November 1, 2022

This Black-Women-Owned Wellness Platform Is Providing A Safe Space For Healing

Black founders Kim Knight and Shanelle McKenzie are the women behind the wellness platform, The Villij, which provides Black women with a safe space for healing and wellness.

Why is it important to have wellness spaces for Black people? 

The wellness industry has struggled to welcome Black and brown women. Instead, for many years, the wellness industry has reconstructed a narrative that has seen self-care become synonymous with wealth and class. 

Despite holistic practices being hugely beneficial for the Black community, especially when it comes to healing from racial trauma, the wellness industry has left many Black women out of the conversation for so long. 

According to holistic wellness expert, LeArielleSimone, Black women are twice as likely to be overweight, have heart attacks, and develop diabetes and lupus. They are also three times less likely to seek help for depression and anxiety than their white counterparts. 

In a world where individualism is applauded, Black women must have a space where they can come together and let their hair down. Black women deserve to be in rooms where they can express themselves amongst others who understand their point of view, share their struggles, and be vulnerable without fear.  

Embracing the ‘softer life’

As Black women opt for a “softer life” that includes embracing the art of wellness and self-care, The Villij is a welcome resource for many.

The wellness club, which launched in 2017, has created a safe space for Black women to talk about their struggles and the various challenges they face, from dealing with everyday microaggressions to mental health challenges. 

Instead of focusing on the difficulties of being a Black woman, The Villij encourages healing through wellness practices, such as yoga and meditation video classes, wellness guides, and community forums for an affordable price. 

“We’re not seeing ourselves represented in these spaces. Kim and I are not yogis by any means, but we did enjoy going to yoga practices or meditation practices here and there. We realized that we were one of the few people of color in the room – if not the only ones. We knew this was not right,” said Shanelle McKenzie, co-founder of The Villij. 

“I think it’s a beautiful thing to be vulnerable in these spaces and have people understand your point of view, your struggle, and your difficulty to even be vulnerable in the first place,” added Mckenzie.

“We’ve had people say, “I came for yoga and left in tears after talking to so many beautiful women of color about mental health.”

Bridging the wellness gap within the Black community 

McKenzie and Knight share a vision of making wellness accessible to all. After the success of their first event, Trap Soul Yoga, in 2017, the founders vowed to create a space for women to connect and meditate through yoga. Reports suggest nearly 60% of the women who attended this event had never experienced yoga, which signified to the founders why this space was crucial for Black women, who are often made to feel excluded from such spaces.

Four years later, Mckenzie and Knight continue to find innovative ways to bridge the gap between wellness and the Black community. For example, the pair’s recently launched wellness cards are currently available for pre-order. The cards, created by a team of Black therapists and graphic designers, are designed to aid women through their most challenging life experiences.

“When we started Trap Soul Yoga, we started doing conversations right after, and we realized that our community didn’t always have the language to speak about their well-being journey. They wanted to have more honest conversations about the things that they were experiencing at home,” explained McKenzie.

“So, we were like, this is a natural progression, and the card game really led us to create a meaningful conversation that was guided. The beauty behind it is that we created a beautiful kind of open conversation around mental health and well-being with our therapists on our team as well.”

The wellness platform hopes these initiatives will encourage more Black women to embark on their healing and self-care journey. It’s time to dethrone the common stereotype of the ‘strong Black woman’ and introduce the ‘Soft Black woman’ era. 

Kumba Kpakima

Kumba Kpakima is a reporter at POCIT. A documentary about the knife crime epidemic in the UK got her a nomination for the UK's #30toWatch Young Journalists of the Year.