How yoga helped this entrepreneur leave behind a troubled past and inspire others
Brandon Dawson-Jarvis runs Grove Campus, a yoga company that’s breaking down barriers
CBC Quebec is highlighting people from the province's Black communities who are giving back, inspiring others and helping to shape our future. These are the Black Changemakers.
In the last decade, Brandon Dawson-Jarvis has changed. A lot.
He's upfront about his troubled past and the problems he used to have managing his anger. That anger eventually landed him in prison in 2013.
He spent three-and-a-half years behind bars, which only amplified his struggles.
"I came out of prison in a worse state than when I went in," Dawson-Jarvis said. "I had PTSD. I was having nightmares. The anger that I felt before turned into rage."
Someone close to him urged him to try yoga. He dismissed the idea as "ridiculous," he said. He didn't think it was for him.
Now Dawson-Jarvis runs a business called Grove Campus, offering yoga classes and selling yoga apparel and mats online and at retail stores in the Montreal area.
He credits his newfound passion for turning around his life and giving him the emotional stability he lacked during his childhood.
"My parents had me at a very young age, so they didn't really have all of the emotional tools to navigate parenthood," Dawson-Jarvis said.
"A lot of that stress was passed down on to myself, and it made me very angry."
He's now focused on using his business to give back to the community, beginning with making sure his yoga classes are accessible to all.
Grove Campus's classes are pay-what-you-can, and the company uses a chunk of the proceeds from those classes and merchandise sales to organize events such as toy drives at Christmas and to help students with back-to-school supplies.
"I was that child stressed about back-to-school; I was that child whose parents argued over finances; I was that child that didn't really have the best experiences over the holidays," said Dawson-Jarvis, who grew up in Montreal's Little Burgundy neighbourhood.
With a diverse group of yoga instructors and participants, the entrepreneur said he aims to make sure anyone who signs up for a class will feel at home, regardless of how they look or identify.
"If you have no money, don't worry about it: just come and take care of yourself," he said. "It's better that you show up."
Yoga has allowed Dawson-Jarvis to better connect with himself and with others. It's a big reason why he does not shy away from sharing stories about his past.
"I had another person this summer tell me that, basically, if I can figure out myself and what's going on in my life and kind of make it out of it, then anybody can," he said.
"We can always change; we can always evolve; we can always grow; we can always learn new things.
"We can always reinvent ourselves."
The Black Changemakers is a special series recognizing individuals who, regardless of background or industry, are driven to create a positive impact in their community. From tackling problems to showing small gestures of kindness on a daily basis, these changemakers are making a difference and inspiring others. Meet all the changemakers here.
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.