Inside Etienne Maurice's Wellness Journey To WalkGood LA
Passion can come out of the midst of pure chaos.
It’s something Etienne Maurice knows all too well. While protesting for the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020 after the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Maurice realized he needed to do more.
“It was during that time of when we were in limbo where we were trying to decide if we're going to protest or not going to protest,” Maurice tells Angeleno. “I saw a bunch of my friends go out to protest and start to organize them, and I really wanted to bring my community together. It was that moment when I realized that Walk Good was not just my production company, but it was my community.”
Maurice’s solution was the creation of WalkGood LA. Established in June 2020, the nonprofit organization sees through its mission to not only bring its community together but also positively impact people. The name WalkGood LA comes from an old Jamaican saying his grandmother would always tell him that means to take care of yourself.
Taking care of yourself is one of WalkGood LA’s top priorities for their community as they want others to make sure that they’re checking in with themselves properly.
Centered around mental health and wellness, WalkGood LA is designed primarily as a space for Black and Brown communities to come together in a safe place while participating in wellness programs. The lineup includes BreatheGood, which is its yoga in the park event; Roots and Culture Art Experience, which allows people to connect with art and culture in a special place; FilmGood, which is a film and wellness event and HikeGood, where people can come together and hike different trails throughout Los Angeles.
Maurice mentions that one of his biggest core values for WalkGood LA is family. “I started WalkGood LA with my cousin, Marley Ralph, and my sister, Ivy Coco,” he says. “Coco is our vice president and Marley Rae is the director of health and wellness. And at our core, we are about family and bringing families together.”
Vice President Ivy Coco Maurice
Coming from a family that champions love and support, Maurice wanted to offer the same for those who might be seeking an environment like that. Maurice’s mother, Emmy winner Sheryl Lee Ralph, has embodied a loving family figure both on and off the screen. In her role as Dee Mitchell on the ‘90s sitcom Moesha, she was known as the mother figure on the show that always thought about her family first. More recently, you’ll find her at Abbott Elementary as Barbara Howard, one of Abbot’s longtime educators and a mentor to the newcomer teachers. Her characters carry over in real life, as she always makes sure that her family is always taken care of. Maurice adapted these traits into his life and uses these lessons actively in his organization.
Because family is at the heart of the WalkGood LA mission, it presents a warm and inviting environment for the community.
“There are a lot of people that come to Los Angeles that don't have family and are looking for family and looking for community,” Maurice says. “For many of them, their first introduction to the community or to Los Angeles is WalkGood. We want to be able to shift this narrative that L.A. isn't just a place with shady people. But L.A. is also a place of loving people who are just trying to find their footing. I think most of the time you'll hear people who come to WalkGood and they'll say two things: ‘This is exactly what I needed or ‘I really found my community.’”
Director of Health and Wellness Marley Ralph
When attending any WalkGood events, it is important to come in expecting the unexpected as Maurice likes to tell anyone visiting for the first time. He also encourages coming into this space with an open heart and mind and with the readiness to meet new people and create new experiences.
Maintaining a large organization hasn’t always been easy for Maurice and his team. Mental health and wellness are two crucial components of not only WalkGood LA, but Maurice’s daily life as well.
Maurice shares he struggled with his mental health for a while and making the change to prioritize it was a hard transition for him. He experienced severe depression and anxiety at 21 years old, which stemmed from a brain injury. He was placed on a 5150 hold, which allows an adult who is experiencing a mental health crisis to be involuntarily detained for a 72-hour psychiatric hospitalization when evaluated to be a danger to themself or others.
This point in Maurice’s life was eye-opening. He quickly realized he didn’t want to live the way he was anymore and that he was ready to take action. The experience also heavily inspired the start of WalkGood LA.
“I remember going through severe bouts of depression and not having any control of my mind,” he shares. “I remember I was really looking for something. I was looking for some type of healing. I just didn't have the vocabulary, I didn't have the community”.
Maurice uses these trying times as a reminder of the dark place he was in. He has also derived a great sense of gratitude for creating WalkGood LA and being able to have all of the mental health resources that he wanted throughout his hardships. “It’s amazing to see how through my pain, I was able to build purpose out of WalkGood,” Maurice says.
Within WalkGood LA, Maurice and his team have numerous other uplifting programs. A recent new one is You Good.
You Good is a program designed specifically for Black and Brown men to come together in a united healing space where they can work through their issues together. “It's been one of our fastest growing programs where there are nothing but Black and Brown men coming together doing sound baths, doing mindfulness, meditation, and yoga,” Maurice says. “I teach yoga. It's been really gratifying to see black men come together for the sake of their mental health, especially with the way the media has portrayed black men for centuries.”
According to McLean Hospital, Black or African Americans are less likely to get treated for mental illnesses or concerns. Only 25% of them seek care for it.
He says, “It's been stigmatized for us to even talk about mental health, it's been stigmatized for us to even talk about healing because it's been looked at as soft or feminine or it's not masculine when in reality, it's the most masculine thing, and it's the strongest thing for you to be able to show your vulnerability”.
Maurice’s passion for providing beneficial communities continues to deepen the more he can reach new members and help positively impact their lives through these events. Many WalkGood events take place at Kenneth Hahn Park in Baldwin Hills where weekly yoga sessions are held every Sunday.
You don’t have to be experienced to join these weekly sessions either because these classes are designed for everyone to be able to participate regardless of skill level. “I like to say that we spoil people because the yoga experience that we offer is unlike anything else that you'll see anywhere in the world,” Maurice shares. It’s a special experience, especially for Black and Brown people who want to share this space with other people who look like them.
Maurice wants everyone to remember that your mental health journey is a practice, not a performance. He stresses the importance of taking your time with beginning your wellness journey and not worrying about how others may look at you because, at the end of the day, it is your journey and no one else's.
The organization will mark three years of operation on June 13, 2023, and have some pretty fun events lined up in honor of it. These events will be released soon with more information as the anniversary date gets closer.
“Time flies when you’re having fun and when you’re making a real impact on people’s lives,” Maurice says.” Make sure to follow us on our journey because we’re not stopping anytime soon.”
You can follow WalkGood LA at @WalkGoodLA on Instagram and donate on its website. For more mental health resources, you can check out: