The year 2020 didn't just mark the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also a time of great social unrest stemming from multiple events highlighting America's systemic racism and police brutality, in particular, the murder of George Floyd. It was then that a group of fitness professionals began having virtual conversations about what equity in the wellness world specifically should look like and what it even means in the 21st century.
Within this online group was Percell Dugger, a NYC-based personal trainer and the founder of GOODWRK, who saw a need for the Black and brown professionals in this group to have a permanent outlet to address the need for greater equity in their fields. The conversations being had were too important to only live in a vacuum online. "We were at the peak of a global pandemic," says Dugger. "Folks weren't working. Gyms were shutting down. People were feeling unsure about their future. We really wanted to figure out how to take action and be the leaders of change in the industry."
This eventually manifested into Fit For Us. Founded by Dugger in 2020, the wellness collective of BIPOC professionals aims to create equitable health and wellness outcomes for everyone in the industry — both educators and clients.
As the community grew, the organization sought to uplift and support its members and work within the wellness industry to create change. Dugger and his colleagues saw an opportunity to partner with other brands and companies to increase the reach of their message. As such, Fit For Us evolved to include a talent management agency, connecting its members with brands seeking to work with diverse professionals within the wellness space. (Related: Why Wellness Pros Need to Be Part of the Conversation About Racism)
"We realized that we have this amazing ecosystem of talent within our organization," says Janelle Tracey, director of community for Fit For Us, who says the community is able to offer everything from content creation to event production featuring its roster of wellness pros. "It's been really exciting and a little unexpected, but it's really about our community and what they needed and what we started to realize brands were wanting that took us where we are now on the journey."
Since its inception, Fit For Us has partnered with organizations including Color of Change, the nation's largest online racial justice organization, and ClassPass. The collective also created its own events such as BLKTIV, a virtual fitness conference for Black fitness professionals, their communities, and allies.
Beyond that, the everyday effort of Fit for Us is advocating for racial equity and diversity in the fitness and wellness industry. And one way the members are doing that is by creating equitable health and wealth outcomes for the communities of color they serve. To help achieve this, Fit For Us, not only works with its members and brand partners to ensure pay equity among BIPOC employees but also by creating content and conversations that directly address the health disparities and inequities that exist within these minority communities. Together, the hope is to move toward creating more inclusive wellness environments.
Working in partnership with ClassPass, for example, Fit For Us was able to bring together Black and brown experts to hold conversations on diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, says Angela Jennings, Fit For Us director of operations. "We had the opportunity to center Black and brown experiences, offer classes ranging from fitness to classes on how to build your business, while also working to inspire and create change [in the industry and community]."
Aside from the services the agency provides, at the foundation of the organization is its community, says Dugger. After all, a network is how Fit For Us got its start and is still at the heart of everything the organization does. "People were craving a space to share and learn," says Tracey. "So, we hold monthly meetings to provide information to help folks grow their businesses. We [also] started bringing in guest speakers to really cultivate spaces for community and learning. For [BIPOC] professionals, it can often feel isolating. [But], that's one of our strengths. There's truly room for everybody at the table, and if we all sit down and talk and share, all boats will rise."
Looking to the future, the agency is excited to continue to center Black and brown voices through candid conversations about what it's really like being a BIPOC fitness professional in an industry that's been historically rooted in whiteness.
You can join the movement by following Fit for Us on Instagram, Facebook, or by applying to be a member on their website.
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