On July 20, 2020, the rising sun peeked through the Flatirons, enveloping the Front Range in a beautiful, incandescent gold. To many Denverites, Beverly Grant included, this day marked the two-year anniversary of the Random Gestures of Compassion (RGC) holiday, a movement Grant created in 2018 to honor the birthday of her son, Reese Grant-Cobb, who was murdered in a senseless act of violence outside a Denver restaurant when he was 17 years old. Grant says she uses the holiday to grieve positively and pay compassion forward on an altruistic scale.
Grant is a Denver-native. She began her yoga practice in 2018, but long before that, she founded Mo’ Betta Green MarketPlace, a farmer’s market that has delivered fresh produce to the city’s food deserts since 2011. Both these passions show her dedication to making Denver a healthier, more just place for people of color (POC).
Grant and a small group of attendees saluted the sun’s arrival in a yoga class at a nearby park in rhythm with RGC day this year. Following their ritualistic greeting, Grant offered a talk on food sustainability, illuminating the interrelation between her two passions: yoga and food.
Throughout the city, members of the Satya Yoga Cooperative, the first POC owned and operated yoga cooperative, led soulful gatherings in communion with Grant. Lakshmi Nair, Satya’s founder, hosted a yoga practice and prayer at Red Rocks, streaming the class online for those who couldn’t be there in person.
“Practicing yoga was really the only thing bringing me relief in my body,” Grant says. She graduated from Satya Yoga Cooperative’s POC Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) in June 2018, one month prior to her son’s death.
“My life would not be as whole and grounded had I not had my yoga tool kit and yoga community to help me heal,” she explains, teary-eyed as she reflects on her “Satya sisters.” “I am dedicated to sharing that with other people who are dealing with grief and trauma. If you are a person of color, you are truly dealing with these in a disproportionate matter. Yoga is a true, real thing that has many solutions for the problems that we are facing.”
Satya Yoga’s POC YTT started in October 2014 with a mission to offer yoga to diverse communities largely underrepresented in yoga. The member-owned cooperative sector launched last year to continue its offering of space for the growing Denver circle.
Nair expresses over the phone, “I think having the truth of yoga really helped Bev through her grieving. Our community was really there for her.” She and Grant were preparing for a weekend retreat they were hosting in the San Luis Valley at the time of the call. The retreat was in collaboration with the Acequia Institute, an organization founded upon water democracy, resilient agriculture and environmental justice.
As the sun made its descent over the Rocky Mountains to conclude that special July day, a group of men of color gathered at a local studio to flow through 20 sun salutations to honor every year since Reese’s birth. The annual class was hosted by David Hallman, who is also a Satya Yoga POC YTT graduate and member of the cooperative.
“Anyone that has ever worked with Bev will say she’s a godsend,” says Hallman, whose son was basketball teammates with Reese when they were kids. “She is so in tune, in alignment, with people, with community and herself.”
Grant blends community-oriented learning with her mission to educate Denver’s youth and their families on healthy living. She opened Mo’ Betta Green on the principles of food literacy, environmental stewardship and social responsibility. She employs Denver’s youth each summer, mentoring individuals on the importance of food access and nutrition. Due to the global pandemic, the farmer’s market was postponed until next year. However, this summer Grant hosted multiple farm stands throughout the city as a safe alternative. Her 22 employees this season were all members of minority groups.
“I tend to target communities of color because there’s a high need for dealing with trauma or stress, and many of the folks that I meet have never been exposed to yoga,” she continues. Many of her offerings with Mo’ Betta Green include yoga and movement.
She coined the term integris and gave a TedxRiNO Talk in 2017 explaining the importance of supporting local food sources, shaping food policy and broadening nutritional access to underserved communities. Mo’ Betta Green first launched in the historic Five Points neighborhood, where Grant only sells integris food that has a traceable origin and is organic and local.
“We’re in the city here. I work in neighborhoods where the access is low, health disparities are high. Leveraging that platform has really been able to help me build around sharing yoga, and also around food. Food in its preparation, that is a form of meditation for me. I like to share that with others. I would have to say that with the passing of my son, it means more to me to share that wherever I can,” she explains.
She calls her approach seed-to-stomach. “A lot of goals are embedded into the activities I do. At the heart of it is to share what food has to offer. Food is medicine — that is a huge teaching tenant for me. I like to teach them that in the context of seed-to-stomach, a seasonal approach. I seek to put together information that people can use immediately … I can show you a dish you can make faster than rolling through a drive through,” she says.
“I’m grateful to be able to impact lives in these ways,” she adds, touching on how many of the youth she’s worked with have gone on to study public health, ecology and other fields related to the natural world.
Grant stresses she wants to be accessible to people dealing with grief and depression. “Grief is a choice people don’t understand they have. I’m still grieving. I always will be. I have love that has nowhere to go for that person who is no longer with us,” she says. “We can leverage love in positive ways. The mind and body don’t have to continue to suffer because that grief is living in there. We can have peace and relief and clarity of mind. When you achieve that, you’re better able to move forward. I’m going to choose happiness and peace. I want to show others you can choose that.”
Photos by Rebecca Stumpf.
Originally published in the Winter + Spring 2020-21 issue of CO YOGA + Life Magazine.