Martin Luther King Jr. said “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
Arguably one of the most influential leaders of the Civil Rights era in this country, King led a charge urging us to see past the color of someone’s skin and see who they are for what is inside their hearts.
Unfortunately racial tension has been an underlying struggle in this country for decades and has re-emerged on a national scale with Black Lives Matter. Nevertheless, King’s message rings true. Regrettably, the mindset of some will not change overnight, but it just takes one person to be the catalyst for widespread change.
Earlier this month, five University of Richmond student-athletes looked to expand their knowledge and learn from others on how to be that voice that can inspire change. Track and Field’s Marshea Robinson and Mary Allen, tennis’ Canyon Teague, and football’s Jacob Roberson and Josh Anderson were accepted to attend the Black Student-Athlete Summit in Austin, Texas. This year’s summit focused around the Age of Black Lives Matter.
During the three-day summit, the five Richmond student-athletes joined other NCAA student-athletes, professional athletes and national activists to discuss the Age of Black Lives Matter while also examining the past of African-American’s in the United States.
The Black Lives Matter movement can be seen as the modern-era Civil Rights Movement addressing many of the same topics that were prevalent in the 1960s. A key proponent of the summit urged the student-athletes to learn their history. Of course we know the names Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, but countless others came before and paved the way, and they cannot be forgotten because they are just as much a part of not only African-American history, but our nation’s history.
The racial disparity carries over to college campuses across the country. With the re-emergence of racial tensions across the country, have you thought about the stereotypes African-American student-athletes are faced with on a daily basis? Unfortunately, student-athletes automatically carry the stereotype of being at a school strictly to play their respective sport and not caring about the academic side of college. However, in many instances, that is the furthest thing from the truth – they are a student first, than an athlete. In today’s day in age, add the black stereotype and then student-athlete stereotype in there. Have you thought about that? At the summit, a topic that was presented was what is it like to be a black student-athlete today. It has its challenges, but you just brush it off, put in the time and effort and prove to everyone that you are rightfully at this school and the stereotypes will not get the best of you.
It all starts with one person. In general, athletes whether at the collegiate or professional level have a platform – it’s just whether or not we use it to its full potential. It may seem hard to believe but even student-athletes are role models. As a group, we took the first step in attending the Black Student-Athlete Summit. There we realized we really do have a platform and we can help inspire change. Our next step is to inform not only our teammates, but the entire University of Richmond campus. We have come a long way, but there’s still plenty of work to be done – will you join us?