Hal Johnson from Bodybreak Explains How He Battled Racism

A beloved fitness coach that has been a part of our lives for decades on television has posted a YouTube video talking about battling racism.

Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod have been delivering Body Break as part of ParticipACTION for more than 30 years, but Hal’s early start in broadcasting was fraught with racism.

He says being an inter-racial couple with his White wife Joanne provided a perfect platform to talk about race.

“All my life I saw a White and Black person together, my mom and dad. There’s nothing wrong with that, so why don’t I try to show that we can all live, work and play together? Our theme, people think it’s Keep Fit and Have Fun, but it really has been all about live, work and play together.”

Johnson says showing all types of people on Body Break wasn’t done by accident.

“If you look at some of the Body Break episodes on our YouTube channel you’ll see there’s a person with disabilities, there are people of all different races because I really wanted to show kids at home that we can all be together. It doesn’t matter what’s your race, what’s your ability, what your disability might be, whether you’re male or female.”

He says role reversal was a major part of the show as well.

“So we’d take a stereotypical role, let’s say house work, I would be the one doing the ironing. We kept thinking, always in the back of our minds, we have to flip the roles so that we understand that we can all do these things and we’re all the same.”

In the four-minute YouTube video, Johnson describes how being Black cost him jobs before the success of Body Break — including being turned down at TSN in 1988 because the network already had a Black reporter.

Contact ProSpeakers.com to book Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod to speak at your next conference or event. For the past 32 years, they have been encouraging Canadians to live a healthy, active lifestyle.

Johnson’s testimonial “How We Battled Racism” can be seen below: