Black Girls Box Blog

founder  makeba reed-johnson, mph candidate, mpa, bsw, Mental health Advocate

Black Girls Box founder and owner, Makeba Reed-Johnson has been in health and fitness for over 20 years.With a history of teaching fitness formats including fitness boxing, boot camp, weight training, aqua fitness, swimming for fitness, indoor cycling and group running.After teaching group fitness classes, boot camps, and fitness boxing for  nearly twenty years, Makeba signed up for a charity boxing match called Corporate Fight Night sponsored by Terri Moss, Owner of Buckhead Fight Club in Atlanta. "It was one of the most exciting, terrifying, rewarding experience of my life", says Makeba. "I'm a mental health advocate and I chose to fight to raise money to bring mental health awareness to the African American community. The training was the toughest workouts that I had ever been through. But what was most difficult was the mental challenge. Boxing makes you look deep within yourself and ask 'how tough am I, really? How do I push myself through tough times?"

Makeba's fight was August, 2013 where she lost by decision. "It's a funny thing...I learned that night that no one ever really loses a boxing match. It takes tremendous courage to put on head gear and and mouth piece and step into a ring where you and someone else have permission to physically destroy one another. A lot of people talk about boxing, but it takes a warrior to step into the ring."

That experience changed Makeba's life. She continued to train and added running and swimming to her schedule. She also began studying for her second Master's degree in Public Health to pursue her passion to bring mental health awareness to the African American community. "Boxing helped me tremendously with my mental clarity. I wanted to pursue my education and begin teaching the importance of exercise and mental health. The connection was clear."

Although Makeba had been teaching fitness boxing for several years, training in the ring and doing mitt work changed the way she began to teach her classes. She began to incorporate more mitt work in her classes and her students responded. "They began asking me where they could get gloves and how to put on hand wraps. I invited several people who I used to run and lift weights  with to join me in the boxing gym. They all agreed it was the toughest workout they had ever had."

"I began teaching my exercise participants what I had learned when I was training. What I loved so much about boxing was that where weight was concerned, the emphasis was not on the number soley for the number. Your weight is all about your weight class. I had to gain weight to be able to fight my appointment. What was empowering is that weight had to do more about your division and about your physical performance - not about how you looked. Women need that."

After gaining a strong following of avid boxing enthusiasts ranging in age from 18 to 62, Makeba founded Black Girls Box in March of 2015. "I had a lot of guys who wanted to train with me which says a lot. I would think most guys would want a male boxing trainer. I was honored to have men wanted to do mitt work with me. That showed me that I had earned their respect." Makeba continues, "But I really wanted to focus on women of color. When I worked with them, we would always have these deep conversations after their training. They would open up about their depression, anxiety, and other problems. I was beginning to realize the importance of being able to physically hit something in a safe environment. It relieves stress and is very empowering. We don't get to release aggression the way guys do with football. We need this. Both physically and mentally.

Makeba will be finishing up her degree in Public Health at the end of 2015. "I plan on getting back into fighting when I'm finished with this program. Fighting is not for everyone, but I enjoy it. It prods my weaknesses. In the meantime, I want to encourage women to train with me or join a local gym. There are a lot of really good gyms in Atlanta. I want to encourage gym owners and trainers to welcome women who are interested in boxing and be patient with their progress. It's a tough sport, but with the right trainer and supportive people around you, it really adds a lot to your life."