A Saffron Universe : Center for Truth and Meditative Art started out in September of 2016 in a small space on the first floor of an art gallery. I had always dreamt of opening a yoga studio to make the practice of yoga and meditation more accessible to people of color. I was newly pregnant with my 4th child, struggling with an abusive relationship at home, and had no funding or clear plan at the time. But I was determined to succeed, as this was my opportunity to change my life and the life of those around me.
My story, and my subsequent journey of opening ASU gained a following on social media and, although hectic and extremely difficult, I found my footing and began to grow my business. After 1 year, I was in need of a larger space to accommodate the growing community that called ASU home. I also knew that my first location, downtown in Baltimore's gentrified Harbor East, was not where I initially set out to be. I wanted to bring yoga and meditation to those who may not have had the means, the leisure time, or the confidence to try something new in an unfamiliar area of the city. There were ZERO yoga studio in Baltimore's majority black, low income urban neighborhoods -- they only existed in the trendy, gentrified areas of the city, or in the suburbs. As a certified yoga instructor, I knew the benefits of a regular yoga practice, and I knew an accessible yoga studio would give people in underserved communities a place to grow, to self actualize, and to hone techniques that would combat the poverty-induced stress.
I found an unoccupied, dilapidated storefront church directly in the middle of an open air drug market. Across from a liquor store, and adjacent to an independent grocery store, I decided to take the chance of changing the paradigm of business within a Black community. I signed the lease in Oct of 2017, but Unfortunately , the building's owner was not forthcoming about the condition of the building and I found myself doing $3500 in renovations before I could begin to offer instruction in my new location. In paying for renovations, as well as the monthly rent and utilities out of my own savings, I soon found myself broke and threatened with eviction. Ive managed to renegotiate a month to month lease agreement with the landlord, and I am working desperately to resume operations to a level that can sustain the monthly overhead along with regular supplies needed in the studio (paper towels, toilet paper, bottled water, etc).
I am hoping to secure funds to cover the monthly rent and utilities, as well as daily necessities. I would like to file the paperwork needed to become a non profit organization and possibly expand to a small staff.
Aside from yoga and meditation, I tech workshops on spirituality and self actualization. I make crystal jewelry and educate people in holistic alternatives to modern issues. I am also an aspiring anthropologist with hope to finish out my B.A in Social Science with a minor in Anthropology at Coppin State University. I was born, raised, and educated in West Baltimore and I feel very passionate about reimaging what it means to exist here.