Amidst all the issues of racism raised in 2020, a group of Black student-athletes from Marist have banded together out of a desire to ignite change at the college and lend a hand to their fellow student-athletes of color.
The Marist Black Student-Athlete Alliance aims to include minority student-athletes in both varsity and club sports. According to the alliance’s inaugural Instagram post, “this organization is dedicated to creating an uplifting community and giving a voice to our Black and Brown student-athletes. As an organization, we plan to focus on taking steps to change school policies, connect with the community, and create a sense of family among the minority student-athletes.”
The newly formed alliance is run by Trinasia Kennedy ‘23, Arthur Pinckney ‘22, Chidera Udeh ‘21, Jordan Jones ‘21 and Chris Watkins ‘24. Peaches Brown, the assistant director of student-athlete enhancement for the men’s and women’s basketball teams, assembled the group and works with the alliance.
Co-Presidents Kennedy and Pinckney, a guard on the women’s basketball team and linebacker on the football team respectively, were among the first two athletes to take a stance.
Kennedy explained the issues of race could not go unaddressed any longer and “the inspiration [to form the alliance] came from everything that’s going on in the world, and it inspired us to come together in a different way.” Pinckney said Brown’s offer to join the alliance was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up. “I couldn’t say no. I mean, it’s needed with everything that’s going on,” said Pinckney.
Pinckney made his desire for change known when he petitioned Marist College to implement mandatory classes on systemic and racial oppression. The petition amassed over 2,000 signatures from Marist students and faculty in two weeks.
“As a part of the 4 percent black students on campus, I can assure you that diversity and inclusion have not been lived up to,” Pinckney stated in the petition. “However, I understand that many of our white peers have never had to deal with it in their hometowns. Is Marist going to take its ‘moral responsibility’ and educate these students? This type of class is necessary! We, black students, understand that most white students will not understand our struggle, but you must acknowledge it and be able to speak out against it.”
Udeh, a middle blocker on the women’s volleyball team and the vice president and director of marketing, first got the idea of forming an organization like the BSAA when she attended the Black Student-Athlete Summit in January.
“The group that I had went and came back with, we had talked about maybe trying to start something like that. But obviously with COVID and everything, everything was put on halt in terms of trying to create something. But I think, with this group, there’s a range of classes. I feel like if the group that I had went [with] had started it, we would’ve eventually trickled out very quickly,” said Udeh. “But, with this group, it can kind of stay. Like, the people who started it can stay throughout the years to see it grow.”
Jordan Jones, the director of engagement and starting center on the men’s basketball team, leads the meetings. He said his role will be to “tell the people what it is and what happens with it and what we’re gonna do. And just reaching out to other people.”
Chris Watkins, the secretary and a running back on the football team, rounds out the leadership board. Despite being a brand new addition to the Red Fox community, Watkins jumped right into a position of leadership for a brand new organization. “I was pretty open to it because I did a lot of things like this at my high school: having a leadership role in our Black Student Union, being a part of our Minority Scholars Program. So, it was definitely something I wanted to be a part of,” he said.
Every class is represented in the leadership group. Udeh and Jones are seniors, Pinckney is a junior, Kennedy is a sophomore and Watkins is a freshman. “I think the range in ages is important because we want perspectives from everyone. A senior is definitely gonna have a different experience or opinion from a freshman,” Udeh said.
Nothing is set in stone yet, but the group has a bounty of ideas for how to act on its goal. Jones voiced the ideas of “having a person of color in the mental health department so we have someone to talk to, or having a summer program…like a tutoring program for [kids].”
Udeh says that people who attended the alliance’s first meeting asked to do “a lot of community outreach, and work with schools in the surrounding area. And doing some type of events for them.” She also suggested an event similar to the Hunger Walk for a cause that the alliance was built to support.
Kennedy explained the speakers the alliance will bring in will most likely be Marist alumni. “Obviously, people of color – specifically Black – will come in and give us their experience and maybe teach us all the things that we don’t know yet about the campus or ways to guide ourselves through it all, because it is a lot,” she said.
“I think that these mentors are gonna be able to show us how to go about it all,” Kennedy continued. “Because we still need to learn as a leadership group, obviously. And we also want to provide our Black student-athletes with people that they can look up to and go to if they need help.”
Watkins believes hearing speakers discuss their experiences and advice about being at Marist would be very beneficial. “I know for me, as an incoming freshman, I would love to hear from them and see what they have to say about their experiences and how I should go about things differently, or the same, as they did,” he said.
All five members of the alliance’s leadership and Brown virtually met with Marist officials, including President Dennis Murray, Vice President and Dean for Student Affairs Deborah DiCaprio and Director of Athletics Tim Murray, on August 7th. They discussed future events, Pinckney’s petition and ways to support and help minorities on campus.
Jones and Pinckney said they each have reached out to members of the Marist Black Student Union about collaborating. The union members discussed joint meetings, allowing both organizations “to just talk and collaborate amongst [one another] and have a sense of community with not just athletes but the student body as a whole.”
With upcoming fall sports seasons being cancelled, the alliance can devote more time to their goal of improving the social climate on campus.
“We want to change the culture at Marist and create a more welcoming environment for current and future Red Foxes,” the first Instagram post concludes. “Our goal is to have an impact that goes beyond just the Marist athletic department and aid in Marist College becoming a more inclusive and diverse college.”
Edited by Bridget Reilly
Featured Image by The Black Student-Athlete Alliance