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Being OUT in the Back Yard: A BYI Community Health Action Team

By Members the BYI Community Health Action Team

Out in the Backyard (OIBY), as a Community Health Action Team or CHAT, is part of the Backyard Initiative (BYI). OIBY sponsors classes, other events, and uses fitness, dance, wellness, and nutrition classes as a way to build community and improve the health of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) individuals along with the many other diverse people living in the Backyard. One community member stated: “I love the way your events create health, happiness and community connection among such a wide, diverse population in our neighborhood-you’re helping our community be physically healthy but also creating a healthy social environment.”

Mili Dutta, one of the founders of the Out in the Backyard CHAT group said “A few years ago, when everyone in the Backyard Initiative was talking about Somali, Latina, African American community health, I realized no one was talking about Queer health,” . So this is how Out in the Backyard CHAT started. “Since the beginning, we have organized and engaged hundreds of people. We still have an important goal to connect people to each other and to resources, and we still have work to do.” Lundi Dougsdottir, class attendee states: “Love the community building work through exercise, health care and info sharing. Thanks so much! When I see the diversity and interaction in these classes at Powderhorn Park, I am blown away!” 

To counter many of the oppressive realities facing LGBTQ people, OIBY CHAT creates a space to connect with community through healthy activities that nurture well-being, reduce isolation, lower stress, improve mental health, offer support, and connect community members. Through its activities, OIBY also hopes to reduce stereotypes that exist about LGBTQ people by connecting to our neighbors in our diverse Backyard community. Free community meals are also offered 3 or 4 times a year.

In addition to wonderful free classes, OIBY has sponsored other events: coordinated a community discussion on bullying; held workshops on legal rights, wills, power of attorney, and end of life health directives; hosted neighborhood potlucks; worked on efforts to pass the same-sex marriage law, and offered an environmental class in partnership with the Women’s Environmental Institute.

Today, through the Back Yard Initiative, OIBY is a small group of enthusiastic volunteers organizing free classes and activities in South Minneapolis. OIBY began offering exercise classes during the winter of 2012 with 5 people attending one class and now has grown to 190 people attending weekly. In the fall of 2012, OIBY developed collaborative programing with the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board at Powderhorn Park where many of the year round classes and events are held- outdoors in the summer, indoors the remainder of the year.

OIBY wants to continuously add classes based on feedback from the community. Based on such requests, we are planning to start other classes on art and holistic health. We also host culturally specific classes and events. On Sept. 3, an Introduction to Ayurveda class will be offered from 7-9 pm in the Powderhorn Park building. It will be taught by Marcia Meredith, a nurse practitioner and outstanding Ayurvedic practitioner/leader in the Twin Cities. Ayurveda is the ancient healing traditions from India integrated into western culture and now being brought into hospital settings around the country. Classes sponsored by OIBY are FREE and OPEN TO ALL! (see sidebar for a list of classes currently offered.) “All the classes are free of charge and I believe this makes it possible for a lot of participants to practice fitness and health who otherwise wouldn’t because of financial reasons. Thanks so very much for everything you do, Out in the Backyard,” Yader Madriz, class participant

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