We make the choice to acknowledge what has been missing from our space and take the necessary action to become inclusionary in order to create a sufficiently safe space for everyone.
This step requires a willingness from me to see all the ways in which I have caused harm as a white, cis-gendered, hetero-sexual, able-bodied, raised upper-middle class woman in the South-- just by existing within the constructs of society.
Only once I was willing to see my predisposition as harmful and take action in my personal life for the undoing of my own internal biases was I able to reconfigure my business to start to reflect a true desire to be diverse and inclusive.
In this process I had to come clean about a lot of truths I had never cared to see (or needed to due to my own status and privilege).
- Shakti Athens owner, Ruby Chandler
In anthropology, privilege is a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group. In sociology, privilege is the perceived rights or advantages that are assumed to be available only to a particular person or group of people. (6)
Since Shakti (and the Western yoga scene at-large) is predominantly white, most of these uncomfortable truths involved our privileged position in our racist society:
1) White people are (by nature in our society) inherently racist
2) Yoga in America is (by way of cultural appropriation and colonization) inherently racist
3) The only way to address inherent racism is to be anti-racist
Only once we accepted these truths could we do the real digging.
Intentional action through business policy, ethics, and doing personal work is the only way to make sure that inclusion…
(the idea that everyone should be able to use the same facilities, take part in the same activities, and enjoy the same experiences(7))
…exists as more than a definition.
The only way to bring diversity…
(the range of human differences, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, social class, physical ability or attributes, religious or ethical values system, national origin, and political beliefs (7))
…to life is to invite diversity in.
This is the only pathway to belonging.
This is crucial, because as Gregory Lewis succinctly states, “diversity is like being invited to a party, inclusion is being asked to dance, and belonging is dancing like no one’s watching.” In other words, it’s not enough to simply have more seats at the table for marginalized folks if they don’t feel safe, or believe they need to act like someone they’re not in order to fit in (7).
We commit to doing the work of anti-racism, diversity, and inclusion.
We commit to inviting folx to the party, asking them to dance, and giving space to be fully seen and acknowledged.
We commit to our team expectation that:
Shakti teachers are actively committed to questioning bias, blind spots, and unconscious discrimination through inquiry within and outside of the Shakti team. Shakti teachers commit to acting in allyship for POCs and marginalized communities. We are committed to showing up and stepping into discomfort in order to open the closed doors that house internal bias and discrimination (excerpt from Shakti Athens team handbook).
We commit to setting boundaries in Shakti by making clear what is and is not ok and why.
We commit to intentional employment that reflects the diversity we desire to hold space for.
We commit to continued consultation and collaboration with POC leaders and business-owners locally and globally in order to stay congruent with our vision for Shakti to be a safe space for diversity.
We want to honor and recognize the works of all the scholars, activists, authors, and human beings for offering themselves as a resource for learning (especially impactful in my education have been Rachel Cargle (she/her) (8) and Rachel Ricketts (she/her) (9)).
In July 2019, we invested in an Anti-Racism + Inclusion Audit with Rachel Ricketts (she/her). The audit ‘encompasses a high-level review of (our) business profile to advise of major flags, holes or blind spots in content, messaging, imaging and/or business operations as they pertain to anti-racism and inclusion.’ We are proud to implement her recommendations.
As the owner, I commit to listening, learning, and undoing the harmful actions of myself and my ancestors.
I am committed to stepping aside in order to provide space for others to shine.
- Shakti Athens owner, Ruby Chandler