Black Joy: Rosa Parks’ yoga practice

Black History Month is over, but Black girl magic has strutted into the chat because it is Women’s History Month.

I think there is no end when it comes to honoring the power of Black women. When they march, fight or break glass ceilings, they take everybody with them. My favorite moments of journalism happen when I talk about the “movement mothers,” the ones who nurture a better future for all our communities.

But just because they are marching, doesn’t mean their feet aren’t tired. Fighting white supremacy also mean wrestling with misogynoir. Breaking glass ceilings also comes with the journey of enduring microaggressions in predominantly white spaces.

It’s important for Black women to heal from both the physical and emotional labor of being Black women. So next week, we’re starting the “Black Power Heals” series, which will talk about our freedom fighters in a different way. Instead of just focusing on their movement work, we’ll talk about how these women from both past and present found joy.

As you read their stories, I hope you find the recipe you need to cultivate your own peace and happiness in your own life.

The yoga journey of Rosa Parks

Here’s a little taste test of what’s to come next week. I knew I was spoon fed a whitewashed version of Rosa Parks’ story when I learned she was an anti-rape investigator for the NAACP way before she became Rosa “Nah, I ain’t moving” Parks on that Montgomery bus. Expanding my knowledge about the life of one of my favorite Alabamians has been a personal journey of mine.

If you would also like to dismantle the fairytale you were taught about Parks, I suggest you check out this opinion piece by Dr. Jeanne Theoharis and her book “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks,” which also comes in a young reader’s edition for the kiddos.

When I spotted photos from the Library of Congress of Parks doing yoga poses on a colorful blanket, I knew I had to hunt down more information. So, I chatted it up with Dr. Stephanie Y. Evans, professor and director of the Institute for Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Georgia State University, who details her discovery of Parks’ yoga journey – as well as the wellness activism of many other notable Black women – in her book Black Women’s Yoga History: Memoirs of Inner Peace,” which published Monday.

Evans was about two years into her research on stress when she learned about Parks’ decades-long yoga practice while reading “Our Auntie Rosa,” a family memoir written by Parks’ niece in 2015. In 2019, she saw the Library of Congress photo of Parks teaching a demonstration of the thunderbolt pose during a class in Detroit in March 1973. She just turned 60 at the time. A photo of Parks in bow pose was made available through the Library of Congress in 2020.

While Evans didn’t discover the photos, reading about Parks’ yoga practice was an “ah-ha” moment during her studies.

“It was validation for my curiosity about, what I call, #HistoricalWellness,” Evans said. “Rosa Parks was not the only black woman to do yoga in 70s. So, it helped me validate my questions about Black women’s historical practices and it made it kind of really a lot more visible because she is a civil rights icon. She was one very prominent voice in a chorus of Black women’s stories about yoga.”

Evans credits yoga and Parks’ vegetarian lifestyle as the reason she lived to the age of 92. The introduction of Evan’s book mentions the evidence she found in Parks’ own memoir titled “My Life.” Parks mentioned that her mother instilled in her the importance of stretching and exercising.

“This daily practice became essential in her healing from childhood illnesses, as well as from the stress she faced during her Civil Rights Movement activism, which has been documented by scholars like historian Jeanne Theoharis and Susan Reyburn,” Evans wrote.

Getting an intimate look in Parks’ life helped Evans to explore how Black women of the movement found healing through self-care. She has now combed through more than 200 life narratives of Black women to piece together what African American wellness looks like. A portion of that book examines the southern roots of self-care.

But we are saving those details for when the series drops next week.

However, if you can’t wait, you can grab Evans’ book, which she hopes will become a wellness map for other Black women who endure multiple types of stresses, including sexual assault.

“Inner agency, a power of inner peace, has enabled Black women to move in the world beyond the proscriptions of the white gaze or, at least, has made a way for us to move through the white world, if not unbothered or unbloodied, then unbowed,” Evans wrote in her book. “Historical narratives of meditation and yoga, when read for inner agency, offer Black women survivors of violence today encouraging messages about how to claim power through living inner peace and writing inner peace.”

Howard University: The HBCU school of “firsts”

I cannot end Black Joy without giving a shout out to one of my favorite videographers who produced our video highlighting the graduates from “The Mecca,” a.k.a. Howard University. The HBCU is the alma mater of Vice President Kamala Harris, who not only became the first Black and Southeast Asian woman to serve in the position, but also the first HBCU grad to enter the White House.

Harris’ achievement follows the heritage of Howard, which has birthed a lot of notable Black “firsts,” many of them were Black women. So sit back, relax and enjoy educating yourself by watching the video below.

We must find inner peace within ourselves so we can continue to show out in our Black excellence. Feel empowered by your own Black magic and spread it everywhere – unapologetically.  See y’all next time.

How are you celebrating your Black Joy? Send me an email at and share your happiness and laughter with us! Also, take a minute to check out and join the Black Magic Project’s Facebook page where we celebrate and discuss Black culture and community.

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