From live U Sports events to initiatives taking place on Queen’s campus, important conversations and projects are underway within university athletics programs for Black History Month.
U Sports is holding its second annual live U Sports Conversations event on Feb. 22, hosted by NBA TV Canada host and former X-University Rams basketball player Savanna Hamilton.
During the event—which will be live on Twitter—Hamilton will host Black panelists from across U Sports who have ties to different programs and schools.
The conversations will provide an opportunity for U Sports to celebrate success stories from the Black community, highlight advocacy work being accomplished within U Sports, and examine issues and barriers faced by Black athletes.
Meanwhile, on Queen’s campus, Athletics and Recreation (A&R) is participating in Black History Month by sharing resources and activities on their online calendar.
In a statement to The Journal, A&R described their involvement in celebrating Black History Month.
“Black History Month is a time to recognize and celebrate the countless contributions made to our programs and larger campus community by Black students, faculty, and staff,” A&R wrote.
“It is also an opportunity [to] reflection and learning to gain a deeper understanding of the cultural and systemic barriers facing our Black community members, and commit to continuing work to dismantle them, as we strive to foster a safe and welcome environment where we are all Gaels.”
The Journal also sat down with Queen’s Football offensive lineman Daekwon Blair, ArtSci ’23, to discuss his thoughts on and involvement in Queen’s Athletics’ Black History Month initiatives.
Blair sits on the Queen’s Athletics and Recreation EDII Task Force, where he’s currently involved in creating a student-athlete network for students of colour. This includes a speaker series as well as a mentorship program that pairs athletes with alumni based on their professional interests.
Speaking about Black History Month at Queen’s, Blair hopes it can be a time to spark meaningful conversations within both the athletic community and greater Queen’s communities. He also believes it’s an opportunity for these communities to gain a better understanding of the different lived experiences of athletes of colour at Queen’s.
“To just have conversations that are fruitful, that are difficult at times, that are engaging, sometimes hurtful, sometimes passionate. There’s such a range of emotion with these types of conversations,” Blair said.
“I think this month—really every month, but this month in particular—can be a really good starting point to have these conversations and keep this going.”
One event Blair and the EDII Task Force are hoping to run this month is a multi-day barbershop. According to Blair, the idea arose from conversations surrounding how getting a hair cut—something that’s an otherwise simple task for some —is often difficult to access for Black student-athletes.
“You go through a training camp and then at the start of your season, you want to get your haircut. Or you want to get your hair braided before a big championship game,” Blair explained. “But it’s hard to do that. There’s not many people doing that on campus or close to campus.”
The event would bring barbers and hairstylists into Kingston, where they could have a reserved space to do their work. It would open for students of colour on the opening day and then open to the wider community in the days following.
“This is something we’d like to see flourish in the future […] Offering a space to get your haircut or your hair braided and try to bridge some of those accessibility gaps.”
Blair emphasized the support and resources he has received from A&R to push the idea of this initiative into practice.
“Together we’ve really done a lot of work to get this thing off the ground. The support that we’ve gotten from individuals within Athletics and Recreation has been huge,” Blair said.
“I’m a big believer in community and conversation, and I think that’s the best way to, one, bridge any gap, but two, create something that can be scaled and that lasts.”
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