Unless you’ve also been quarantining from the news, social media, and current events you should be pretty familiar with the jolted collective consciousness here in the United States and really the rest of the world. With almost 200,000 deaths in the US since February 2020, COVID-19 has altered practically every aspect of our lives; from work to education, and even the way we memorialize our loved ones.
Many of us (some for the first time) have become hyper-aware of another pandemic in this country: racism. While the subject of police brutality disproportionately impacting communities of color is not new, the world has watched and responded in an unprecedented (we should retire this word after this year) way following the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. While the contexts of those stories are different, there is one obvious similarity: racism.
And as we have all been called to action over the last several months, many of us have also become aware of the disparities in our wellness world. We have shifted our yoga practices, or investigated our own responsibilities as spiritual leaders, mystics, and guides to create more equitable and safer spaces for those with marginalized identities.
I want to highlight one woman who has dedicated her time and talents to help us answer the call and the question “what can I do to help make a change?” Nicole Cardoza is an award-winning serial social entrepreneur, investor, author, and public speaker making wellness accessible for everyone. Her work is and has been 100% dedicated to closing the racial and socio-economic divides in the wellness industry, which she has done by investing more than $3 million in direct funding, programs, and other resources into communities that need it the most.
Nicole is the founder of Yoga Foster, a non-profit providing yoga resources, training, and mats to over 100,000 students in 4,000 elementary school classrooms each year – in partnership with Lululemon and CorePower Yoga. She is also the founder of Reclamation Ventures a venture fund that invests in high-potential, underestimated entrepreneurs making wellness more accessible that has re-invested over $2.5M from the wellness industry into communities that need it most.
Through Reclamation Ventures, she started a COVID-19 microgrant to provide grants to yoga teachers and studios owners. After a successful round of giving, the Yoga Alliance (after much criticism re: their lack of proactive financial assistance & support) also partnered with RC to continue another round of funding to support even more individuals out of work due to the virus.
Her most recent work, Anti-Racism Daily, has provided readers with actions and education to dismantle white supremacy with over 80k subscribers. What I love about the newsletter the accessibility and that it is data-forward. Each day, the antiracism daily helps to ground the reader in the issue, providing numerous hyperlinks embedded in each post to help the reader build context and become more educated, and gives hard data for those data-driven folks out there. The archives are extensive and available so that you are never left behind no matter when you subscribe.
It’s also worth noting that the posts cover a wide range of topics. The archives are organized by genre including but not limited to education, work, politics, and the environment. This is such a subtle, yet a significant feature of the newsletter, as it demonstrates that racism isn’t just the act of a white person calling a Black person the n-word, or separate water fountains based on race. Racism is a system of oppression rooted in white supremacy that permeates all aspects of our society, including our beloved wellness world–more specifically our yoga studios and practice.
It’s not lost on me that Nicole has been a champion for equity and inclusion. Reading her resume, one can’t help but be impressed and marvel at the success of her offerings. It’s also not lost on me to know that so much of what lights Cardoza’s fire and urgency are her own experiences with race-based trauma. She talks candidly about the origins of Yoga Foster, after students at the school where she volunteered witnessed a shooting on the street while playing in the playground.
I became familiar with Nicole after her highly controversial Yoga Journal magazine cover fiasco in which the magazine placed her cover alongside one of white women, asking readers to vote on the one they’d buy. She bravely took action, calling the company to task, and yet, one year later, the same publication has yet to fulfill all of the promises they made.
Taking action and encouraging others to do the same is just one of the many things Nicole does well. In fact, the Antiracism daily gives readers actions that they can take to help make a change. Earlier this week, ARD educated readers on ketamine, an anesthetic used in hospitals and veterinary clinics, before the Aurora, Colorado City Council voted on whether to ban its use by law enforcement until the Colorado Department of Health concluded their investigation of the potentially lethal drug. This is the same drug that was used to arrest Elijah McClain, Elijah McKnight, and Max Johnson. Both Elijah McClain and Elijah McKnight suffered cardiac arrest as a result of being overly sedated with ketamine and were later removed from life support after becoming brain dead. Max Jonson was in intensive care for two days, following his arrest, which was the result of his girlfriend calling the paramedics to save his life after she found him after having a diabetic seizure. On Tuesday, August 15, 2020, the ARD on their Instagram page, thanking followers for their advocacy reporting that the Aurora City Council unanimously passed a resolution banning ketamine use. This is a huge victory for the citizens of Aurora and a reminder that there is power in collectively using our voices.
The antiracism daily is a fantastic resource for any and everyone looking to “do the work.” If you’re looking for opportunities to be and do better, subscribe to the newsletter and consider financially supporting Nicole and her work. If you’re unclear about the ways that racism impacts all of us on a systemic and systematic level, subscribe to the newsletter and consider financially supporting Nicole and her work. If you’re wondering how you can “yolk,” or “bring together,” or “create union” between social justice and spiritual leadership (because this is yoga), subscribe to the newsletter and consider financially supporting Nicole and her work.