences."

KIM: PASSION.

"I love the quote from Mary Lou Retton that says “Each of us has a fire in our hearts for something. It’s our goal in life to find it and keep it lit.” That sums up exactly how I feel about passion. It’s a burning desire or an unquenchable thirst for something and that something has to come and be nurtured from within. When we start takin action on the small things that excite us from moment to moment and day to day we will connect to our passion. 

Just because you’re passionate about something doesn’t automatically mean you’ll be great at it though. For me, it means you will be consistently fueled with the drive to get better while understanding that some masterpieces take more time and hard work than others. ⠀

CrossFit is a passion for me. Each day I am genuinely excited to train. My energy levels may fluctuate, but my want and will to improve and become as efficient as I can be at all the movements is truly insatiable."

LEE, LEADERSHIP.

"To me 'leadership' is about positively influencing individuals and groups of people. I’ve always loved and continue to love doing that. I want to see folks reach their potential. 

I’ve been allowed to lead from a young age. At 14 years old my boxing club allowed me to lead small fitness sessions for core strength. I lead a small car washing business that same year with my best friend. I lead a fundraising effort, putting my body through some tough challenges to raise money to go to Africa to box and to help mentor athletes. 

It seems as if this pattern of behaviour during my teenage years was formative and has led me to the position I find myself in today, where I have the privilege of leading a team of 12 amazing CrossFit coaches who in turn help my co-affiliate owners and I lead a diverse and inclusive community of over 400 people.  

I would hope that I am able to positively lead by example for as many years as possible. From a fitness perspective and beyond."

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MIA: GROWTH.

"It’s funny how one word can create instant visuals in one's mind. 

I was never an athlete, nor was I ever someone who identified with being particularly athletic, so being chosen to be a part of this collaboration was a bit of a surprise. However, the word growth being assigned to me was serendipity as I was able to truly reflect on my own.

One of the lowest points in my life was about 2 years ago. I needed a change, I longed for my skin to reflect the image that I had created for myself. I had lost sight of making me a priority. I decided that it was time to start showing up for Mia. I slowly changed my attitude and my internal dialogue. I learnt to say ‘no’ more, I made a vision board and I transformed my way of thinking from seeing time for myself as being selfish, to understanding that I had to feed my spirit in order to continue to show up for everyone around me. 

This was the beginning of the creation of a more confident and self assured Mia. So with my new and evolving attitude, it was time to remold the vessel. I was lucky to be armed with a support team that wanted nothing but the best for me and I finally did something unheard of, I actually let them help me. Now all I had to do was put in the work, so I walked until I could run. I signed up for a gym membership, even though I was never a gym fanatic. I held myself accountable for what I ate and I gave myself small goals along the way, making it a point to celebrate my victories, no matter how small they seemed. Then I signed up for a 12 week program at a local Box. I was so out of my comfort zone that I never looked at the WOD until I was right about to do it, just out of sheer fear for what lay ahead. But I gave it my all every time and the hard work paid off.

Everyone sees my current 40lbs + weight loss and they compliment me, but what they don’t see is the mental growth I had to endure in order to get here and have the life I deserve. My physical change was not for a specific event or to be a certain size. The effort I put in was for me to feel like the person I knew I was inside of me, it was a lifestyle change. I watered my true potential so I could bloom and be the best Mia possible!"

MORIT: MOVEMENT.

"Movement for me means freedom. Freedom to live life. Without movement, I don’t know who I would be or where I would be. My journey is defined by the idea that I can move, create power, and strength. It gives me the ability to do and be who and what I want. Movement gives me the opportunity to live life the way I want to.  

Being a fat woman comes with a stigma. Many people believe that when you are fat you don’t have the same abilities as others. Like being fat is a disability. I can and will do anything others can do. Being fat wont stop me. Yes, being fat can make it harder, but all that means is I get the opportunity to work harder. To work hard for what I want. I didn’t always have a you “can’t stop me attitude”, there have been many times that I thought I couldn’t do something. A race, a bike ride, a workout, a long walk. I’ve had times that I have been afraid, I’d let fear stop me from living. So when I say movement gives me freedom, I mean movement gives me life. Movement gives me the opportunity to live life!"

NICK: INDIVIDUALITY.

"Start saying ‘Yes!’ when your instinct tells you how to express yourself. Don’t think too much. Relearn your sense of play, and start relentlessly pursuing everything you want. Highlight the things that speak to your truest self, and toss everything else. When life gives you lemons, take the lemons and make a necklace, or create a still life photography exhibit, or just do something that no one else would ever dream to do – not just because no one else would ever do it, but because you’re the only one that could ever do it. Once you start existing the way you want to exist in the world (which will be easier said than done) being yourself will become second nature, wrapped into everything you do. 

It will be hard work to say ‘Yes!’ to so many parts of yourself. There will be things you say ‘Yes!’ to which might scare you a little, because you always thought these things were off limits in order to fit in or ‘be normal’ or whatever. Good. Be scared, and decide to lean in anyways. Share authentically. Embrace your quirks, eccentricities, and idiosyncrasies. ‘Peculiar’ is good, ‘Odd’ is better, and ‘Weird’ is best. Be bold with a capital B, and don’t worry about what anyone else thinks. Most people will dig your vibe; Those who won’t will be few & far between, and they’ll hardly matter. When I began actively sharing my quirks and eccentricities, I quickly learned that the more honestly I gave myself to others, the more I got back in return. 

Sometimes, people see me being me, and in turn frame individuality as a trait that someone either has or doesn't have, but that's simply misleading. While aspects of my personality and life might seem 'quirky' or 'creative' or 'different' to someone else, those same things are totally normal to me; The difference lies in how willing someone is to share who they truly are. Everyone has the tools needed to express their individuality – all you have to do is start saying ‘Yes!’ to you."

PAUL: FEARLESSNESS.

"What does it mean? ’Don’t go through life with the emergency breaks on.’ - Dan Pena

Chase your dreams, chase happiness, chase fulfillment, don’t settle…

Remember:
Love - Overcomes fear
Honesty - Dispels fear
Passion - Triumphs over fear
Handwork - Conquers fear
Perseverance - Restrains fear

Lastly, fear is real but we must realize that we are in the ‘driver’s seat.’ One must be determined to achieve their goals in spite of fear or anything else. Keep moving forward, don’t make or not make decisions out of fear but make them out of love, hope, honesty, desire driven by your passion and not being afraid to put in all the work necessary to realize your dreams. Then absolutely never give up!

From my own life experiences I’ve had to take step towards my dreams, aspirations and happiness in spite of fear and other challenges. That’s why I took a leave of absence from University to pursue my dream of becoming a professional football player; that’s why I quit personal banking to coach kids football and do personal fitness training; that’s why I moved to Tokyo Japan and became a CrossFit Coach; that’s why I recently stepped away from the gym I coached at for the past 5 years in search of more growth opportunities... FEARLESSNESS!!!

Have I ‘made it’… not at all but I’ll  fearlessly keep trying until my last breath. And if you are looking for diversity; look no further. Japanese wife and 2 beautiful Jamaican /Japanese sons for me...

I’ve fearlessly embraced and celebrated diversity."

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SHANNON: DIVERSITY.

"There are words and then there are POWERFUL words. Words that are necessary for growth and strength within one's life, community and world.  DIVERSITY is one of those words. Anything that sets one individual apart from another makes us unique and valuable. As the great Maya Angelou said; “In diversity there is beauty and there is strength.” Our world has just started to wake up to this idea, despite the necessity of it in order to learn and grow. It is truly powerful. What sets you apart from everyone else?

Growing up as a “diverse” being, I learned so much from just being me. I truly believe that empathy is the key to honouring diversity to its fullest power. I knew from a young age that I was unique and I was able to recognize differences. I also found so much value in learning from others and being a good listener.  Being an athlete, travelling, and being raised to see the world outside of my lens, made me recognize the power in being seen and heard. 

I believe once we collectively as a society understand the value of diversity, there will be an instant shift in energy in our world. But we all have a responsibility to honour differences and to unlearn and learn every day.  This is what makes me a lifelong learner in all that I do. Our strength lies in our differences, remember your superpower. You matter."

SHELLY: AUTHENTICITY.

"Authenticity. I was overly flattered that this word was assigned to me. I wasn’t necessarily surprised, but still, very flattered. Why? Because this means that I am completely myself. And obvious about it. And proud of it. It means that I am not trying to impersonate anyone else. That I am comfortable with myself. That I ACCEPT myself. And I do.

Now, this does not mean that I don’t have parts of me that don’t require work or need improving, I definitely do, but it means that I really work on embracing myself, flaws and all, so that I feel ok showing all of me to the outside world.

To take you back in time, I have always been a truth-teller, even when no one asked for it. It's part of my charm 😉. I’ll admit that it has gotten me into some less than ideal situations, but more so than not, it’s been helpful.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m polite and mature (mostly) but everyone knows exactly where they stand with me and I personally think that is a positive. No one is worse than a fake person. I respect someone a lot more who is a bitch to me because they don’t like me more so that someone who is nice to my face but says shit behind my back. But being authentic is MORE than telling the truth.

Authenticity requires: Vulnerability. Transparency. Integrity.

Transparency I was born with, Integrity I grew into but, not being great at feelings, vulnerability was something that I had to work on. So I did. And I'm so much better off for it.

Now, when it comes to fitness, it may not seem connected, but authenticity definitely still plays a huge part. Fitness is not only my fun, my safe haven and my sanity, but it is also my career. I don’t like to bullshit clients and I don’t like to bullshit myself. I put it all out there every day in every way I can because that is MY real. That’s MY authentic because I never half-ass anything. If I'm going to do something, I'm really gonna do it with my whole ass.

Lastly, I feel this word is extraordinary because with it comes a sense of FREEDOM. Freedom to try new things. Freedom to quit things or people that no longer serve you. Freedom to find even more of YOU in different experiences. And when you have that freedom, you obtain a new comfort level, and that new level allows you to be comfortable OUTSIDE of your comfort zone as opposed to staying where it's safe, where you know you won't fail. Why?

Because you are finally comfortable with YOURSELF and if you fail you know it's not because you aren’t worthy or deserving but because maybe you just have to try harder or try a different way. Comfort with yourself allows for a better mindset. And an inner peace. When you are comfortable with yourself, you care less about what others think of you because you know what YOU think of you and you realize that, that is ENOUGH!

This word AUTHENTICITY to me is EVERYTHING. It is, again, to me, the most important and best compliment one can receive because when you are so completely and authentically yourself, others recognize that, and it subconsciously gives them the freedom to be themselves too. And what an amazing gift that is."

TRACY: RESILIENCE.

"Resilience is a word that I've quietly made my middle name. I believe to some degree it represents strength, inner strength. Life will teach you very early that it is not linear nor can it be perfectly planned. You can choose to be sour about that or you can adopt a position in life that would allow you to function and be at peace in the face of disappointment, major changes, and setbacks. 

I actively choose resilience daily. Nothing is perfect in my life and I believe you should in the face of a setback give yourself time to pause, reflect, shed old beliefs but then pivot and in steps resilience. However, some instances call for quicker response and recovery, testing whatever resilience you have built thus far. Embracing resilience has given me the opportunity to:

1) Be present and see things as they are - What is happening right now?

2) Get creative - How can I work with this? How can I take the sourest lemon that life has to offer and turn it into something resembling lemonade? ("This is Us" reference)

3) Stay Open - Choosing resilience means welcoming the new and embracing it with open arms. 

4) Choosing purpose - What does this mean? What am I learning from this?

5) Curate your own path - This is my favourite part about resilience because what I gain/learn from my set back is so unique to me and revelatory as well. It holds the key to me heading into the next chapter or moment in a way that will benefit my growth.

6) Gratitude - This part, to me is when you've built up a certain level of resilience and in the face of major change or a set back you can very quickly come to a place of - "This has to work for my good" which powers your resilience. 

Every situation in life is different and resilience is not always instant, but you can prioritize building yours up - mentally, emotionally and physically. Choose yourself and believe that you can recover and rise. Up that bounce back game!"

VICTORIA: HOPE.

"I'm a born and raised, Afro-Latina, Brooklyn girl!  

Hope is having faith in yourself, your experiences and the world around you. It means putting trust in your experience and what your presence and journey can do for others. Your world changes, your journey evolves, and with that, comes the next generation or the next person you are able to teach, that there is hope. 

My fitness journey started in sports! Growing up I was introduced to basketball at an early age and when I got into high school, I got the opportunity to run Track & Field as well.  Fast forward to my military days, being in shape was top priority. With the fitness test every year, I had to be sure to pass and fit the requirements.  With chasing requirements, after a few years, I chased a certain look to be "fit." And I still did, up until recently. Before joining the CrossFit community, I did bodybuilding style training that was focused on achieving a certain body type. When I began CrossFit, I saw the beauty in appreciating your body for what it does, and not so much what it looked like.

With that said, I've been exposed to so much more than body goals. Our fitness industry uses catch phrases include body goals, skinny, summer ready and a whole lotta other sayings that can make one insecure and feel like they are not enough. I did at one point. As a physical educator, my goal is to teach the joy of enjoying the journey of what your body can do versus what it can look like. Over time in my fitness journey, I've learned that we don't have to look the same to be fit, we don't have to experience the same things to be a certain somebody. All we have to do is be our best self and the world will catch up.  

There is space for you to exist in your field, there is hope for you to break down stereotypes and barriers. There is hope in using your experiences and sharing your journey, to show the world, it can be done and that journey doesn't have to look like anyone else's but yours, and so does your body."

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