An Open Letter to PMA from Insight Pilates:
Dear Jo Ann Graser, Katie Santos, Suzy Levi, Elizabeth Anderson & Tanya Nieto-Winzey,
CC: Nikki Steward, Stella Hull-Lampkin, Tabetha Koylass, Eurona Tilley
January 24th, 2021
I have been a PMA member on and off since 2000, am PMA certified and until recently, was thrilled for the opportunity to present at last year’s conference, and was patiently awaiting the Zoom opportunity for my slated presentation on “The 7 Movement Families” for May this year.
I am very grateful for this opportunity, however, I am not comfortable associating myself with PMA at the moment. I read your blog post apology “We Got it Wrong. Again” and I don’t think it’s enough. You have “Covid Protocols” on your main menu to keep everyone safe from biological viruses and yet you haven’t directly addressed white supremacy, a mental virus. Your apology is hidden on your blog with a vague title that screams you would rather just keep it quiet. While your planned survey this Feb 15th is a step in the right direction, PMA still remains stained as an unsafe place for Black Pilates instructors. Until I am assured that the anti-racist actions PMA takes actually does create a safe space for Black Pilates Instructors, I rescind my participation in this year’s conference, will not renew my membership, nor my NCPT third party certification. I am aware of my inherent racism as a white woman and the privilege that exists for white Pilates instructors especially as the default Pilates Body/Cover of the book/marketing images/star of the show/front of the line. I don’t need to know all of the details of what went down in this recent conflict in the PMA board to stand in solidarity against the tokenism of Black people. Black Lives Matter is not a new cause for me that just arose this summer, this is how I was raised.
I do plan to take my ideas elsewhere to share with my Pilates community in a safer space. I do plan to receive financial gains from my own ideas, as that is any human’s right to earn a living, however, I am aware that all great ideas stand on the shoulders of those that came before them. I specifically do not intend to find personal gain in my protest to not participate in PMA this year. I intentionally am not centering the BLM movement on me. I do not claim to be trained in the field of organizational development and civic engagement. I am a Pilates Instructor with the values of honoring, protecting, and respecting cultural inclusivity.
The specific actions that I would like to see PMA take to change the culture of exclusion for Black Pilates trainers are (if you have taken any of the actions below or other anti-racist actions, already, please point me to relevant resources for me as a former PMA member, so I can learn more about PMA’s anti-racist actions as I watch PMA’s culture heal):
1.) Make your public apology from the current PMA board and leadership directly to Nikki Steward, Stella Hull-Lampkin, Tabetha Koylass, and Eurona Tilley for the recent unacceptable intolerance of their grievances that came up for them as Black Pilates instructors. Say their names.
2.) Send an email to all current PMA members and any former members that may have not renewed due to let members know exactly how PMA will welcome all people as human beings and won’t ignore race as an issue for Black People and People of Color.
3.) Commit to continually educate yourself on anti-racism and be self-aware of inherent racism by listening to Black voices. Read books by Black authors such as Angela Davis, Layla Saad, Ijeoma Oluo and taking webinars from Black Women who speak openly about race to educate White people on their subconscious bias like Catrice Jackson, Monique Melton, and Sonja Herbert of Black Girl Pilates. Learn the facts, study history and self-reflect using critical thinking.
4.) You took the right step in hiring Jennifer R. Hudson of ThinkBeyond Public Relations to consult PMA on their D&I strategy. I would like to see PMA offer free training for all PMA staff and members in anti-racism (specifically to deal with inclusion for Black People) and diversity and inclusion (a broader term to be anti-discriminatory in general). If PMA truly is going to, as you, Elizabeth Anderson said “better represent and support our beautifully diverse community in every way… will ensure every member feels honored and celebrated” then PMA needs to get out in front of racism and denounce white supremacy. We all saw what happened when leadership failed to denounce white supremacy. Silence is Violence.
5.) Create a strategy for addressing grievances from all staff and members that includes grievances of racially motivated aggression/harassment/assault and include it in your non-profit staff handbook.
6.) Put your money where your mouth is: Boycott white supremacist sympathizing businesses and support & donate the movement of Black Lives Matter and specifically to Black small businesses. Donate for COVID relief now for Black families. Make a donation or take a Pilates session at black owned Pilates studios.
My choice of donation today was: Soul Fire Regenerative Farm since sustainable farming heals the planet and Soul Fire is embodying healing of the planet and from ancestral trauma.
This email serves as an exit from our Pilates Content Workshop Presenter contract for the PMA conference this May 5th-8th, 2021. Specifically, I no longer agree to the Content Exclusivity clause and will present “The 7 Movement Families” whenever and to whoever I plan to.
In the future, if I see that PMA does truly achieve a culture of inclusivity, I will be open to submitting my work to contribute to a national Pilates community led by The Pilates Method Alliance.
Mariah P. Sotelino, Owner & Educational Director