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February 28, 2023

Celebrating Black Female Excellence

It is February, which means we’re a month into our new year's resolutions, couples have celebrated Valentine's Day, families Family Day, but more importantly - we celebrate Black History Month. Canada has been officially recognizing February as Black History Month since 1995. This year, the theme is “Ours to tell”. This theme encourages Canadians to learn more about the stories that Black communities have to tell about their histories, successes, sacrifices and triumphs.


Nicole Lynn becomes the first Black female agent to represent an NFL quarterback playing in the Super Bowl. Candace Parker becomes the first female in game commentator for the NBA All Star Game, Beyoncé becomes the most awarded and most nominated artist in Grammy history. 

These are only a few iconic milestones that Black women have already made in 2023; and in the spirit of learning, I am excited to share some more impactful stories that Black females are writing in the sports world. 


To start, let's look at an athlete who is close to home, Lauryn Walker. Lauryn plays Rugby for the Carlton Ravens. Starting out as a soccer player, she decided to give rugby a try and immediately fell in love with the sport. Her story has only intensified from there as she has been on a journey with Jamaica’s women's rugby team, feeling a sense of connection and home; coming in first place at the 2022 Rugby Americas North (RAN) Sevens Qualifiers; named captain for the tournament and looking ahead to the 2023 Pan-Am games!


In an article written by Carleton Athletics and shared by Usports, Lauryn mentions that Black History Month, “is a reminder of all the things that I can accomplish, all the dreams that can come true, and all the people I can one day inspire.” 


An athlete, and now coach who has always inspired me is Dawn Staley. Dawn, a point guard when she played basketball for the University of Virginia was back to back player of the year, is a 3-time Olympic Gold Medalist, Coach of the year for 3 consecutive seasons with the University of South Carolina and a two-time National Champion, first in 2017 and then again in 2022. 


Sorry for the run on sentence but WOW, what a resume! I recently watched an episode of “The Playbook,” a docuseries found on Netflix that highlights some amazing coaches and their philosophies on life. Dawn was featured. She discusses the topic of race. She mentions not having thought of her race until she was surrounded by people who didn’t look like her at UVA. Feeling like a fish out of water. Struggling with academics, playing basketball and trying to find your place all at once sounds extremely overwhelming, but it was also when Dawn realized that growth takes place outside of your comfort zone. It is a motto Dawn lives and coaches by to this day. Inspiring her team to push themselves beyond their limits in all facets of their life, setting themselves up to break barriers and reach their goals. 

You can read more about Dawn and her accolades here.


Someone else breaking barriers is Jennifer King. Jennifer King is the assistant running backs coach for the Washington Commanders. More notably she is the first Black female full time coach in the NFL.


She was a two sport athlete in college (basketball and softball) and played 14 years of football which she mentions gives her sport specific credibility on the field, but was also a basketball coach at Johnson and Wales University and won a national championship & coach of the year title. The courage it requires to take a risk like that is admirable, She lives Dawn Staley’s mantra of growth happening outside of her comfort zone. In this interview she mentions her move to the NFL coaching scene was motivated by never wanting to live with regret. As an NFL fan I am inspired that King bet on herself and I look forward to watching her continue to succeed as a female leader in the league. Seeing women in spaces that are male dominated is inspiring. Representation most certainly matters, for King and Solace Sports and Entertainment. 


Solace Sports and Entertainment is a sports agency that is putting Black female college athletes in the spotlight. I stumbled across this article, which explores Folasade Omogun-Broadnax and Terence Davis’s mission to advance the careers of Black female athletes who are often overlooked for endorsement deals. 


Omogun-Broadnax was a cross country runner herself and used sport as an escape when things were tight financially. She hopes to use her experience to better those of college athletes today. Her business partner Davis mentions, “She always looks at things from an African American point of view and as an opportunity to grow as a community.” 


All of the powerful Black women I have discussed above play a different role in building up a community and  inspiring the next generation but they all have impactful stories that should be celebrated this month and every month. These are change makers creating a more inclusive space in sport, one that empowers every race, gender and ability. 


Written by: Sarah Saftich


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