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Black Entrepreneurs Make Community Health a Priority

black-woman-yoga-16x9When Kendra Blackett-Dibinga, an avid runner, had to give up her favorite fitness activity due to bad knees, she decided to turn her health issue into a profitable business. As a result, she’s no long suffering from knee pain, and her business savvy has proven to benefit African-Americans in the Washington, D.C. area as well.

An older woman with arthritis in the knees suggested that Blackett-Dibinga try hot yoga for relief, and the treatment worked wonders.

Medical reports indicate that practical and professional healthcare for Black Americans is lacking, which leads to shorter life spans. African-Americans are also predisposed to a number of crippling diseases. That’s why it’s refreshing to see that entrepreneurs like Blackett-Dibinga are starting businesses that focus on the wellness of the Black community by treating specific health concerns.

Bikram yoga, which is also known as hot yoga, is a 90-minute exercise routine that includes 26 postures. All of the yoga poses encourage control of the joints and limbs to properly contact all of the body’s major muscle groups. The studio where the yoga is performed is warmed to 105 degrees with 40 percent humidity to help the body release toxins.

Bikram yoga relives muscle fatigue and raises the heart rate, which can treat and prevent a number of health issues African Americans face, including high blood pressure, arthritis, migraines and back pain.

Blackett-Dibiga’s business stands out because hot yoga wasn’t exactly an option for many of the residents of Prince George’s County, Maryland, where her yoga studio is located. After seeing the need for more Black wellness centers, she went to California to complete a nine-week certification process in hot yoga, became a yoga instructor and eventually opened Bikram Yoga Riverdale Park about 18 months ago. She’ll be opening a D.C. location in the near future.

Blackett-Dibinga cites the community benefits that come with the yoga studio. For instance, since women usually take yoga more often than men, and women also usually determine what the family eats, her yoga students will likely take their knowledge of Bikram home to their children and significant others, and encourage their loved ones to start living more balanced, healthy lives. She states that mothers are bringing their spouses or sons to yoga class, and these men have specific health issues they want to address. Black men are traditionally more hesitant to visit a doctor for their health problems. Fortunately, Blacket-Dibinga is seeing that her yoga classes are helping to make members of the Black community more comfortable with getting help for their illnesses.

She also recalled a time when a construction professional who was working on her home shared his struggles with diabetes. He purchased a week’s worth of classes at Blackett-Dibinga’s yoga studio, and after three months, his diabetes was under control. These are the types of stories Blackett-Dibinga hopes to continue to tell.

Thankfully, there are other Black business owners in addition to Kendra Blackett-Dibinga who are working to improve the overall health of the African American community. For instance, Maurissa Stone, who lives in the Baltimore area, started The Living Well as a “center for social and economic vibrancy.” Stone hosts yoga and dance classes, as well a other physical activities that promote healthy living.

Stone shares that there are communities in the Baltimore area where the life expectancy is only 30 years. She also states that the city is not without its “generational poverty and health disparities.” Stone address the issue of mental health in the Black community as well, and she wants to make a variety of activities available, including tai chi and music education.

Both Stone and Blackett-Dibinga are pleased to see that more Black people are focusing on their health and taking advantage of the resources available to them.

Stone has also shared that her company has become even more significant when specific unrest in April and May of 2015 concerning the death of Freddie Gray affected the area and the nation. Gray suffered fatal injuries while in police custody, and Stone said the incident prompted her to create “alternative options for people to get ahead.” She says she wants to preserve the dreams of Black people, who are often inundated with stress and trauma. She wants The Living Well to do the transformative work of healing the city.

Black business owner Daphne Grissom is in on the action as well. She created SkinnyU and InShapeMD in the Atlanta area. These businesses create tailored wellness programs that encourage healthy weight loss and the prevention and treatment of conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Grissom states that supplements, bio-identical hormone replacement therapy, appetite suppressants, vitamins, fat-burner injections and meal plans are among the services offered to clients who want to take control of their health.

All three business owners agree with Grissom’s statement that “there is no better business than helping people.” These women are focused on improving the health of the Black community and encouraging more of a take-charge attitude among African-Americans when it comes to preventing major health problems, which is a trend that will hopefully continue.

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