Updated: Feb 9, 2021
SEE US partnered with the Black Women in Sport Foundation and the Run for Justice 5K for a week centering the experiences of Black women-identifying athletes by sharing their diverse stories and success, and fundraising for the Black Women in Sport Foundation. We had 257 participants and raised $6,100+ for the Black Women in Sport Foundation! Thank you to everyone that participated.
Black Women in Sport Foundation: Established in 1992, the Black Women in Sport Foundation, or BWSF, is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to increase the involvement of black women and girls in all aspects of sport, including athletics, coaching and administration. BWSF’s work, however, is not limited to black women and girls. It enrolls girls and boys in the programs conducted throughout the city of Philadelphia and surrounding areas. It facilitates the involvement of women of color in every aspect of sport in the United States and around the world, through the "hands-on" development and management of grass roots level outreach programs.
Run for Justice 5K: Systemic racism consistently undermines the opportunities for Black women to participate and be involved with athletics. Organized by a group of college runners, the Run for Justice 5k is an effort to help bridge these gaps. 100% of the proceeds are donated to the Black Women in Sport Foundation.
We shared the stories that were submitted each day of the week leading up to the virtual 5K:
Vishe' Rabb, Augustana University Basketball
"Growing up biracial, you find yourself stuck between what you think of yourself and what others think of you. I will never be able to say that I have felt all the struggles that most Black people go through because of where I grew up and my complexion. It took me many years to understand what colorism was, to acknowledge the privilege that came with it, and know just because it doesn’t always affect me doesn’t mean that injustice still isn’t happening against POC. You add growing up in a rural area where microagressions were said and just meant to be ignored or taken as a joke. ‘You act white’ is something that made me struggle with my identity and my physical appearance because my hair and other characteristics weren’t necessarily ‘eurocentric’ enough for me growing up. Sports were a place where I actually enjoyed standing out, so I chose to put a part of my identity into my sports. ‘You’re good at sports because you’re Black’ is something that had me constantly question my work ethic and what it meant to be a Black female athlete because in my eyes, it belittled the extra time I put in to being the player I am today.
I am not an athlete because I am Black, I am an athlete because I work hard for it everyday."
Rachel Kedl, Saint Mary's University of Minnesota Volleyball
“I grew up in a tiny town in Minnesota where the only other colored people I knew were my siblings. I never saw it that way and never truly identified myself as Black or as white, but rather just thought of myself as Rachel. Looking back now I was colorblind and explained away a lot of my own racist encounters. As I have gotten older and have spent more time outside of that tiny town, I have learned more and more about Black history and what continues to affect my community today. Although I have lighter skin, a white parent and my Black parent comes from Papua New Guinea and not Africa, I am still aware of how others may see me and that this does not exclude me from being racially profiled. The summer after my freshman year of college I had the police called on me for being a ‘suspicious person’ as I sat in my car in a public parking lot for 20 minutes waiting for a couple of friends. Three cop cars pulled up on all sides of me and I was asked to exit the car and had my trunk checked.
To those cops that responded to that call, nothing came of the matter but for me it was the first time I couldn’t write off the experience as normal or okay and was forced to face the brutal truth: racism is still alive.
Before that incident, I had been no stranger to racial slurs such as the n-word or stereotypical comments, especially ones regarding being a Black athlete. These were all played off as jokes or, having been the only Black person on most of my sports teams, I would tell myself they were right. Since then however, I have grown to realize my position in society. I am white and I am privileged. I am Black and I am discriminated. I feel safe in my home town yet I know there are still many of people who do not accept me. I do not think twice about walking at night or putting my hood up yet I know my presence alone may make people uncomfortable. I am continuing to learn and speak up along side both my white and Black communities and use what privilege I have. As my family has grown, I now have four mixed nieces and nephews and I pray they can grow up in a more accepting world and without the same fears the Black community is facing today.”
“I was a setter on a DI volleyball team. The coach decided to change my position to outside hitter because I had the highest vertical on the team.
Then after working hard to try to get a starting spot, he told me that I had an unfair advantage over the other girls in my new position because everyone knows that black people have an extra bone in their legs that makes them jump higher.
When I asked for a release to transfer, he told me that he couldn’t possibly be racist because he’s Puerto Rican and threatened to deny my transfer if I said anything. That was 15 years ago, it still haunts me to this day.”
Nnenna Akotaobi, University of Denver Basketball
“I often hear, ‘I didn't know there are black people in Colorado!’ when I share that I'm from Denver. It's heartbreaking, because that stereotype is not a reflection of the community and world in which I grew up. As a first-generation Nigerian, I was raised in a culturally rich household, and was fortunate to live and attend high school in a community that was relatively reflective of the diversity of the world. My friends were Hispanic, Asian, Indigenous, Black, Queer, multilingual, immigrants, wealthy and poor... this diversity and engagement with difference was normal. My collegiate experience, however, was a culture shock. I played DI basketball 25 minutes away from where I grew up, but it felt like thousands of miles. It was my first experience really socializing in a predominately white, homogeneous community. By itself, this was not a huge challenge. It was the racism - explicit and implicit - that shook me. The comments that my admission to school was only a result of my basketball scholarship, the ‘do you even go here?’ questions, the ‘I can't stand Black people...but not you!’ insults, the isolation me and some of my Black teammates and fellow athletes felt and discussed. I was depressed, lonely, often misunderstood and humiliated....but I was fortunate to be able to seek refuge at home. Not everyone I went to school with had that privilege.
That experience hardened my resolve that no athlete with a marginalized identity should go through their formative, undergraduate years feeling less than included and deserving.
I am grateful for the extraordinary education I received, the wonderful lifelong friendships, teammates, and mentors I made in spite of it all, and the personal ethos I developed as a result. My professional career has been dedicated to serving schools and other organizations that care deeply about diversity and are committed to creating inclusion and equity through sport. Basketball taught me reliance and acceptance, and gave me the confidence to challenge the exclusionary system that often leaves women and folks of color as the most structurally disadvantaged in sport.”
Sierra Brooks, University of Michigan Gymnastics
“I am blessed in that I grew up in a place where I constantly felt accepted, nourished, and valued. My parents made it their mission to teach me from a young age about the importance of self-respect, self-confidence, and loving the color of my brown skin, dark eyes, and spiral curly hair.
I’m also fortunate that my parents put me in the sport of gymnastics and kept me in it, even with all of the time and cost demands it seemed to have: long practices, long drives, training expenses, the drama here and there, injuries, etc. I’ve loved the sport my entire life and being a Black gymnast, it wasn’t until Gabby Douglas was at the 2012 Olympics that I saw someone that looked like me, doing the things I aspired to do. Sure there were other Black Olympic and college gymnasts, but there weren’t many, and at the age of 10, I hadn’t actually seen them with my own two eyes.
It wasn’t until Gabby was competing for all-around gold on my TV that I understood the importance of representation and since then, I’ve made it my mission to try to be that role model for girls that are younger than me and look like me.
I shouldn’t have to consider myself ‘lucky’ because I haven’t experienced any outright racism to my face or physically, but here I am saying exactly that. Any sport comes with hundreds of learning lessons and so many unforgettable experiences- for better or for worse. This sport and the people in it have made me the happiest I could have been, but not one hundred percent of the time. For me, being told, ‘you act more white than me,’ by a teammate in club gymnastics while chalking up on bars is something that has stuck with me for years. I didn’t respond or bring it up to anyone because I was in an environment where there was nobody else who looked like me, so did they even understand that comment was wrong? Simply put, micro-aggressions and stereotypes hurt.
I’m not sure when it started, but at some point in my career, I started to notice and get elated whenever there was a new Black girl at my gym trying out, no matter the age or practice level, solely because then I knew that she’d at least be able to see me and I could see her. The gymnastics community has become more diverse over the years, but it is still evolving and I remember wanting to see someone that looked like me when I was little, so I try to be that person for all girls, but especially Black girls. We might be the same race and the same gender, but I’m not saying that makes us the same. I’m saying that representation and diversity are more important than they seem from the outside, as they impact the thoughts, actions, and mindsets of every kid who isn’t in the majority. We may stand out because of the color of our skin, but that is just another characteristic we should all certainly be proud of.”
Emma Morgan-Bennet, Swarthmore College Volleyball
“My experiences as a volleyball athlete have been central for my growth as a community organizer, a leader, and as a Black woman.
Historically we, as Black athletes, have been told over and over to separate our identity on the court away from our lived experiences off the court.
I think that what we're experiencing now in our nation indicates that when we find unity between all facets of our identities, our power to usher forth change is limitless. I'm not who I am because I was forced to choose between two worlds. Instead, I am a fearless leader, a trusted collaborator and a innovative advocate precisely because I belonged to a volleyball team and community that insisted on carving out space for our whole selves as high performing athletes and as members of diverse communities. I hope as we move forward in the wake of the Black Lives Matter Movement, we encourage athletes and coaches to become leaders for change and equity in our communities and beyond.”