Happy International Day of Yoga, yogis! This year is the 8th annual celebration of yogis across the world, and we want to spotlight WalkGood LA, an impactful non-profit organization in Los Angeles curating space and community for Black and Brown people. In an exclusive interview, the founders, Etienne Maurice, Marley Rae and Ivy Coco talk about their special two year anniversary celebration Roots & Culture, why they are shifting the culture and how yoga has transformed their lives.
The International Day of Yoga has been celebrated annually since June 21, 2015. Yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual practice, which originated in India and has expanded across the entire world.
WalkGood LA was formed after the tragic killing of Ahmaud Arbery in 2020, which was one of the senseless murders that started a wave of protests across the nation. As a nod to where it all began for the WalkGood community, the organization decided to bring their one-hour vinyasa flow, BreatheGood, back to LA High Memorial Park. In support of WalkGoodLA’s social justice movement, Activia sponsored the festivities with Activia’s Drinkable Yogurts for attendees to stay hydrated.
WalkGood La has successfully created a safe space for Black and Brown people to restore and continue their healing journeys.
Check out our conversation with WalkGood LA’s founder Etienne Maurice, Health and Wellness Director Marley Rae, and Vice President Ivy Coco:
How has the WalkGood mission evolved since you all started in 2020?
Etienne: We started out as a protest. We were always in the streets fighting for Black lives but it was at that moment, the same day when we were protesting, we realized we have to do something more. We have to be able to come collectively together. We have to heal in solidarity. We have now turned that into an actual community of wellness practitioners really focused on making sure that we heal as a community.
While first we thought protesting and fighting for Black lives that’s what it’s going to be. Now, it’s obviously way bigger than that.That’s just a testament to our love fort he people and our love for the community.
We want people to leave the park feeling better about themselves and to invest in their mental well being. That’s how we’re evolving.
Talk about the extensions of the WalkGood community.
Marley: Another way that we’ve grown is that since we started, I’m now at my 300-hour teacher training. Etienne, is now 200-hour certified and Ivy Coco has been teaching meditations as well. So today you’re going to get a full experience of Etienne and myself co-flowing and Ivy starting us off with a mindfulness meditiaton. It’s really amazing to see our knowledge grow as well as our community. At WalkGood La we offer so many different modalities of healing through the arts, health and wellness.
So we have BreatheGood, which we’re celebrating today, our one hour [vinyasa] yoga class in the park. We have HikeGood every second Saturday of the month. We go out somewhere around the greater Los Angeles community and hike with our brothers and sisters. Get outdoors. We have RunGood every Wednesday which is a 5k around mid-city. We have PaintGood which is a meditate and paint series. We have FightGood – community self-defense classes.
So everything is good at WalkGood LA.
Discuss the theme “Roots & Culture” celebrating the entire 2 year celebration this year.
Ivy: Roots & Culture is our annual art exhibit where we bring together Black and Brown local artists and artists from the African diaspora. To show art, to be art, to live art. We also make sure these artists are selling their art if they wish. It’s really important that we are recycling the Black dollar, making sure that we are giving back to our community. We don’t just call it an experience for show. It’s an experience we want people to know they’re coming into our world. What does WalkGood mean to you through art and through this experience.
WalkGood is a Jamaican euphemism that our grandmother taught us because we are PROUD Jamaican Americans that Walk Good in our life. So it means to walk in your day in good stride, to be good to yourself, to get to your destination safely and that’s what walk good is all about and that’s how we implement that into our roots & culture experience.
Etienne: Ivy and I curated the art gallery so that we could highlight local artists in the community. The theme this year is “if you want more flowers, plant more seeds.” We always talk about giving people their flowers or receiving flowers but we never talk about how to maintain those flowers, how to grow those flowers and it all starts with a seed. I think it’s a perfect reflection of WaalkGood, where we planted our seeds now for the past two years and now we’ve been watching it grow. In return, we receive our flowers just by holding safe spaces here in Los Angeles and beyond.
For me as a transplant moving to LA, WalkGood has been a helpful space for me to find my own tribe. How has curating space for Black and Brown people impacted LA culture?
Etienne: Somebody asked me what does community mean to me? I believe community is like social currency. When I was younger, I was throwing all the parties, but people remember how I treated them with kindness. How I offered a safe space where everybody could celebrate and be happy. Years later, being a Los Angeleno, people remember that feeling and now I’m turning that into yoga and wellness. My mom calls it partying with a purpose so now we’re healing with a purpose.
I want to be able to shift and be more intentional about how we gather, how we build community. I think the most beautiful thing about it is that I’m doing it with my family. Im building community with my sister. Im building community with my cousin. I think that resonates with everybody here, because whether theyre blood or not everyone here has a family.
You even being a transplant, I’m pretty sure that when you see this it reminds you of family. You feel welcomed in the space, and that’s how we want to shift culture. Even in Los Angeles, you might here somebody say LA is a sunny place with shady people. Shade is everywhere but there’s a lot of rightful, sunny people.
Ivy: We don’t throw shade here at WalkGood LA. We shed light.
Why are sponsors like Activia supporting social justice?
Ivy: Honestly, after 2020 I think a lot of businesses and companies have been trying to figure out where they lie when it comes to social justice. It’s not just about coming out to these events and giving out free product but it’s actually about creating a concrete change within the system of that company. Are you hiring Black and Brown people? Are they in higher positions and not just lower positions? Are they actually making a difference and being heard within the company? That’s what needs to actually change.
Having their [Activia] support is amazing. It’s amazing to be able to get the product out that you know a lot of Black and Brown communities don’t have the access and resources to healthy foods. So yes, this is just the beginning but also there needs to be systemic change in the company as well. I think they also recognize that.
We’re celebrating BreatheGood in the park on Juneteenth, why is this holiday significant?
Marley: This is our second year celebrating Juneteenth as a national observed holiday. It happened during 2020. Everything that was going on in 2020 we all stood up for so many different reasons and one of the outcomes was actually making Juneteenth a celebrated holiday across the nation. So today, we’re celebrating Father’s Day, Juneteenth, the two year anniversary of BreatheGood. Celebrating life, being Black, freedom, which is still being worked on. I believe in order to truly be free you have to unlock that freedom within ourselves, so that’s what we’re doing today at BreatheGood.
As we approach International Yoga Day (June 21), how has yoga transformed your lives?
Etienne: It literally has brought us together. It’s made us, as a family, a lot closer. We flow together, we hang out together, we go to other yoga classes and wellness activations together. So I’m grateful for the practice of yoga. A good friend of mine reminded me that yoga is a practice not a performance. A lot of times we think about yoga, we think we can’t do these poses, because someone’s going to laugh at us or look at us crazy. It’s not about that. It’s about what you can do. It’s about your breath. It’s about what your body is telling you. To be honest, I wouldn’t so invested in yoga if it wasn’t for Marley. I’m inspired by my family.
Marley: I know that the root word of yoga is ‘Yuj’ which is Sanksrit for “to yoke” or “to unite” and there is no community without “unity.” So what we do at WalkGood LA is uniting the people through our mind, body and soul through work of breath which is our life force. At WalkGood, it’s such an amazing thing to see so many different walks of life here. It’s amazing to see Black people breathing for themselves, taking on health and wellness, because if anybody in this country needs it, it’s people of color. It’s Black folks. I think it’s been so engrained to take away the access to health and wellness modalities within Black commynities so we’re really flipping it on its head and saying “hey,yoga is meant for everybody no matter where you come from,” especially because this a Brown practice originally.” Within WalkGood and yoga, we’re really just taking our power back.
Ivy Coco: We are making yoga accessible. Yoga has been marketed as a very pricey product and we’re making it easy and affordable. Also, we’re doing it in a fun and vibrant way because every time someone leaves WalkGood or BreatheGood, they leave as a better version of themselves, feeling that they can do anything.
So when you breathe good, you do good, and you walk good.
What’s next for WalkGood?
Simultaneously, they shout: Walk good to the world!
Etienne: We are proud to announce that WalkGood is collaborating with On-Running, the shoe company. They are officially our community sponsor for WalkGood. So you’re going to see a campaign with On Running on Fourth of July. There will be billboards of WalkGood representing On-Running.
Congrats are in order for this powerful non-profit organization! Be sure to support their mission. Learn more and donate directly to the WalkGood Inc. organization here.
Happy International Day of Yoga: WalkGood LA Curates Space For Black & Brown Yogis was originally published on globalgrind.com