We Are Our Ancestors Wildest Dreams (Part 4)

We Are Our Ancestors Wildest Dreams (Part 4)

I really believe that if everyone just does one thing, the world would be a better place. Each one, teach one. Me? I can’t stop at just one! All of the projects that I’m doing help amplify self-determination and self-empowerment in the African American community. I’m using my personal skills (arts and wellness) for resilience, resistance, self-empowerment, and joy. I’m thankful to Dr. King, Malcolm X, Ida B Wells, Fannie Lou Hamer, John Lewis, The Black Panther Party, and our illustrious Angela Davis, who is still inspiring and guiding. And my daddy has passed down our ancestral stories and taught me to be strong, loving, and compassionate.

The Pilates world is a microcosm of the “real world.” I want to live in a world where resources and programs have been put into place to plug the deep chasm of inequity that 400+ years of discriminatory laws and practices have left. Vast portions of the world population are fighting daily for survival, safety, access, and dignity. I want the Pilates world (along with the rest of the world) to look at how we can use our field to not only make things superficially better but to dismantle the structures that are causing physical, emotional, and spiritual destruction daily; to create a world where we are all valued, seen, respected, and honored.

In the US (and beyond), that means the oppression of Black and Brown folks, which has been at the very root and foundation of the wealth, standing, and privilege of this nation has to be addressed. The Pilates world is full of genius. Suppose we center the voices of folks actually being negatively impacted and use that genius collectively. In that case, we can help shift the axis of the world.

I’m really excited about my Joyful Movement Practitioner Life Skills Certification Program; it will be transformational for communities. It’s slated to begin soon, and I’m furiously fundraising. My studio became a safe haven for financially struggling young folks to feel safe, loved, honored, and seen. They’d take free classes, take naps in our Princess Tiana Room, and learned to eat broccoli by sharing my lunch. They learned about their bodies and minds through Pilates, gained a new sense of control, focus, strategies for living successfully, and how to breathe through times of stress. They learned they were capable of new and seemingly impossible goals if they stretched their bodies and minds, dared to dream, saw new options for their future, and took leaps of faith with us there to support them. Some of these young people’s lives completely shifted with support; we beam about them. They stayed in school, went on to college, graduated, and even received master’s degrees in science. They have become dreamers and leaders in their communities, and we are proud to be instrumental in their journeys.

Tonya Amos Pilates Teacher

So this small, informal, but effective support system is now solidifying into a formal Pilates & Joyful Movement Practitioner Life Skills program, which I’ve been building towards for years. I’m excited to have Balanced Body as a partner in this. Balanced Body has also been a sponsor for our Juneteenth concert for the past 5 years. The program will train and mentor Black and Brown community members from disinvested Bay Area communities, including youth, elders, citizens returning from incarceration, formerly unhoused folks, and artists. They’ll become solid post-rehab trained teachers, learn to teach dance with literacy, receive mental health counseling with a Black Harvard MD, take classes in nutrition, financial literacy, entrepreneurship skills, and participate in paid internships.

By paying folks to do their student teaching hours back in their neighborhoods, we will flood traditionally overlooked communities with this life-changing work, impacting back and joint pain, senior fall prevention, Black infant health, college athletic scholarships, and general health and wellness. And families currently struggling with poverty will stave off gentrification and begin amassing wealth. These graduates will become expertly trained community leaders with these valuable arts, wellness, and life skills, transforming the finances, health, joy, and self-determination of their families and communities. We’re excited to create this “blueprint” that will be shared with studios across the country and internationally once successful. A Pilates salary paired with this holistic approach to self-empowerment will be life-changing, and yes… REVOLUTIONARY.

Tonya Marie Amos received a BA in Anthropology from U.C. Berkeley, trained for 4 years on scholarship at Alvin Ailey American Dance Center, and danced professionally for 15 years in New York. Introduced to Pilates over forty years ago as a young, injured dancer, she received her Comprehensive Pilates training in 2004 with Nora St. John and Naomi Leiserson. She has since furthered her skills studying with 30+ Master Teachers. Owner of award-winning Aspire Pilates Center and Artistic Director of Grown Women Dance Collective, Tonya uniquely combines arts and wellness for social justice. Her stunning annual Juneteenth dance concert teaches and celebrates Black history. She is currently developing the Joyful Movement Pilates Life Skills Teacher Training program, which will help increase resilience, resistance, self-empowerment, and joy in Black communities. She brings inspiring and healing experiences to communities that traditionally don't have access and is proud to help build cross-cultural and intergenerational bridges with her work. To learn more about the Grown Women Dance Collective or the Joyful Movement Pilates Life Skills program, visit Follow on Instagram: @GrownWomenDanceCollective



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