GREENSBORO, N.C. — Rain or shine, dozens of men are in Country Park in Greensboro for a daily morning boot camp workout. They’re part of F-3 Greensboro. Cory Phillips is their leader.
“F3 stands for Fitness, Fellowship, and Faith,” he said. “The fitness is a free men’s workout that brings the guys out. People are looking to stay fit right now. The fellowship is the glue that keeps us together. And the faith, as we define it, is an ability to serve something besides yourself, something outside of yourself.”
Outside of the workouts, they meet for for coffee, lunch, and just to catch up.
“The fellowship was important to me,” said Councial Glenn. “I thrive in a community with people I can lean on and be accountable to.”
“Developing strong male bonds and friendships is hard to find,” explained Michael Ambler. “So that’s the glue. That’s what I love.”
When the racial unrest happened this summer, this group of men from all different backgrounds saw an opportunity.
“We believe that started with conversations,” Phillips said. “We’re blessed in F3 Greensboro to look a lot like the community we represent. And we wanted to continue that momentum. So we started with really uncomfortable conversations, earnest and honest.”
“It was the elephant in the room that we couldn’t ignore. What we as a group did was actually address it. That helped tremendously,” added Glenn.
They come for the workout or the fitness. They stay for the fellowship and that builds their faith in one another that opens the door for these conversations that are changing their lives and, they hope, their community.
“First thing is being honest with yourself. What has my life been like? I think I’m a certain way. I don’t think I have a racist bone or prejudice or bias in my body. But in reality, we all do. And to be able to come to that truth with guys you trust and listen to their stories and then analyze and assess yourself really is very freeing,” Ambler said.
A few of them met up the night George Floyd was killed.
“It was probably 11 of us,” Glenn told us. “Five or six African Americans. We were given the space and the freedom to express our frustrations as they were. We didn’t have to sugarcoat anything.”
“We sit down, and first we listen. Then we educate, understand, and support,” Ambler said. “It’s been life-changing just in a matter of months.”
“I know that when you put yourself in a context like that and see how it’s impacted people you care about, you can’t unsee what you see,” said Phillips. “Our one rule was we can disagree with one another, but we cannot be disagreeable towards one another.”
Every session ends with a Circle of Trust where they share any and everything, including prayer requests and praise reports. They hope that as they learn more, they can do more.
“I personally learned that the wrong thing to do is to stand by and believe that as a white man I can’t do anything to help,” Phillips explained. “That the right thing to do is to get involved and find a way and that really starts with just listening, with understanding what people who don’t look like me…what my black and brown brothers are going through, and how I can plug myself in and use my passions and energies and talents to get involved and get active.”
“We’re growing each day,” added Ambler. “We’re talking. We’re still meeting. We just finished a good book, The Color of Law, and now we’re going to go into another book and get deeper. But listening and caring about other men and what their life experience is is invaluable.”
F3 Greensboro has done several events highlighting the city’s rich civil rights history including a Juneteenth civil rights history tour. You can find out more about the group, or if there’s a an F3 group near you here.