There have been moments along my wellness journey where I’ve literally had to pause and take in the moment. There have been moments in which I’ve just felt overwhelmed with gratitude, where I’ve said to myself, “damn this really is happening. I’m exactly where I need to be.” Then there have been moments where I experienced both feelings. This week, I’m highlighting a brother who has been responsible for one of those “both” moments. Danny Fluker Jr. wears many hats. He is a yoga teacher, connector, and the founder of Black Boys Om. There are many things that I could say about him and my virtual interactions with him, but I’d like to share a story that really illustrates the importance of this community–the community that Danny founded.
Before I was an official yoga teacher, I followed the Black Boys Om instagram page. I was immediately amazed by the posts, and at the amount of Black Men affiliated with this group. I’ve shared candidly about my experiences in wellness spaces–feeling “othered,” unsafe, or subject to micro and macro aggressions. The instagram page alone for me was like a personal North Star, and was a source of inspiration and motivation as I was completing my own 200 hr yoga teacher training. I told myself that once I completed training, I’d apply to become a member of this group of men, of brothers. After I completed my training, I applied to become a part of the collective and I was immediately welcomed into the fold. Danny was the first person that I interacted with. He sent the warmest welcome email and invitation to the Black Boys Om Whatsapp group. I was like “damn, this is really happening.”
Fast forward to June 2020.
Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Ahmaud Arbery had become martyrs – but not by their own choosing.
The world felt upside down. I had stopped teaching my online yoga classes because I didn’t feel like I had anything to give to anyone, including myself. I felt hopeless, enraged, and stir crazy because of the quarantine (at the time NYC was still the epicenter for COVID-19). I participated in two yoga group chats: a yoga studio that I taught with and the Black Boys Om chat. I was the only Black male participant in the group chat for the yoga studio, and to be honest, I didn’t participate much. I lurked though. I had watched this group collectively discuss everything from COVID, to navigating unemployment, to commiserating over their collective fears and hardships. I shared sentiments with many of the teachers. However, as the news coverage spread in response to the global protests and world-wide outrage, this group chat was silent about it all. Not to vilainize said group, but the lack of conversation actually hurt me. Again, I didn’t feel seen, and I ended up leaving the chat. In the BBO group chat, we were there for one another. There were brothers on ground zero in Wisconsin, reporting live, and giving updates about what was going on. There were brothers who were holding space for one another to process, to grieve, and to heal. It was so clear to me that these two group messages were just different worlds. It was so clear to me that the Black Boys Om group was more than just a group chat, but it was a source of collective healing. There were certainly points since June, that I had to stop and just find gratitude for this community of brothers bound by our commitment to the practice and to the culture.
Danny is a phenomenal guy. He works tirelessly to ensure that we all feel supported, seen, and also models how to honor one’s own personal boundaries. I’m thrilled to be able to share his work with TKYM community. Read his interview below to learn more about him, and the work of Black Boys Om.
Eric: Before we dive into BBO, can you share a little bit more about yourself? Spill the tea–where’re you from? What does home mean to you? What inspires you most these days?
I’m a native of Atlanta Georgia. I’m a big introvert with a lot of energy and a passionate and creative heart. Home for me means those moments where peace is cultivated internally and I have the capacity for energies that would compliment that same peace. I’m most inspired by the resilience of humanity in really hard times.
Eric: Can you tell us about your wellness journey?
I started yoga to counteract severe anxiety- the type that caused me to involuntarily hold my breath for long periods of time and that gave me a tight chest. I saw hundreds of people in an open field doing it one day. I decided to join them and would go back every weekend. When I decided to join a yoga studio I went to the one Black male yoga teacher that I saw because I saw myself in him and I saw my own possibility.
Eric: Are you a full time yoga teacher/ founder? Do you have another job that you do as well?
I had two other jobs prior to the pandemic in addition to teaching yoga full time and running the non-profit. Since the pandemic I have taken a break from teaching to focus on my personal practice. I’ve sporadically taken on private clients but for the most part all of my energy has been poured into Black Boys OM. I work about 50- 60 hours a week. It’s a journey and a process and I’m learning as I go.
Eric: What’s the story behind BBO?
The idea came in a moment – I was co-facilitating a Meditation workshop for men at Yellow Mat Wellness, a Black Woman owned yoga studio in Atlanta. Siha Collins, the owner is a passionate Meditation practitioner and teacher and asked me to lead the men through the asana portion of the workshop. All the men who showed up that day were Black and it was the first time I’d experienced the energy of being in a room full of Black Men meditating. During that workshop conversations around Black male wellness, mental health, trauma, stress and the collective lived experience of what it means to be Black in America came up. Internally I began to wonder about what it would look like to replicate this experience for multiple Black men. I began to connect with other Black male yoga teachers that I personally knew and others who I knew by association I began to share with them my thoughts around starting a Collective with a specific purpose of amplifying our efforts for our communities, together – with the specific aim of helping Black Boys and Black Men through our own wellness practices. I also began to reach out to a few friends I knew who started nonprofits of their own. I didn’t realize that I wanted BBO to be a non-profit at the time, I just knew that I wanted it to be a community organization of some sort. One of my Yoga mentors, Brandon Copeland was teaching Yoga to Black Boys in a private school in Southwest D.C. and I remember being inspired by his work and wanted to figure out a way to replicate bringing yoga to Black Boys in schools. As the Collective grew by word of mouth the goals of helping our communities together became more focused – a lot of brothers were already doing work in their communities and the drive to amplify that work and to create an organization centering that work for more impact came into focus. We began to do pop ups in Yoga studios, park events, primary schools, college campuses, community centers, correctional facilities and faith organizations. Our network continued to grow and at present we have 250 Black Male Yogis a part of our Collective in 100 locations around the United States and the world. Due to Covid our offerings are now in open spaces in parks and online via our virtual Academy.
Eric: Saying that this year has been tough is an understatement. Personally, the BBO whatsapp group has helped me through some of the really dark times during quarantine –particularly around racial injustice and some of the protests that were happening in Minnesota. Can you talk about how this connection with brothers has impacted you during the quarantine? Any stories of triumph to highlight?
I’m glad to know that the chat has helped you, Eric. I’ve felt the same. The community of brothers has been one of the things that has helped me keep going. There is a lot of deep grieving and processing for Black people and having a shared, safe space with other brothers who know what it’s like to live in this skin, in this lived experience has been helpful. The highlight for me is knowing that we each have our practices and that we each are continuing to choose to keep going.
Eric: Tell us about your personal practice on and off of the mat–the real nitty gritty. In what ways does it support you? Do you have any moments of frustration or obstacles that you experience? Do you practice everyday? Are there routines or rituals that you are willing to share?
My personal practices are sporadic. I do not practice every day but I practice most days. I meditate throughout the day and practice specific Kriyas. Surya Kriya, and Isha Kriya are staples for me. Surya Kriya is like an extended Sun A and Isha Kriya is a form of meditation.
Eric: Do you have any “aha moments” that resonate with you that you think might help someone on their journey? Anything really pivotal that either reshaped your views of yourself or the world that you accessed through the practice? Be as personal and specific or as general and abstract as you’d like.
Every moment is new is probably one of the biggest aha moments for me. It’s a simple concept but a lot of freedom in it. It’s something that must be reflected on frequently. It’s one of the teachings of Sadhguru.
Eric: What do you really want people to know about the organization, representation, and community?
Our Purpose, Mission and Vision statement says it best:
Black Boys Om exists to empower Black Male Yoga Instructors to share their wellness practices within the Black community. We focus on uplifting Black Boys in particular with programs centering trauma and developing constructive life habits.
A Networked Wellness Collective of Black Male Yogis and Wellness practitioners engaging the well-being of all Black Boys and Black Men through implementing, honoring and teaching Mindfulness. Meditation and Yoga
A lineage of instructors and students developing in to the largest network of Black Male yoga instructors in the world affecting the most positive change in the wellness field.
Affecting Intergenerational Impact on Black Culture and Communities throughout the diaspora.
Eric: How can people continue to support your organization’s work after this class?
Follow us on social media. Share about what we are doing in our networks. Give if you are able and believe in what we are about.
Eric: Any final thoughts that you would like to share?
Black Boys OM Academy is our newest initiative and our organization’s response to Covid. It’s a big endeavor and also our biggest expense as we pay our Instructors and pay to use the Om Practice virtual platform. We offer yoga and meditation sessions every day of the week virtually, and in real time, completely free for Black Boys/ Men and their families with a small group of Yoga and Meditation Instructors from our Collective. There are a few days out of the week where the Academy is open to the public with a $12 drop in. Please support this initiative.
This Sunday, October 18th at 12pm EST, mentor Alyssa will be teaching our first Karma Yoga Class. The proceeds raised from your attendance will be donated to support Black Boys Om Academy–the online initiative to provide yoga classes free of charge to Black Men and their families. To learn more about Black Boys Om, follow them on instagram at @blackboysom or visit the website here.