SACRAMENTO — A canceled rap yoga class at a midtown Sacramento studio is now at the center of controversy.
The Sacramento Chapter of Black Lives Matter believes the class is an example of cultural appropriation.
The studio owners canceled the class before it was held and apologized. But Saturday dozens of members of Black Lives Matter occupied the space in front of the business because the studio has a pattern of cultural appropriations.
However, the studio’s owner tells FOX40 that has never been her intent.
While she’s been open to discussions, she feels the demonstration in front of Solfire Yoga is meant to intimidate her employees and customers.
“My wife and I we listen to rap music in our home. And we enjoy the music, we respect the music, we love the music,” said Darrell Spence, the husband of the rap yoga instructor.
Spence’s wife is the one who came up with the idea to hold a rap yoga class at the Solfire Yoga studio.
“She wanted to marry her love with hip-hop with her love of yoga. And combine the two and teach a class with a hip-hop theme,” Spence explained.
But the idea of a white woman teaching the class did not sit well with everyone.
“So he wasn’t an instructor here, he’s at another studio, but he’s speaking out against cultural appropriation and he did it very peacefully,” said Tanya Faison, Founder of Black Lives Matter, Sacramento Chapter.
Saturday, dozens from Black Lives Matter occupied the space in front of Solfire Yoga, allowing customers to enter and leave peacefully while handing out fliers calling the owners of the studio cultural appropriators.
“Historically rap music has been a way of expression for black folks to talk about the pain that they go through in their neighborhoods and their lives,” Faison explained. “We’re just trying to make change and we’re trying to get them to acknowledge what they’re doing and be accountable.”
Faison contacted the studio owners, asking them to cancel the class; co-owner of Solfire Yoga Ellen Moe says they did.
“We never had it. After our dialog with Black Lives Matter and with the teacher we made the decision, myself and my business partner, to cancel the class,” Moe said.
Moe says they went a step further and released an online apology. She also says she and her instructors also attended a class on racism through the Yoga Seed Collective.
“Kind of just like a feeling of no matter what happens, no matter what we do or don’t do, it appears to not be good enough,” Moe said.
Faison and other members of BLM say they are not convinced this won’t happen again.
“They gave us information to try and pacify us but they continue to keep doing what they’re doing and they’re not willing to work with us to make some kind of change in what they’re doing. They’ve been doing it for a couple of years,” Faison said.
Meanwhile, Spence questions why his wife’s now canceled class continues to be the focus of this group.
“When it comes to policing yoga studios over who can play hip-hop and who can’t, I think that goes far field and I think that steps outside of what I envisioned Black Lives Matter to stand for,” Spence said.
FOX40 reached out to the other yoga instructor who originally complained about the rap yoga class as well as to the studio he most recently worked at. They did not respond.
Black Lives Matter claims he was forced out of his job there because of all of this but his name is still on the online schedule.