Strength and Wellness Redefined: Homeboy Industries and Center for Council Lead the Way

On Friday, September 15th, Center for Council/ Beyond Us and Them joined forces with Homeboy Industries to host “Strength and Wellness Day.” 

erin murran strongwoman and homeboy industries at beyond us and them strength and wellness event

This event was designed to empower historically marginalized communities, in particular those who have experienced incarceration, encouraging participants to embrace transformation, cultivate resilience, and celebrate the potential to develop strength within, as well as their untapped physical strength.

​This collaboration was one in a series of workshops Center for Council has designed for the reentry and system-impacted community intended to expose participants to resources that support wellbeing and resilience in unique ways.

The main lobby at Homeboy HQ was abuzz with enthusiasm as community leaders and members gathered for thoughtfully crafted workshops and clinics. Some attendees arrived with apprehension, while others came with a sense of curiosity. However, all left with a deeper understanding of ways to appreciate and cultivate their own wellbeing and strength.

After opening comments from the staff, welcoming all to Homeboy Industries, Jared Seide, Executive Director of Center for Council, set the tone for the day by addressing the historical foundations of the concept of ‘power.’ He emphasized the importance of reimagining strength beyond prevailing themes of physical violence, aggression and domination and spoke about the qualities of courage and perseverance. 

jared seide and homeboy industries at beyond us and them strength and wellness event

“Strength can sometimes be misunderstood as domination and aggression, as brute force and violence,” explained Seide. “But in reality, strength encompasses so much more. Strength of heart, strength of character, strength of spirit. It takes strength to be resilient, to triumph over adversity, to stand up for things we believe in. All of these elements are what we are here to nurture today, so may this day empower you to discover that strength within.”

​The day’s events blended physical empowerment and strength training with holistic wellness sessions, including therapeutic sound baths, a tea ceremony and full-body massage. Offerings catered to all aspects of wellbeing; aligning physical and mental wellness in a holistic approach.

After an impressive demonstration of her formidable skills and strength, Erin Murray, recognized as the World’s Strongest Woman, shared empowering words of encouragement. Erin spoke of overcoming a challenging childhood and dedicating eleven years to serious pursuit of training in strength sports, actively seeking solace and empowerment through this form of exercise. She talked about strength conditioning and competition as a means to improve her mental wellbeing and to assert her presence in the world. Along the way, Erin experienced what devotion, discipline and hard work can achieve, excelling in a sport in which few women had dared compete. What she has been able to achieve has created an example for scores of women now entering the sport.

erin murray strongwoman at the strength and wellness redefined workshop_

Reflecting on her journey, Murray shared, “Strength training provided me with a positive focus and something to anticipate in my life. I believe it’s crucial for individuals to have such an anchor. Everyone faces challenging times, but discovering something in your life to anticipate and deeply care about is what transformed ‘strongwoman training’ into that for me.” After her remarks, along with her coach and partner, Alec Pagan, Erin led a strength conditioning clinic that welcomed both men and women eager to explore what it takes to achieve the title of the World’s Strongest Woman.

Joseph Herd, a participant in the strength clinic and a member of Homeboy Industries, expressed his gratitude at the opportunity to participate in the session, noting that the experience goes beyond improving physical strength. He shared, “It’s about self-confidence, boosting your self-esteem, and feeling better about yourself. Peace, meditation and all about strengthening your inner – believing that you can do something.” Herd also fearlessly took on the “circus dumbbelll ‘on rep’ challenge (a viral hit on Instagram), against America’s Strongest Woman and was left truly impressed by the level of strength and technique required to execute a single repetition. He exclaimed, “She’s amazing! I was surprised that she was able to outdo all the fellas here because we actually work out here pretty much every day. She is actually not only the strongest woman; she’s also the strongest person at Homeboy now.”    

Joseph Herd

“Strength and Wellness Day” offered a chance to rethink our understanding of strength through a holistic lens. It provided participants with a unique opportunity for profound self-discovery and fostered connection between diverse individuals who have traversed similar yet distinct life journeys.

Homeboy Industries serves as the largest gang rehabilitation and re-entry program in the world, traversing several decades of intentional community investments and training to equip formerly gang-involved and previously incarcerated individuals with the skills necessary to redirect their lives and become contributing members of society.

We are deeply grateful to our partners Pioneer Powerlifting and The Training Hall by Odd E Haugen for their generous sponsorship of Strength and Wellness Day!

Share this article & help raise awareness of our work

Posted in ,
Beyond Us and Them team

Beyond Us and Them team

Beyond Us and Them is the leading solution-focused organization providing dynamic and scalable practices to combat the loneliness epidemic and foster social connection.

It creates programs and delivers training for law enforcement officers, healthcare providers, educators, policymakers, and community-based organizations, among other populations and individuals, to cultivate wellness, relationality, compassion, and resilience.