LaTonya Copeland-Berry follows the Blue Zones Power 9 principle of RIGHT TRIBE to connect to community and caring.
The people around us can play an important role in our overall well-being and quality of life. In the world’s original Blue Zones, researchers found that the right social networks—or the Blue Zones Power 9principle of “Right Tribe”—can help us live longer, healthier lives. Sometimes we must seek out those relationships--and sometimes they are given to us.
LaTonya Copeland-Berry was fortunate to be born into a thriving family and social circle that modeled life-enhancing behaviors. The matriarch of the group was Copeland-Berry’s late grandmother, Regina Ross, who was born in 1914 and lived to age 103. Affectionately dubbed “Big Mama,” the community advocate who enjoyed working in her yard on the North side of Fort Worth until age 100. As early as the 1950s, Ross advocated for affordable housing and later worked to enhance the rights of senior citizens and low-income families. She also promoted equal access to books for all children. “Big Mama was iconic,” Copeland-Berry says. “She was the nucleus of our family and modeled the Right Tribe for me growing up – sharing stories on her front porch and teaching us the value of helping others.”
Today, Copeland-Berry finds encouragement from several networks, including the Fort Worth Independent School District (FWISD), where she works as a family communications specialist. Copeland-Berry fosters communication and cooperation between the school and community partners–with a focus on faith-based organizations, parents and students. She and a team also manage the district’s parent information line. She also connects through her role as the pastor’s wife and “first lady” of Leslie Court Baptist Church in Fort Worth. There, she leads and mentors a women’s ministry group. Copeland-Berry feels fortunate that her school job and church outreach often coalesce.
In addition, Copeland-Berry teaches parenting classes, where she enjoys the opportunity to provide mentorship. She even helped one class member make an important connection. “The young woman was in recovery, and she had no tribe to support her,” Copeland-Berry says. “I invited her to join our church ministry group. We call it our ‘sister circle,’ our safe zone where we talk, we laugh and we cry as we study God’s word. Now, we are able to support her so she’ll always have a tribe.”
As her personal tribe continues to evolve and grow, Copeland-Berry has decided that helping others find their own support social circle is part of her life’s Purpose, another Blue Zones Power 9 principle. Purpose is about understanding what you’re meant to do and what you wake up for every morning, and it has been shown to add years to life expectancy. She also practices the Power 9 concept of Moving Naturally by adding more physical activity to her day. She started a container garden at home and uses a wearable fitness device to remind her to walk more often. Like people in the world’s original Blue Zones, she’s created an environment that will nudge her to move.
For those who currently lack a Right Tribe, Copeland-Berry suggests seeking opportunities—like volunteering—to build relationships with people who share the same “heart space.” And she encourages parents to be intentional about getting their families to move naturally, integrating teaching moments when they can. Going on a family walk and asking kids to count the number of birds they see is one example. If there’s not a park nearby, she suggests a walk on the track at the local school campus or taking the stairs a few extra times a day. For indoor activity, a Twister game can get family members moving and having fun together.
Small, simple changes can have a big impact, and Copeland-Berry is determined to live up to her family’s legacy---and make Big Mama proud.