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AfroBrutality Is Bringing Racial Diversity And Radical Inclusivity To Fitness

Ever worked out to a Malcolm X speech?

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At first AfroBrutality was just a concept; it was a logo and a way to describe the Harlem-based group of friends and workout partners, lead by Syn Martinez, who did CrossFit together.

@synfuckingmartinez / Via instagram.com

Martinez tells BuzzFeed Health he needed something that captured the spirit of their loose collective of mostly black and Latino athletes that started working out together in 2008, as well as Martinez's non-conformist, in-your-face approach to fitness, and the super-hardcore CrossFit workouts they were doing. He drew a skull with an afro and a middle finger as the handle of the afro pick. He called it Afro Brutality.

The AfroBrutality sensibility informed not just Martinez's mission to create a more diverse and inclusive space within the world of fitness, but also the actual workouts he was creating.

Martinez says that one of his objectives was to somehow use his workouts to educate the people he trains. So he found a way to meld exercise with black history.

Facebook: CrossFitHarelm / Via Facebook: CrossFitHarelm

For example, to commemorate the year the Black Panther Party was founded, Martinez wrote a blog post about the Panthers and posted the workout “1966: The Black Panther Party is Founded,” with a rep scheme that called for 19 reps, then 66 reps (for several rounds).

The workout "Shirley Chisholm Runs for President, 1972," comes with a blog post honoring Chisholm, the first black woman elected to United States Congress and the first black candidate to run for a major party's nomination for president. The corresponding workout is a 20-round circuit that calls for one rep, then nine reps, then seven reps, then two reps to commemorate the year that Chisholm ran for president (1972).

And AfroBrutality workouts are set to music filled with cultural commentary by black artists like Gil Scott-Heron and Dead Prez, or to speeches by Malcolm X.

Courtesy Syn Martinez

Here are a few Afro Brutality members doing a black power salute while holding kettlebells at the Frederick Douglass monument in Harlem. "The idea [for this shoot] was 'power to the people,'" Martinez says.

But Martinez points out that AfroBrutality isn't only for people of color.

@afrobrutality / Via instagram.com

"AfroBrutality is a mindset for people who care about being healthy, who care about succeeding in life by any and all means, who will do whatever it takes to add positivity to their life and the people around them," says Martinez.

"We're after a mindset of people who want to lead a positive life and won't let life dictate how that looks and feels."

Founding AfroBrutality member Carlos Davila sums it up: "AfroBrutality is a movement. It's expressing yourself in a way that is unapologetic."

Facebook: CrossFitHarelm / Via Facebook: pg

"This is a place where you can come and kind of be yourself, and not feel you have to present yourself a certain way," he says.

"Come in, be you, and crush the workout or get crushed."

Check out this video of Martinez and Davila talking about AfroBrutality.

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