Nia Testimonial: Angela Smith, Nia Teacher
I am a 48 year old woman living in Milwaukee, WI. I teach what I like to call old-school arts – crocheting, knitting, sewing, cooking – to children that are left behind, the lost population in the city, who are mostly African American and Latino. I am a fashion designer for plus-size women, and focus on green, repurposed, upcycled wears, accessories, and home interiors. I am very active in the community, and love and strive to help those who don't have the resources and access to basic essentials for living.
Why do you practice and/or teach Nia?
I found a freedom in my body I forgot was there. I am not a small women – as a matter of fact I would be considered plus size. With all the Nia I'm doing, that's ending soon!
I practice Nia because of the way it has changed me. My awareness of all the beauty and ugliness around me has made me step up my efforts to be a blessing to others to share joy. This is what lead me to become a teacher, to share this with African American women. I am the first African American "Active Teacher" in Milwaukee, and it is a pleasure to share this with a group of people who have the highest number of health disparities. I'm helping them find ways and resources to better take care of themselves.
Where and with whom do you take Nia classes and/or trainings?
I started taking Nia classes at Core El Centro in Milwaukee with Black Belt Teacher Barbara Wesson. My first time in class, I started to cry, and thought, "why am I crying in a fitness class?" As time went on, I found it to be much more. A freedom, a joy, a dance, a spirit moving expression of love. I became addicted to the Nia (in good way)! I needed classes as much as I could get them.
There was a pull on my heart to do more than be a student. I wanted other African American women in Milwaukee to experience this. I started the journey to become a teacher. In August of 2010, I took the White Belt Training with a small group of beautiful women from all over the states and Denise Medved. I wanted to be like Denise, because she was full of grace and joy. Sometimes when I am talking or teaching, I hear myself saying things Denise has said, and I smile because I feel I got what Nia is all about – at least somewhat (I am still new to this!).
As of January 2011, I've been teaching three classes a week with an average of 10-12 African American women who I feel want something new, something that will bring joy to their bodies, and will affect the way they see themselves and the world. My dream is the number will increase as the weather changes here. I am in a neighborhood that at one point, the city had forgotten. Now it's on the brink of a new awakening. Fresh food markets, wellness centers, and art galleries are popping up all around. It was the perfect time for me, and I know this path was set for me more then 3.5 years ago when I stepped into my first Nia class.
What is one thing most people don't know about Nia?
Working with a population of people who've never heard of Nia, I've learned that many think it may have something to do with Kwanzaa. In Kwanzaa, the word "Nia" is Swahili for "purpose" (which really makes perfect sense!). What I found is that people think Nia is some slow, non-cardio movement. Then they find that it's dance, it's yoga, it's martials arts – that gets your body moving in it's own natural way. You sweat and burn calories!
What tip can you give someone who is considering trying Nia for the first time?
My tip for someone who is trying Nia for the first time is to be open and real with yourself. Be willing to let go of old ways that hold you back so you can have a wonderful experience for your mind, body and soul. Know that Nia is not your normal workout. Realize that your personal wellness and health is a very valuable commodity to you, your family, your community and the world.