Getting Fit in Flint with “Zumba Diva” and Harambee Wellness founder Marquita Adams

FLINT, Michigan -- Marquita Adams, the founder of Harambee Wellness, is one of Flint’s most prolific fitness professionals. With an impressive list of accomplishments, including hosting several Get Fit in Flint Fest events at the Flint’s Farmer’s Market, Adams leaves her mark and leads the community to a healthy and whole state of being. 

A graduate of Flint Community Schools, Adams, before she moved into fitness, was a pioneer and champion for African American women in STEM, getting a full-ride scholarship to Kettering University, majoring in engineering, and pledging Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated. At that time, her path took her to various countries. However, it was a Harambee celebration with her fellow African American students on campus and a commitment to live a healthier life that set her on the path of wellness. 

On the steps of her childhood home on a sunny Saturday, Adams talked with Flintside to discuss being a kid from Flint, what Harambee Wellness means, and how faith changed her life.

Flintside: The fitness community knows you as the “Zumba Diva,” but we don’t know who Marquita Adams is. Tell us the origin story.

Adams: “I’m from Flint. A northside plant all day. A lot of people consider me to be very quiet, shy or reserved because I’m an introvert, but I’m a happy blend of bourgeois and ghetto. I attended Flint Community Schools on a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) path. I love math and science and ended up getting a full-ride scholarship to Kettering. I got a co-op with [General Motors] before I went on to the engineering center in Milford. That was the trajectory. Everything was really in alignment.”

Flintside: But you came to understand that there was a different life plan for you. What happened?

Adams: “Growing up, I was very self-conscious about my appearance because I was overweight as a child. Right around 2007-08, I started to realize the importance of health, especially related to my family history. That's what started the path to wellness.”

Flintside: Traditionally, we don’t go from wanting to live healthier to starting a business. What inspired you to make that transition?

Adams: “I honestly asked myself that question. I was doing strength training, and then I wandered into a Zumba class. That was my game changer—my gateway drug to fitness. My instructor would always pull me up to the front to lead songs with her or on my own. Then she told me about a Zumba instructor training. Anybody that’s known me pre-2016 will know me as the ‘Zumba Diva.’ That name came from one of my Line Sisters because of my addiction to Zumba.”

Get Fit In Flint is a community-based program conceptualized and implemented by Harambee Wellness to transform health and cultivate community by removing barriers to exercise, such as cost and location, and empowering Flint residents to live healthy Flintside: The name of your business is called Harambee Wellness, which is a Swahili word meaning to “come together as a community to accomplish a common goal.” How important was it for you to name your business this?

Adams: “When I was at Kettering, African American students on campus would get together for Harambee to celebrate the graduating seniors. It was the community coming together, and the name always stuck with me. I’m really big on culture, creating an experience, and making people feel empowered. I wanted it to be about more than just fitness. Wellness is about your mental, spiritual, physical, and financial health. All these things are centered around you being well, and I couldn’t think of any name better than Harambee Wellness.”

Flintside: You’ve hosted several Get Fit in Flint Fests. What’s the motivation behind the program?

Adams: “Get Fit In Flint is a community-based program conceptualized and implemented by Harambee Wellness to transform health and cultivate community by removing barriers to exercise, such as cost and location, and empowering Flint residents to live healthy lives EVERYDAY. The goal is to create a fun, safe, and inclusive environment that gets residents moving!”

Flintside: On your website, you mention you have a focus on assisting busy women. What is it about this particular group of women?

Adams: “While I had male clients, more women were drawn to me on social media. I realized most of their challenges were around motherhood, full-time work, and balancing it all. The irony of that is I’m not a wife or have children, but I recognize the struggle and the skills or toolbox necessary to navigate them. I realized that I could provide motivation and fulfill the gap between the lifestyle they want to live [compared to] where they are.”

Flintside: It sounds as if you’ve created a safe space for your clients to feel comfortable and provide a meditative counselor experience in addition to fitness.

Adams: “[My clients] know that they don’t have to hide anything from me. I am well-known by my clients for sliding in a DM real quick like, “what are you doing?” or sending a message when they weren’t showing up for class. My goal is for you to be healthy and active. It’s not about them working out with me. If I can be the conduit to help you get to that point by encouraging you to seek out forms of physical activity, then I’ve done my job.”

Flintside: To go from engineering to fitness instructor to business owner must’ve been a journey. How did you handle it?

Adams: “Listen, I never had a dream of becoming a fitness professional. That was not my ambition.  I had a full-time job, but I didn’t have a choice. God kept slowing me down like not yet. Most of the ideas that I come up with—especially health and fitness events—it is God working through and telling me I need to do this. Now I do corporate wellness, fitness classes for different schools and community organizations, and virtual cooking demos.”
Marquita Adams, the founder of Harambee Wellness, is one of Flint’s most prolific fitness professionals.Flintside: When it comes to that, in my experience, people don’t see the hardships that go on behind the scenes; they only see the final product. What happens in those moments?

Adams: “It’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes. Sometimes I feel like I’m not doing enough or making an impact, especially when everybody’s saying you need to do X, Y, and Z. It took me until recently to realize the value [of what I offer]. So, I had to think and move differently. I had to restrategize how I was operating. Number one for my own physical and mental health because burnout is real. And then, two, making sure that I bring the best experience to my clients.”

Flintside: When you look back on your success and the path God has laid out, what do you want people to take away from your life, experiences, and work?

Adams: “That they can do anything they put their mind to. Looking at the trajectory of my life, the path that I have taken, the things that have occurred, I never thought I would be at this point. My goal was to become an engineer, make a lot of money, and be good at my job, but here I am. Because I proved to myself that you can do anything you put your mind to, that’s what I want people to recognize. Whether it’s transforming your body or your life, it’s possible with faith, diligence, and a plan.”

You can find more information about Harambee Wellness or set up a free consultation on Facebook, Instagram, their website, or call (810) 689-4378. You can also purchase Harambee Wellness merchandise. You can find out more information about Get Fit In Flint via their website. Registration for the next Fit Fest opens May 16, 2021. 
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Read more articles by Xzavier Simon.