Updated: Apr 6, 2020
Even after Sonja (Founder of Black Girl Pilates) started BGPI, she was still concerned about the under-representation of Black Men teaching Pilates. The most recognized were well know brothers like Chris Robinson, Brett Howard and Jean-Claude Nelson. She also knew a few personally but was that truly all there was out there teaching?
Pilates Style Magazine asked its readers what they would like to see. Sonja adamantly responded that it would be great to see a man on the cover of Pilates Style magazine particularly a Black man. A few months later, Chris Robinson was the cover model and featured instructor. Although that was a first, surely, there had to be more of him somewhere in the world. Sonja was more involved in establishing the support group, organizing events and social media for BGPI so there was no time to start something new.
Almost a year ago, Norris Tomlinson, Owner of Sirron Pilates in Chicago and one of the Co-Founder of MBOP reached out to Sonja to discuss the possibility of creating a platform similar to BGPI. Norris had felt that Black men were underrepresented in the Pilates method and felt the same yearning to find out if there were more Black men like him who were teaching. They had a long conversation about what Sonja had experienced having created something that was centered specifically for Black women. To do this, one would need to have a thick skin and realize that even with all the backlash (being called divisive and racist) this was something that needed to be done.
Even before that she had already found several other brothers to follow online and had become internet friends with them. Their pictures/videos were re-posted as well as promotion of their events. Eventually, these same guys would become true friends. Since BGPI was already functioning pretty much on its own after a few years (established in 2017), it was decided this was the time to start the new platform. Sonja couldn't do it alone plus she could not effectively represent Black identified men as a Black woman.
What really spearheaded the creation of MBOP, was a suggested trip by Martin Reid, Creator/Founder of @realmendopilates to meet Kevin Lartigue, Owner of @pilatesdwell accompanied by Ed Duffee @empoweredmvmnt (he was unable to attend due to a family emergency). After that weekend and getting to know these brothers, it was time for a new revolution. In the meantime, she had also come into contact with Arkeif Robinson @blackmendopilates Ronnie Chambers @battlekore_pilates_boxing, Jason Williams @charcitypt and reconnected with Norris Tomlinson @sirronpilates. Sonja began to chat individually about the possibility of a new Pilates platform for Black men and her recent visit with Kevin in Michigan. Kevin, Ed, Martin and Sonja had already had a group chat going on so the other brothers were asked asked to join the conversation. There was no name at the time but we definitely wanted something that would describe them as Black men who teach Pilates and wasn't sure "Black Men" would be the best descriptive name. After much discussion, Melanin Brothers of Pilates was founded January 4, 2020.
Melanin Brothers of Pilates is a collective of Black identifying male Pilates instructors who represent the best of our Culture, Power and Strength by centering the men who teach and the ones who take it. We hope that their presence will encourage other Black men/boys to be a part of this movement to bring more awareness to Pilates in our community.