This Philadelphian is making competitive weightlifting affordable and accessible to children


"Good People" profiles everyday individuals who are bettering the lives of those in need and improving their communities.

When Jibri Douglas was told they were pre-diabetic, the Philadelphia native turned to weightlifting to get healthier and feel better. Through training, Douglas, who identifies as non-binary, discovered that weightlifting was not only an effective exercise, but also quite expensive.

So, they started the Freedom Barbell Club to make fitness financially accessible to young people in their community.

"I like Olympic weight lifting because it's an incredibly technical sport, but it's fun," Douglas told In The Know. "I knew that I wanted to get young people moving and to empower them to actualize their dreams."

Douglas was in their early 20s when they were informed by a doctor that they were pre-diabetic.

"My doctor looked at me and said, 'I want to put you on a weight loss program,'" Douglas recalled. "And I said, 'Let me just get in the gym.'"

"I was just tossing around this barbell and the weight started to come off," they added.

After about two years in the sport, Douglas said they noticed at a competition that they were the only person of color "in the building."

"While Olympic weightlifting is an amazing sport, it's a very expensive sport," Douglas noted. "When you think of the median income for this community, no one's going to be able to afford that. Plus, on top of that, we live in a food desert. The closest grocery store is a mile to two miles away."

They were then faced with a dilemma.

"How can I bring this sport that is not traditional into this community and create it so that it's accessible, as well as educate the community about nutrition?" Douglas wondered. "So, that's why I started the Freedom Barbell Club."

Douglas said they were ultimately spurred to bring weightlifting to the town of Mantuas, Pa., to "create healthy black and brown communities where people of all ages and abilities love their bodies."

"The mission is really to allow (participants) to understand the depths of their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing, and also to support them with the resources and tools to actualize their dreams," Douglas explained.

Clearly, the program has had an overwhelmingly positive effect on the community as a whole.

"I thought it was something good for my grandson to be involved in," Bertha Baylis, one of the participant's grandmothers, told In The Know. "He's getting a little bit of muscle here and there and his confidence is really building up."

Although Douglas has touched so many lives through the Freedom Barbell Club, they say they're not the only person inspiring others through the program.

"I'm always inspired by the young people that I work with," Douglas said. "They learn from me and I learned from them."

"One of the kids came up to me and said, 'I always knew a little bit about this, but I never knew that I could do it. Now I know that I can do it,'" they recalled.