By Victoria Olatunji
Social justice educator and motivational speaker, Jen Fry, delivered a presentation on the intersection of fundamental social justice issues and athletics. A veteran volleyball coach and a Division II athlete turned social justice educator, Fry realized the need for educating not only student-athletes of all ages, but the staff, administration, and coaches who train them.
Her years of coaching and educating young women on race, diversity, and inclusion allows Fry to pass her knowledge and the power needed to look through a different, diverse and inclusive lens. She creates a brave space that connects with the audience and encourages the students to engage in meaningful conversations on social and racial issues, according to cross country and track and field athlete, biology major Destiny Burks.
Burks testifies to the immense knowl edge and inspiration she gained after attending the presentation. “The discussion not only expanded my knowledge on social issues, but it allowed me to become more open-minded and receptive to the people in my community,” Burks said. As an athlete, Fry’s speech has positively influenced Burk’s perspective on relating and interacting with people in her sports group and on the field.
Fry’s passions of race and equality have led to discussions on the importance of dismantling racial inequality and exclusion.
The percentage of student-athletes of color is considerably low and may not necessarily reflect the diversity of the United States, according to Fry.
It is increasingly essential for prospective student-athletes of color and their families to consider an institution’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. Likewise, institutions should employ and facilitate a diverse and inclusive environment for students, regardless of social barriers such as race and sexuality.
Ultimately, the priority for athletic coaches should be finding and creating a safe and secure environment that ensures a positive collegiate experience.
Social justice education can assist athletes in their process of critical thinking, how to become culturally competent, how to self-reflect on one’s position, power, and privilege, and, lastly, how to create an inclusive culture that allows diversity.
Photo Courtesy of Yishka Chin