“Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. From its Galveston, Texas origin in 1865, the observance of June 19th as the African American Emancipation Day has spread across the United States and beyond” – juneteenth.com
In celebration and amplification of Juneteenth, our amazing Chelsia Janise, Assistant General Manager at Chuze Fitness San Bernardino, embarked on a journey of conversation and insights with many of our Black employees. She asked questions about being Black in America and at Chuze. My name is Farel Hruska and I am the Director of Education and Culture at Chuze Fitness, and I had the pleasure of interviewing her about this project. Read on to meet Chelsia, learn about her perspectives and then enjoy her conversations in the video below.
Farel/Chuze: How would you describe your work here at Chuze?
Chelsia: I manage the San Bernardino gym and have a team full of staff who I feel are integral in their community. Daily I try to find ways to tie our community together to offer San Bernardino something they haven’t been offered in the past, quality customer service. I try to mirror what we believe this community deserves…a clean and a top notch experience. I consistently problem solve with my staff to ensure that the members get an amazing experience every time.
Farel/Chuze: What are your passions and how do they align for you at work?
Chelsia: I am very passionate about my culture, our history and about the opportunities in front of me to ensure that my culture is properly represented in all spaces. I’m able to interact with members who may not have seen someone like me “running the show”. I am passionate about being kind to each other. San Bernardino sometimes feels like it has been looked at as a “problem” or forgotten about…we might not have a lot of resources here. But where we lack in resources we have a greater opportunity. While I’m here I want the members to feel like they have family. Chuze is a family business and I can pass on the family kindness to our team and our members. At 19 I got a membership (at another club), they just took my money and I never wanted to go back. I want others to know that Chuze is not here to “sell” them on something…I want to make this a smooth journey for others. I’m getting paid to change the norm.
Farel/Chuze: I know your degree is in Cultural Anthropology, what drew you to studying this and how did this interview series align with that?
Chelsia: I have always had a passion for people; learning and understanding them. I have friends from a lot of different backgrounds and I love to find out more about them. Anthropology has been a bit of a criticized field…kind of elitist. It felt like it was about “viewing the other ”. Made up traditionally of straight, white men from Europe observing others (in Samoa, for example). Their job was seen as we are here to watch you. Zora Neale Hurston, One of the first Black Anthropologists, criticized the founding fathers of anthropology by asking questions like, Why do we say “field work”, why do we see others out in a field…let’s instead learn to do life with people. Take in what you experience as “what is”. That’s why I took the non-assumptive approach when interviewing some of our Black employees in this journey. In the interviews, I could utilize the skills I learned. This project represented the birth of new possibilities for me.
Farel/Chuze: What were the most important intentions you had while completing this interview project with our team?
Chelsia: I wanted it to be encouraging, authentic and historic. I know we’ve [Chuze Fitness] never done this before. This is history being made. I wanted to celebrate them because of the incredible work they do.
Farel/Chuze: Were there any surprises along the way?
Chelsia: I had no idea what I could really do. I haven’t had interactions like this before at Chuze. I knew I could handle the role, I just didn’t fully realize my potential. I was genuinely proud of myself. The whole time, I felt ‘I am doing this well…I can do this’! It did so much more for me that I never could have imagined.
Farel/Chuze: What was one theme you discovered with each interview?
Chelsia: It was really cool to see how a lot of the answers were similar which led to a theme at Chuze…everyone was hopeful. I was so glad to hear that. Everyone described this as a “journey”. Metaphorically wearing a mask was a theme, like code-switching. In life, I have always been taught to know how I needed to act to get what I needed/wanted in that experience. Everyone seemed to share that thought…but we were all able to be ourselves here at work. You are still seeing us…goofy, silly and yet we are still polished and efficient. We all collectively know that this version of ourselves is expected of us…As a Black woman, I still have to wear a mask. It’s something that’s been taught to us all our lives.
Farel/Chuze: As your assistant throughout this day of interviews, I had the incredible honor of witnessing our amazing team being real and “handed the mic”. What I didn’t know you were going to do was take a moment with each interview to celebrate each individuals’ Black Excellence. Will you talk a little more about that?
Chelsia: I didn’t plan to do that…I felt like it was needed. Coming back after being closed for so long and watching the news and seeing such horrifying events that keep happening. I wanted to give people their flowers, I wanted them to sit in their excellence. Sit in their grace and beauty. I felt like I needed to do it. Our members think of them as part of the culture but I wasn’t sure if they knew that. I wanted to take a moment to affirm them, to let them know they have a seat at the table and their voice is important and to thank them.
Farel/Chuze: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Chelsia: This interview project was started with the intention to educate and celebrate Black History Month. It’s still 100% relevant because it’s another opportunity to celebrate Black Excellence. Folks are unaware of people around us. We aren’t taught about Juneteenth in school, it’s our opportunity to now talk about it. To me this goes hand in hand…bridging gaps between communities AND to celebrate voices that aren’t heard enough.
Thank you to the wonderful people who took part in this conversation:
Chelsia Janise (Moderator) – Assistant General Manager at Chuze Fitness San Bernardino
Asia Tircuit — Supervisor, Chuze Rancho Cucamonga
Shamari Harbin — Supervisor, Chuze San Bernardino
Jazmine Scruggs — Team Member, Chuze San Bernardino
Brian King — Assistant General Manager, Chuze Corona
Jason Smith — Team Member, Chuze Rialto
Willie Mobley — Assistant General Manager, Chuze Rancho Cucamonga
Devon Carter — Fitness Manager, Chuze Rialto & San Bernardino
Farel Hruska – Director of Education and Culture
Amanda Schroeder – Marketing & Creative Coordinator