Black Women Get Fit, the Wichita version of the wildly popular Kansas City healthy day party, swept into Wichita on Saturday, August 19, improving Black women’s physical and emotional well-being. The half-day program held at the Rhatigan Student Center on Wichita State University Campus, proved to be a big win for the participants.
Participants started the day with an “amp up session” led by Terri Barnes, founder and president of the Nia Project, the organization behind Black Women Get Fit. DJ Don had the beats going and the participants up out of their seats, moving and grooving. WSU Vice President Dr. Macrhe Fleming-Randle greeted the participants and welcomed them back again for next year. Bonita Gooch, Editor-in-chief of the Community Voice and the force behind bringing BWGF to Wichita, expressed her pleasure with turnout.
Then the fun/work got underway. Participants were able to select from six sessions, each offered during the three, hour-long break out sessions. Four of the sessions got the ladies up and moving, the other two options focused on developing their mind and soul.
“It’s a huge win for us. We are really excited,” Barnes said. “Who would’ve thought this little thing we are doing in Kansas City would expand?”
Presenters at the mind-and-soul workshops were Dr. Alisha Henley, who presented Woman in the Mirror, and Royce Martin, who presented Living Life on and with P.U.R.P.O.S.E. Leaders of body workshops included Laquita Lugrand-Clark, who represented GirlTrek.
The Wichita BWGF event was an opportunity for Black women in the community to try different forms of exercise, Attendees had the opportunity to work up a sweat with a trio of Black women who operate fitness businesses in Wichita: Denise Colborn of Colborn Fitness, Aisha Seals of Metta Fitness LLC, and Brianna Williams of 3 Keys Fitness. All three women have distinctive workout programs and compelling backstories that inspired attendees.
Colborn teaches Zumba, a Latino-influenced dance workout founded in the 1980s by a native of Colombia. The movements also have elements of African dance, hip-hop, and pop, Colborn said.
She has been teaching Zumba for a dozen years, and she still has participants who have been with her from Day One. The class is a no-judgment zone without mirrors.
“You can have two left feet — we do not care. You can go the opposite direction we’re going — we do not care,” Colborn said. “Our goal is that you are moving and having fun and you are getting healthy.”
She now mostly teaches classes at the Carl G. Brewer Community Center at McAdams Park.
Seals’ exercise approach is intertwined with her personal philosophy, both of which are encapsulated in the name of her business. “Metta” is of Hindu origin and roughly translates to loving-kindness.
Her yoga-based focus is on getting participants moving and flowing — nothing crazy, Seals assured.
The goal is to “make people’s joints feel lubricated, to get their heart rate elevated just a little bit, and to just keep moving,” she said. It’s about “doing things that we don’t normally do during our day so our body can get more acclimated to the mobility that we possess in our bodies that we don’t always utilize.”
Seals has been a group fitness instructor, personal trainer, and yoga enthusiast for more than 12 years. She spent part of her career working for Colborn at the YMCA.
Seals wants to eliminate misconceptions about yoga within the Black community. One of the biggest hurdles is the belief among some Black people that they are betraying their church by taking part in something with Buddhist origins.
“They literally feel like it is something of the devil,” she said. “I think that is why it’s hard to get more — and it’s not just Black people — minorities into yoga because they feel like it is something different than it really is.”
Seals faces similar resistance when it comes to diet, finding a sentiment among Black women that eschewing unhealthy traditional dishes means turning their back on their culture. Breaking those “generational curses” is difficult, she said.
“Our food is killing us,” Seals added, “and I just wish more people understood that.”
A year before she got pregnant with her youngest daughter, Williams had slimmed down considerably, but the weight came back on with the pregnancy, and at 220 pounds her knees ached and she struggled to keep up with a toddler.
That was four years and 60 pounds ago, as Williams has embraced the health and fitness she now teaches others through 3 Keys Fitness. The business name reflects the qualities that Williams attributes to her success in life: effort, consistency, and perseverance (the latter one often interchanged with prayer).
3 Keys Fitness operates within Fundamental Fitness. Williams had her own space at one time, but the overhead was too expensive, so she now operates 3 Keys Fitness in addition to working full-time for the University of Kansas Health System in Topeka.
Williams draws on her own experience through 3 Keys, which counts a lot of Black women as members.
“Oftentimes when you are just getting started out in fitness it can be intimidating going into a gym,” she said, “and the culture I have created within 3 Keys is truly a sisterhood of people who really value fitness and enjoy having a good time while doing it.”
3 Keys specializes in a particular workout called Xtreme Hip Hop. Williams got certified to teach the class in 2020, which helped her shed her weight in about a year.
Beginners should not be put off by the name, Williams said, since it speaks less to the strenuousness of the class and more to the “extreme transformation that you will see in your body doing simple, basic step aerobics moves.”