February marks the widely recognized Black History Month, a time when we honor and celebrate the accomplishments of African-American heroes while remaining conscious of our dedication to social change. There are many ways to celebrate Black History Month, such as engaging in personal reflection or taking time to learn about the contributions of historical African-American figures. In addition, one of the best ways we can do good is go out and support local Black-owned social enterprises making a change in our community today.
SocialVentures had the opportunity to interview Racquel “Rokki” Bonner, co-founder of Fit To Navigate, a health and wellness minority-owned social enterprise. Fit to Navigate’s mission started inside a women’s prison to cultivate wellbeing for women and communities impacted by the criminal justice system, while also creating career opportunities in the wellness industry. Fit To Navigate now offers one-on-one personal training, nutritional services, a job training program and more, all based on three pillars of health: mindset, movement and nutrition.
Lawrence Lemon: We’re living in transformative times. What’s your experience been as an African-American leader and business owner over the past couple of years?
Rokki Bonner: A lot of growth and when I say that I mean, like, really sitting inside my feelings releasing old traumas and healing, a lot of growth from 2018 to 2022 personally; and then business wise it’s just been a slow and steady organic pace. Nothing is happening too fast, nothing is happening too slow and I had to really come to terms with that; being able to sit from moment to moment. I’m happy where we are.
LL: What is your personal connection to Fitness
RB: Twenty-six years ago fitness saved my life. Growing up I was diagnosed with an autoimmune hyper thyroid. I had always been active in sports and things like that, but I also was out there hanging with people, you know, that were getting into trouble…until I realized that going to the gym was a place that I could mentally allow myself to let go of some things, but also a space where if I had anxiety or anything like that, it was a safe place for me. It also kept me from being in the streets and hanging with friends that were getting in trouble.
I started to pursue it (fitness) as a career. I realized how much I could save myself from the preventive side instead of just waiting for a doctor to diagnose it. So, when I say fitness saved my life it really did; it took me away from the streets and also took me on the road to a dream to be able to take care of myself, and I wanted to share that with other people. Then I recognized that I had the power, just as much as a doctor, to save someone’s life on the preventative end as opposed to (being) reactive.
LL: What specific needs do you notice in the African-American community and how do you aim to impact them?
RB: It seems like now, as an African-American community we are prioritizing health. We were so involved in survival mode, and then letting someone else tell us how to manage our health that it was more of a back end thing, not necessarily prioritized in the way that others were. As far as giving back, I want all of our community to have access to health and well-being. It’s not something that you have to necessarily pay someone for. We all deserve the right to know how to work out, to eat properly, to take the time out for meditation— self-care is so important. In the African-American community, we were taught to take care of everyone else first before we take care of ourselves, and what I think is beautiful is that we are growing in the knowledge of self-care and it’s very important for us to take care of ourselves first.
LL: How do you view the importance of celebrating Black History, and are there any figures that inspired you?
RB: My great-great-grandfather (Zach Simon) was a sharecropper. He worked for the 180 acres of land that he earned that we now still own in our family; he was an entrepreneur and he was protective of his people but he was also protective of what was right. When I celebrate my ancestors and know that I come from a very strong line of Black women, that helps me. I am a freedom seeker because all of our lives we’ve been seeking freedom and a way to have access to resources, healthcare, the right access to real estate, and loans.
When I initially started (in business), I went to the bank, a traditional bank, because my credit wasn’t high but I still had the funds coming in every month. They said we can’t fund you, we need you to go to a “special place” and that meant high-interest loans. When I signed that loan I knew that I was betting on myself, but that I was also carrying my ancestors with me and I wasn’t going to lose.
LL: How can we better support local social enterprises and celebrate Black History throughout the year?
RB: By allowing Black entrepreneurs access, and start seeing Black businesses as viable businesses. We are making a difference and we’re making a change and we deserve that financial backing and support. We (the community) need to celebrate ourselves and our wins as well as celebrate each other. When you see someone doing well on social media, like and share their posts, because we are magic and we are amazing.
To learn more about Fit To Navigate, 2803 Delmar Dr., or if you are interested in getting in contact with Rokki, visit Fit To Navigate’s website at fittonavigate.com.
With SocialVentures there are many ways to show support during Black History month. Purchasing from a social enterprise that provides resources and connections creates impactful and long-lasting change throughout the year. Let’s use this month to create a trend of support of SocialVentures and Central Ohio’s Black-Owned social enterprises.
Founded in 2014, SocialVentures is a non-profit organization that believes in people, purpose and prosperity. They develop, advocate for and help fund businesses advancing solutions to social problems in our community. Send an email to [email protected] to connect and visit socialventurescbus.com for more information.
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