Tiba Brown offers fitness, friendship and fun with Zumba

Tiba Brown at Omaha Public Library

People are visiting the Library for far more than just books these days; they’re coming to learn how to grow gardens, manage finances, and make environmentally-friendly choices.

They’re also coming to break a sweat. Tiba Brown has been spreading her passion for Zumba at the Washington Branch of Omaha Public Library (OPL) on Monday nights since 2011. It is in this hour for the past three years that she has created a space devoid of self doubt and judgment, and brimming with confidence and freedom of self-expression.

Omaha-born Brown credits a childhood in California with sparking her love of Zumba, or what she calls “a strategically hidden exercise routine that is covered up by Latin dance.” Officially, Zumba “fuses fitness, entertainment and culture into an exhilarating dance-fitness sensation.” Upon returning to Nebraska, Brown cultivated her love of this dance craze that swept the nation by taking classes and eventually becoming a certified instructor.

It did take a sort of moxy for Zumba to make it from conception to Library, though. “Fear immediately set in,” Brown said of presenting the idea to OPL. “Who on earth would come to a library, hear Latin music, and be taught by a plus size fitness instructor? But it was so out-of-the-box that I took it to Joanne Ferguson Cavanaugh [Washington Branch manager] and she loved the idea.” Plus the timing couldn’t have been better, as the workout system aligned with First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative “so fearfully,” Brown said.

Tiba Brown at Omaha Public Library 1

Tiba Brown at Benson Branch in March 2014.

Brown takes pride in the family she has created at the Library. “The best thing Zumba offers is an atmosphere of those with common goals and motivation. Being a plus-size woman [myself] … allows others to look at me and know that they don’t have to put anything on hold because of their size and do what is in their hearts without fear and intimidation. Just be you!”

If praise is any indicator, Brown has successfully created a judgment-free reprieve encouraging and welcoming of women of any size to shed their inhibitions while working out. Her legions of fans are proof of the class’s success. Participants have lost weight, lowered their blood pressure, and a handful have been able to stave off high cholesterol pills. One participant called Brown’s Zumba class “aerobics without stress.” Another said it’s “fun, free flowing and energetic.”

Lori Danner, an attendee since June of 2012, sings Brown’s praises and lists weight loss, regular exercise and new friends as benefits of the class. “Tiba encourages you to add your own style or flavor to the dance moves. She always asks how everyone is doing. I really like the friendly atmosphere that Tiba has created. Tiba combines fitness with friendship and fun times.”

Zumba class at Omaha Public Library

Tiba Brown, second from right, with her Zumba class in summer 2013.

Brown has a big fan in Ferguson Cavanaugh, too. “She has a bubbly, friendly persona; that is why her classes are so popular,” Ferguson Cavanaugh said.

“In stimulating the brain with all of the knowledge of resources that OPL offers,” Brown concluded, “it is only natural that OPL offers Zumba that invites culture and fun at the same time as personal health.”

Indeed, the library of 2014 is not your grandparents’ library. OPL is offering more diverse resources and programming than ever, and fitness classes are prime examples of how libraries like OPL are adapting to the community’s continuously evolving tastes. Also, our staff is not doing it alone. We urge those in the community to contact us with ideas; we bet we could make a good team.

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