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Dance is more than a series of rhythmic movements dance is about a self-aware body Raks Sharki better known as bellydance is part of a long tradition of embracing femininity culture the mind and most importantly the body Two fat women Etang Inyang and Tammy Johnson from Oakland California take advantage of their passion for bellydance and use it as a way of fat activism Their organization Your Body Raks offers classes and performances that provide adults and youth with the tools needed to fully embrace their bodies and resist negative messages from the fat-shaming culture Your Body Raks is an explicit form of fat activism that fights fat stigmas by challenging the assumption that fat is unhealthy openly displaying fat and giving fat people fair access to exercise by eliminating space issues and providing free classes Before Etang Inyang and Tammy Johnson became fat activist they like many other fat people had internalized the cultural message that their fat bodies were worthy of nothing but scorn and derision They did not dare to think that their fat bodies were possibly graceful enough to become famous bellydancers Tammy and Etang became sick of feeling disconnected from their bodies and had a realization Tammy describes the realization that changed her life by saying You cant perform this dance bellydance properly unless you are fully present and connected to your body There is no limit to what you are capable of when you have that kind of self-awareness In 2006 Inyang and Johnson had their realization that their happiness and dreams of bellydance did not have to rely on being skinny They then created their bellydance troupe duo called Raks Africa Their duo started small but eventually began to receive attention Despite the the fat-hating messages they received Raks Africa continued to bellydance and inspired audiences with their beautiful technique synchronicity professionalism and their joy of dance Raks Afrika adopted the motto Big Bellied Girls Doing
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