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Activists in Harlem

In December 2016, Erica Barth and Laurel Katz-Bohen, co-owners of Harlem Yoga Studio, initiated monthly Mindful Community in Action events, where members of their community could gather to engage in thoughtful political activism, meditation and a little

yoga. Erica spoke with Karen Schwartz about the program.

KS: How did this get started?

EB: We were devastated after the election. We said, let’s have a place to gather once a month. Even if we’re doing things at home, like writing letters, we can do them as a community. We’ll start everything with a grounding yoga practice, a little meditation, and then dive into the work from there.

The first meeting had 11 people, and our second had 20. Our focal point is mindfulness and then we set a little bit of an agenda.

The meetings will continue to follow the lead of activist organizations like Indivisible and Wall-of-Us because they provide a lot of specific actions you can take; and we’re going to continue to weave in the yoga principles of truth, non-violence and self-care.

The primary focus is being in community and having a mindful approach to activism. We want to be a place almost like we are for yoga -- we’re often the first place people come who haven’t practiced yoga, sort of a “gateway drug!”

KS: What impact do you feel you’re having?

EB: The members have been growing. We’re getting more and more interest -- our meeting size doubled from the first to the second and we’ve gotten a lot of emails about the third meeting, so at the very least I would say people are looking for somewhere to go and gather, and some way to channel their energy

KS: Who Inspires you and why?

EB: Initially I was inspired by Seane Corn -- I did her “Off the Mat, Into the World” training.

I went to the Women’s March with a lot of friends who are public school teachers, nurses,

social workers. They are working every day in their communities trying to improve them. I think that’s very inspiring.

KS: How can someone get involved with your organization?

EB: They can go to our website and email us, or go to the events page to sign up and attend our meeting, They can even just drop in, but we’d love for people to sign up so we have a sense of how many are coming. Right now we have a meeting once a month but if it turns out that people are wanting to come more, then we would potentially open it up to a second meeting each month. The next meeting is Sunday, March 26th from 2;00 to 5:00 p.m.

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