by Bizzi Lavelle
An edited version of this article was published in Issue 23 of Australian Pole Dancers Magazine without the final approval of the author. This edited version did not reflect the full experience or intention for the piece by the author, and removed an important element of her experience as a Black Woman in the pole community. As the editor I take full responsibility for publishing without final approval from the author, and apologise unreservedly for my unfortunate oversight. I recognise this amounted to censorship, and I very much regret the hurt caused by my actions. The article has since been further edited to reflect the author’s full intent and is published below in its entirety.Australian History is grounded on trauma for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We must all take time and responsibility to educate ourselves on the past so that we better understand the long term impacts of colonisation faced daily by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.I highly recommend watching the SBS series ‘First Australians’ if you haven’t already seen it.I also want to thank the author personally for contributing this piece for publication. – Alessandra Izzo, Editor APDM
When I began pole dancing three years ago, race wasn’t something that I expected to intersect with pole. Of course I noticed when I was the only woman of colour in the classroom. And, on occasion, I’d nervously wear leggings or bottoms with Aboriginal art on them. But in the beginning, this was all I had experienced.
But as time went on, incidents in my own and the wider pole community had me feeling stranded, alone, tired, and a little under-represented. Incidents of blackface at international competitions, slurs heard in studios, white people in the community speaking on behalf of polers of colour (we are out here – find us before speaking for us!), a white studio owner trying to ‘whitewash’ twerk history and culture – whether it was racism in the wider pole community, or within my own smaller community, I felt alone until I discovered Black Girls Pole.
Dalijah Amelia is an Ohio native with an extensive background in dance and fitness. She boasts a Bachelor’s Degree in Science and Nutrition and a Master’s Degree in Acupuncture. She has over 10 years’ experience in pole dancing, has taught all over the world, performed on Saturday Night Live with Lizzo, and has four different pole championships under her belt.
BGP is a global movement with the goal of diversifying the pole and aerial community. Dalijah created BGP after she hosted an event of the same name in March 2014. The event was a collection of pole classes; a Q&A with black polers, instructors and performers; and a show. It was immensely successful. Afterwards, everyone kept asking Dalijah when the next event was. So, after holding a second successful event, she started the organisation and online community that is BGP.
Dalijah felt there was “not enough representation of women of colour in the pole community”. She wanted to empower more of these women to start pole. BGP gives black polers everywhere the opportunity to change the stigma about being not only a pole dancer, but also a woman of colour. The organisation and movement has grown exponentially since, with the BGP Instagram now having over 70,000 followers.
Through events, global retreats, and an online community, BGP challenges what it means to be a pole dancer. BGP creates a more inclusive space for black pole dancers, and highlights the power of black women.
When summarising BGP in three words, Dalijah chose “representation, community, support”. In my opinion, these are the best words to define BGP.
Firstly, representation. BGP uses their Instagram page, and black polers use the hashtag #blackgirlspole to highlight the achievements and successes of black polers. When my feed is frequently filled with white polers, it is refreshing and amazing to see black polers achieving greatness. Seeing people who look like me or have the same hair as me doing their tricks and competing in beautiful, inspiring costumes, creates a feeling of inclusivity.
Secondly, community. Through their retreats, ‘The Black List’ (an extensive list of US and internationally based black-owned pole studios), the podcast ‘The Black Girls Fit Files’ and the BGP online community, the movement allows you to feel you belong when other spaces don’t feel welcoming.
Lastly, support. BGP gives black polers a place to exist and be unapologetically themselves while poling. On a personal note, Dalijah and BGP helped me and gave me advice when navigating tricky experiences of racism in my local studio. Dalijah told me this wasn’t the first time she had helped someone in my position. Not only that, but I now belong to a community of women who have had similar experiences and can rely on each other, even if we’re in different continents.
BGP has changed the way I feel in the pole community and has allowed me to set a standard of how I expect to be treated by fellow polers. It has given me role models and pole idols; I have people to look up to in the pole world who look like me, or have been through similar experiences. I urge everyone to follow and support BGP so that the broader pole community has the opportunity to become more inclusive.
About The Author
Bizzi is a proud Wakka Wakka woman who lives and poles in Brisbane. With a background in performance, pole existed in the intersection of her comfort and danger zones. Pole was been the perfect hobby for Bizzi as she finished her Bachelor’s Degree, and after starting she never looked back. Bizzi hopes to not only strengthen and empower herself through pole but to also extend that to other women around her.