Celebrating Juneteenth

To honor and celebrate Juneteenth, we’ve asked our Balanced Body Black Advisory Board of Master Instructors to share their thoughts and reflect on what Juneteenth represents to them. Below are their stories.

Juneteenth: A Day That Celebrates the Fortitude of the Human Spirit
by: Misty Lynne Cauthen

Misty Lynne Cauthen Diversity in Pilates

Misty Lynne Cauthen | Owner of Dragonfly Pilates Trained Dancer | Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Juneteenth is about resilience. It’s about the power to transcend the unthinkable in order to to achieve what is possible. It’s about the soul of a people who were denied what should have been their inalienable right to be free and, rather than getting even, chose to BELIEVE in their own power and in the power of the Emancipation Proclamation. Even in the face of defiance that hindered its application, Black people rallied around the power of that day, or the collection of days it represents, and what it could mean to be free.

It took two long years for word of the abolition of slavery to reach the enslaved in Texas. It’s taken a lot longer to shed the bonds that have been placed on Black Americans … the same shackles that keep all Americans from progressing toward the United part of these States.

In celebrating Juneteenth, we have the opportunity to look at our contributions to the systemic wrongs that inhibit our ability to truly come together. That is not impossible if we’re so convinced that we know it all… that we’ve had our fill of learning our history; that our 10th grade US history lessons were more than enough and we have it all figured out. That Columbus was the hero and the Indians were the savages and the enslaved were here on work release.

Our society is in its infancy. We have nothing figured out. The history we know was written by the victors—even though they cheated to win—as a means of keeping the oppressed in line. No growth can come from lies, no truth is born from fabrication. It’s time for us US Americans to grow up and handle the truth.

The Emancipation Proclamation didn’t stop slavery—it only changed its name. Vagrancy laws came next… then Reconstruction, then Jim Crow. It didn’t stop the lynchings. It didn’t stop the whitelash that happened after We the People elected a Black president… Juneteenth is a reminder that we have work to do.

Sometimes it’s painful and demoralizing, as a Black woman, to consider the atrocities my ancestors suffered at the hands of those who didn’t even consider them human. But Most of the time? … most of the time I realize my ancestors were badasses because they survived long enough to get me here. And I can scream and yell and be angry over the past, or I can honor every single part of who they were and who I am by doing them proud. My heart races when I think of them because I know they walk with me. And when my chin falls, they reach in and lift it high.

In the end, we persevere. Despite and in spite of, with strength and audacity, we acknowledge what our ancestors were denied: the freedom to celebrate the true Independence Day for the PEOPLE, in both words, and in spirit; without demonization or retribution.


MY Reggae Music
by: Norma Gray

Norma Gray | Certified Pilates Instructor Trained Therapeutic Healer | Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Reggae music is the musical movement of Jamaican People
Reggae music is the soothing sound of our Beautiful Island

Family Friends Food
Community Comfort Security

Tears of Desperation
Politics Pain Struggle

Tears of Freedom
Determination Strength Success

Reggae music is the music of a people born out of Adversity and Diversity
Reggae music is the pulsating rhythm of our History and our Ancestry

Reggae music is the music of Wisdom and Understanding
Reggae music is somewhere in You

And so we Welcome You
With Respect and Understanding

To experience the Love Life and Laughter
To experience the Bountiful Beauty of our island and our people
To know and to feel the Sweetness of our Song


Next is a YouTube video that introduces you to the life of little-known reggae music industry icon and reggae matriarch, Miss Pat. In it, she speaks of how she was overlooked because she was a woman in a male-dominated musical genre.
In the early days of Hip Hop many now infamous female artists experienced the same prejudice. Take from it what you can for Juneteenth, if not share with others who will find her story uplifting. Watch here.

METTA or Loving Kindness is a meditation filled with forgiveness and compassion, a meditation practice of giving and receiving kindness. I practice and teach Loving Kindness frequently, the simplicity makes this meditation easy to return to again and again. This version is a 10-15 minute meditation practice.

Sitting comfortably relaxed with your spine long, close your eyes and observe the softness of your breath. Breathe and relax, relax and breathe. Breathe into your heart center and maintain awareness of your heart space throughout.

Feeling settled in this state of calm we begin our meditation of METTA or Loving Kindness, of giving and receiving kindness and compassion for yourself and for others.

First, cultivate Loving Kindness for yourself, breathe and repeat these words 3 times

May I be happy
May I be well
May I be comfortable
And at Peace
Breathe and notice how you feel

Next think of someone you love dearly, breathe into your heart space, and repeat these words 3 times

May you be happy
May you be well
May you be comfortable
And at Peace
Notice how you feel, breathe

Bring to mind acquaintances and colleagues, breathe into your heart space and repeat these words 3 times

May you be happy
May you be well
May you be comfortable
And at Peace
Notice how you feel, breathe

Next, think of those you rarely see or interact with (e.g. the person who sweeps the roads or restocks the supermarket shelves), breathe into your heart space, and repeat these words 3 times

May you be happy
May you be well
May you be comfortable
And at Peace
How does it feel to offer loving kindness to these people? Breathe

Now think of someone with whom you have a disagreement. Breathe. Accept any tension which arises. Breathe, stay with your breath. Breathe from your heart centre and repeat these words 3 times

May you be happy
May you be well
May you be comfortable
And at Peace
Practice loving-kindness meditation regularly and notice a change in how this person makes you feel, notice how you change the way you feel about this person. Breathe

Continue watching your breath, remain centered at your heart space, and bring to mind all people, all cultures, all colours of skin. Bring the whole planet into your heart space and repeat these words 3 times


Remain connected to the planet, all people, your heart center, and your breath. Send and receive loving-kindness. Sit quietly for 5 minutes or longer if you prefer. Once you’ve finished, take a few moments to notice the peace within and let this peace radiate out.

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti, Peace Peace Peace.


Story by LaBriece Ochsner

LaBriece Ochsner | Owner of LB Pilates Studios | Life Coach and Mentor | Biel, Switzerland and Online

My name is LaBriece Ochsner (LaBriece is derived from the word “Liberty”) and I am  a product of “race-mixing.” My father is of African American & Native American heritage and my mother is of the Aryan race with roots in Scotland, England & France. When my parents married in 1966, neither of their families condoned or attended the wedding. It was also against the LAW in most of the United States of America as the Anti-miscegenation laws were not repealed until 1967. These are difficult facts for me to face, even today at age 49. My parents opted to settle in the racially tolerant city of Berkeley, California to raise myself and my older brother. My father was studying at the University of California Berkeley for his master’s in business and the San Francisco Bay Area was at that point a haven for unique and open-minded individuals. I am so grateful to my parents for choosing to live there! It was a place where many mixed-race couples lived and it was not out of the ordinary for a white woman to have brown babies, as in the case of my mom. It was safe for us. We could live and love as we wished. Our parents did not raise us with a deep awareness of racial disparities. We did not understand the black-white dilemma until our later years. It was good that way. We could develop our identities based on something beyond the offensive “mulatto” (based on the word mule) stigma attached to our bloodline.

I distinctly remember a day in 1991, already 30 years ago, when I was alone browsing the shelves of the library where I attended college at the University of California San Diego. I came across a large and impressive book of about 300-400 pages that appeared to be a medical, scientific book written in the 1920s on the topic of miscegenation. There were many charts, photos, diagrams, and technical terms attempting to convince the reader of the dangers of racial mixing. As a biracial person, I was both horrified and fascinated by this book. It had a long bibliography of documentation and many doctors and medical journals were quoted. It all seemed so legitimate. Except of course for the fact that the book’s main premise was that when races mix, that the offspring receives all the weakest and sickest aspects from each race producing an inferior, sickly, unintelligent, ugly mulatto breed of sub-human. I contemplated this and wondered what it would have been like to have this be the basis of my identity development growing up. To be despised and hated instead of loved and supported. It was a horrible feeling. I wondered what other individuals like myself felt in earlier years of our Nation’s history while growing up in less tolerant areas than Berkeley. I shuddered at the idea.

I am so grateful to be a product of “race-mixing” and that it is no longer forbidden or taboo. My three children are beyond even the mixing of races as they also represent the result of the intermingling of cultures, countries, religions, and languages. This is so beautiful to me, as are they. I consider those of us who are multiracial and multicultural to have a keen sense of understanding of the importance of diversity in this world. I have imparted to my children what my parents imparted to my brother and me in that I teach them that their uniqueness and the power of their individual voice is limitless. Our diversity is what makes us so strong. I hope that in this year 2021 that my children and the children of others across the world will learn that being black, white, “mixed” or whatever blend of race and culture we are, contributes to the beauty of this world and is to be respected, appreciated and loved.


Story by Tonya Amos

Tonya Amos Grown Women Dance Collective

Tonya Amos | Owner of Aspire Pilates Dancer & Activist | Concord & Oakland, California

My family was freed from slavery on June 19, 1865, in Texas, 2.5 years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. We have an oral tradition that goes back, as my dad was raised by women formerly enslaved. I used to sit on my daddy’s lap, beaming with pride hearing the stories of my family burning down plantations, living free in the Piney Woods, then emerging months later and starting the whole process again. I’m thankful to be part of a lineage of freedom fighters whose commitment to justice, regardless of the century, has not waned. Juneteenth is a symbol of our freedom, our many years of fighting for self-liberation, and the government finally catching up.

From the countless unnamed heroes that fought for liberation for the past hundreds of years, to my parent’s generation of the Black Panthers, to the brave, young people leading the Black Lives Matter Movement – liberation means standing on our ancestors’ shoulders to push us all forward.

The long arc of history “bends towards justice” because of our actions. Every one of us has something that we’re good at. If we all use our skills and expertise, even a little bit, to impact systemic problems that have had over 400 years of perfecting harm, we can shift the axis of this world. I use what I’m good at Arts and Wellness. But we all can DO something: March, Vote, Legislate, Educate, Art, Write, Cut Hair, and yes, Pilates…there are a million powerful ways to be part of the solution.  Just pick something and do it. We can all be part of the change.

I am here, standing tall at this point in history, thanks to the strength, bravery, and creativity of my ancestors. I stand on their shoulders as I work every day to help create a world where we are all seen, valued, respected, and can thrive.

Happy Juneteenth!

The Balanced Body Black Advisory Board of Master Instructors' input and guiding direction is essential to the creation and implementation of Balanced Body’s racial equity programs. Each of our Advisory Board members has a unique background and perspective. Their experience as Black instructors in a predominantly white Pilates profession enables them to help us identify and work towards breaking down racial barriers. See more at Diversity in Pilates



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