Race Still Matters
by Kris Kamm
Over the years, I have enjoyed relationships with members of my group exercise classes. Attending the same class week-in and week-out brings opportunity for casual conversation, such as, “I could hardly walk after last Tuesday’s session!” Answered by, “I hear you.” Eventually, someone suggests a get-together at table. A while ago, I was in a group that had an annual summer swim party/potluck. More recently, one of my classes exchanged secret Santa gifts at a bar (not a barre).
Last year, a confluence of events led me to seek out a new exercise class. I had participated in PHPC’s Race (Still) Matters series where sessions often led to heartfelt questions as to how we can come into relationship with the black community. And I had just retired from an institution with high racial and cultural diversity. Wondering how to refill my diversity void I asked myself, “What can I do?”
Enter YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas. Belong to one, attend any of 19 locations. I discovered the historic Moorland YMCA, located at Marsalis and Ledbetter. Originally, it was the first and only YMCA for blacks in Dallas in what is now the Arts District. The old Moorland Y is a historic landmark and permanent home of the Dallas Black Dance Theater.
I started attending the AAA (Arms And Abs) class on Friday mornings. The Moorland Y is located above Five Mile Creek, less than a mile south of Grace Presbyterian Village. About halfway between the two, on Marsalis, sits the lovely Glendale Presbyterian Church, an African-American congregation of the PC(USA). The Moorland is petite compared to Town North or Oak Cliff, but it has all the amenities of any other Y, including newly-installed fitness machines, large gym, aerobics room, Kid Zone, free coffee, etc.
AAA class members are mostly active senior women. Everyone welcomed me, introduced themselves and asked my name. I’ve been in AAA for six months now. Each week after putting away our equipment, we gather in a circle, hold hands and count off with our names: Lacey 1, Jimmie 2, Dorothy 3, Helen 4, Kris 5, Blossom 6, John (our instructor) 7, etc. John asks for announcements; sometimes there is a revival happening at a local church. Mrs. Johnson reads a verse of scripture followed by a word to the wise. Then we all join in the Lord’s Prayer, followed by unison “Hallelujah.”
The 45-minute AAA class leaves time for a cup of coffee and kibitzing after class. I mostly listen and am grateful for these special relationships. In February, Mimi handed me a clipboard for the Black History Month Potluck Lunch. I thanked her for inviting me, and she said with a wink “I’m not inviting you; I’m getting you to sign up to bring something.” She then instructed me to read all the info in the header. ‘Bring food to multipurpose room beforehand, Bingo at 11 AM, lunch at noon. Wear Black History appropriate attire.’ No problem for me to show up with pinto beans, the attire was another matter.
A quick trip to the internet yielded T-shirt options, but many didn’t work for me, such as, Black and Proud, I’m Black Every Month, and I Am Black History. I bought a T-shirt that said “Stay Woke,” woke referring to being awakened to issues of social and racial justice. I didn’t come close to the colorful African attire of the women at lunch, but I was welcome just the same. Getting woke is a journey. The church and the YMCA have helped me along the way.
To invest your time in our Race Still Matters programming, visit phpc.org/race