First of three parts
There is a growing community of Black female academia types in the sport sciences, and the University of Minnesota’s Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport recently brought several of them together virtually.
Since 1991, the Tucker Center’s panel discussions and lectures have been a regular source for this paper’s longtime women’s sports reporter, and for most of its existence we were the only local media in attendance at these free on-campus events. But with very few exceptions, the participants were White.
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“Black Women in Sport: Voices of Resistance & Athlete Activism,” recorded October 19, was the Center’s first-ever virtual event because of the continued coronavirus.
The second historic footnote was that it was an all-sistah scholar panel. “That’s great,” said one of the panelists, San Jose State Associate Professor Akilah Carter-Francique, when the MSR told her of her part in local history.
Tucker Center Director Nicole LaVoi pointed out during her introductory remarks how too often Black women’s and Black female athletes’ voices are erased, silenced, and marginalized compared to White of both sexes.
She said last week’s “multidisciplinary panel” composed of five Black women would speak on “the power, importance and voices of resistance of Black women in the fight for social justice in society in general, and sport in particular.”
“I appreciate Nicole creating that space,” said UMass Amherst Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Nefertiti Walker in an MSR post-event phone interview. “She picked five Black women from across the spectrum.
“To have five is a lot, but she [LaVoi] learned that we needed a moderator like Dr. [Nikki] Franke. We were able to create something that was authentic,” Walker said.
Each panelist gave separate presentations expertly in a virtual relay race, explained Dr. Carter-Francique, a former college track athlete. “We each were running a leg of a race” as each woman passed the “baton” to the next in line after completing their allotted presentation time.
Carter-Francique started off with her presentation on “Black rage,” which featured a short video clip of Lauren Hill’s song of the same title. “Black rage and anger is based on racism,” she stressed, adding that Black women aren’t given the freedom to express it, but if they do, are unfortunately tagged as the Angry Black Woman.
“We have been taught to hide our emotions, to shield our hurt,” she noted.
University of Houston Assistant Professor Joyce Olushola Ogunrinde reiterated that Black women athletes and their activism are often marginized: “We need to trust Black women who have been doing the work…as agent of change,” said Dr. O.
“There’s been a clash of consciousness that COVID-19 brought upon a flood of…emotions, guilt and rage that is really compelling people to act and speak,” said Assistant Professor Gyasmine George-Williams of the University of La Verne [CA].
The virus outbreak only added to what she termed a “multiple pandemic” that Blacks have historically faced—COVID-19, police brutality, racism, among so many others.”
Walker, who also teaches sport management, discussed how Black women must deal with “multiple marginalized identities” and how racism and sexism, among other “isms,” are a constant in Black females’ lives.
Dr. Nikki Franke, the moderator, recalled how Black women were often ignored during athlete protests in the 1960s. “Racism and sexism made Black women athletes invisible.”
The next two View columns will continue coverage of the Tucker Center’s first all-sistahs panel.