I Took My Storied Sports Legacy And Turned It Into A Movement

The Legacy Workout is a call for self-care and collaboration.
Publish date:
March 18, 2014
race, issues, yoga, sports, civil rights, Henrietta Lacks, Kellen Winslow

My name is Andia. My work as a Fitness Activist and Filmmaker sustains me. I live in Harlem, New York, though I was raised in Seattle, Washington. My parents are educators and my mother is a visual artist. I’ve been “crafting” since as I started stringing Cheerios on brightly colored dental floss as a kid.

But my other name is Winslow -- of NFL lore (as in, Uncle Kellen) -- and with it I carry a storied sports tradition. For all of my life I’ve been an athlete, for many years a professional athlete. Something deep down in my spirit has always been drawn to artful motion -- both free and competitive motion. Like hearing the sounds of a New York City train hurtling through space and counting the meter with the nod of my head and the tap of my foot. Or, watching a tight end race routes and gracefully stretch out before the ball in fortuitous capture. There is an artistry and musicality there that need not be explained with words.

But I like words. Sociology was my undergraduate major and it was writing intensive. The analytical aspect of ethnography was intriguing to me. Yes, I enjoyed data collection and parallel drawing -- that systematic recording of culture. I did not enjoy the fact though that research “participants” -- read: subjects -- were not included in the postmortem. Instead, it was all convoluted abstracts and overwhelming theses that few beyond entrenched academics would care to or be able to read and comprehend.

So how could I involve real people in the final work? How could I meet people where they were and instigate real-time conversation and action? Moving images. My interdisciplinary focus became Documentary Film, and, in 2004, I co-produced a film that made the rounds at international film festivals, higher education conferences, museums and major research universities and, most importantly, community centers and schools around the country.

One of the biggest crises of the day is entropy via obesity, diabetes and heart disease, especially in disenfranchised, poor and rural communities. Curiously enough, one of the greatest social currencies of the day is fitness via social media verticals -- but not fitness for health, and not fitness for all. Selfies and Belfies. Fitness for looks. Fitness for likes. Fitness as an exclusionary mechanism. Fitness for class distinction.

And so we once again evoke film as a visual meditation on notions of identity, belonging and engagement. Ours is a cinematic wellness MOVEment inspired by art and music that works to empower viewers to harmonize their bodies with their environments. Ours is a call for self-care and access and innovation and collaboration. I awake most mornings thinking -- often aloud -- “We have to get the people moving!”

Earlier this year, on the eve of the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, my good friend -- filmmaker Monique Walton -- and I decided to create a project dedicated to those who used, and continue to use, their physical bodies and bodies of work to address crises, combat injustice and affect global and historic change. We are humbled before legacy makers past, present and future in recognition of their sacrifice and commitment to the betterment of all. They fought so that we may live, and thus, Legacy Workout is not trivial, it is tribute.

Each movement reflects a person, a people, or a point in time -- an era. Each exercise serves to educate muscle and mind through kinetic storytelling. Who are the figures that lead our literal call to action? They are activists and altruists, adventurers, authors, athletes, aviators, artists and academics. They are human. They are dynamic. So too are the moves.

Take Henrietta Lacks, our first character for examination, our first move. Mrs. Lacks was a woman whose cells, harvested from her cervix and abdomen without her knowledge, became the first known immortal human cell line vital for the development of the most important tools, procedures and research in modern medicine. Add the yoga pose, Mayurasana, for which anatomical focus is the abdomen, a bodily metaphor for the source of life and strength -- also named “Peacock Pose,” it is a symbol of immortality and love, and is to be held parallel to the Earth with the entire weight of the body resting on the core.

Henrietta Lacks is the core of the issue stretching forever in both directions, past and future. She is immortal and from her a new world has emerged. Our hope is that Henrietta Lacks and the entire cast of moves will be introduced to some and re-introduced to others. We are because they were. This is the Legacy Workout.