KC’s only Black owned gym is celebrating one year

RAYTOWN, Mo. – A gymnastics team in Raytown is raising the bar when it comes to diversity in the gym.

Keshia Shannon said she is the first and only Black from the USA Gymnastics program in the Kansas City metro area, and she knows what it takes to execute a floor routine and run a business. He celebrated one year of Fire and Ice Athletics.

“We survived our first year,” Shannon said. “I’m glad.”

Shannon started with 17 gymnasts. Now they train about 60 athletes, and 25 kids are on the competitive team.

“If you look at a lot of gymnastics teams here, there’s usually one or two brown girls on the competitive team. We’re the complete opposite here,” Shannon said. “We’re 99% brown on the competitive team.”

Shannon said this is the first and only Black-owned gymnastics facility in the city and state. They are also part of the Brown Girls Do Gymnastics group. The girls and their families say it’s great to have coaches and leaders who look up to them.

“It’s great,” said Shannon Clifton, the gymnast’s father.

“I’ve been in a few competitions where coaches have complained about braids or hair. It’s a lot of hair. Well, it’s thick, it’s curly, it’s poofy, and we do funky hair styles that work for us. We have girls with dreadlocks on the team, “says Shannon. “And not to say that other gyms don’t accept it, but a lot of times you feel uncomfortable if you’re the only one in the room who looks like you.”

On vault, bars or beam, Shannon’s goal is to put a space where gymnasts feel they belong.

“It feels like a second home,” said 9-year-old Zoë Clifton.

He likes to let his personality shine on the floor.

“My favorite vault,” said Zoë.

Father Shannon Clifton believes that if you can see it, you can achieve it.

“Gymnastics or other sports shouldn’t be so different that they can see examples that look like them,” Clifton said. “So you see Simone Biles and others who are very successful, it should be the same in the gym.”

She played college basketball and now enjoys watching her daughter compete on the mat.

“It’s amazing to see him do things that I’ve never been able to do. Like I can’t do a cartwheel, but to see him do things that he can do, it’s amazing,” Clifton said.

Shannon said Fire and Ice Athletics is about diversity and inclusion, and the winning competition come November will be icing on the cake.

The program is throwing a celebration for its one year anniversary on Saturday. There will be bounce houses, face painting and performances. Shannon will also be there to answer any questions about the gym.

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