Varsity Lions launch Black and Indigenous Varsity Student-Athletes Alliances
York University's varsity student-athletes have launched a new committee called the Black and Indigenous Varsity Student-Athletes Alliance (BIVSAA) to serve the issues facing Black and Indigenous varsity student-athletes.
BIVSAA, which will be led by fifth-year track and field standout Monique Simon-Tucker and fourth-year women's soccer player Teni Odetoyinbo, was created to gain an understanding of Black and Indigenous student-athletes' experiences in order to progress solutions to identified issues and foster meaningful growth within the Lions family. Through these accomplishments, the committee hopes to educate, fund, collaborate and support Black and Indigenous varsity student-athletes, coaches and administration.
"I am incredibly proud of both Monique and Teni for having the courage to start this invaluable group," said Jennifer Myers, executive director of York Athletics & Recreation. "As one of the most diverse athletic programs in Canada, it is important that we have a safe space that allows student-athletes who identify as Black and Indigenous to share their experiences, not just as a varsity athlete, but as a whole person in a society that is systemically racist. We feel very strongly that this is critical to their well-being and I am committed to working closely with this group to actively listen to their challenges and solutions and ensure their voices are front and center as we begin the work necessary to unwrap and break down the racist systems we function within."
"Athletics should be a space that is accessible to everyone regardless of their race and background," said Odetoyinbo. "We want York to be a place that genuinely fosters a community atmosphere to make this a reality and it's up to us, the athletes, to advocate for the necessary changes we want to see."
The name of the committee was chosen to reflect the need to listen, identify and name the many ways that systemic racism impacts individuals who identify within this group, and to provide a safe space for student-athletes to talk about incidents of unfair treatment, racist acts and personal struggles within the colonial context of university sport and in society.
These two communities are extremely vulnerable and, as such, targeted solutions, ideas, education and sharing designed to support both these identified communities and the department as a whole to grow, learn, and begin to fix systemic as well as clear issues related to race, is necessary to ensuring that all of the programs and services available to student-athletes are open, safe, inclusive and framed within an anti-racist lens.
"We want to create a space that is catered to the experiences and lives of Black and Indigenous varsity student-athletes, and to maintain a space for students to raise their concerns and questions so that meaningful change can happen," said Simon-Tucker. "We also want to educate and enhance the varsity community so that they are better equipped to challenge themselves and people around them in thinking critically about the world around them. Our hope is for York to be at the forefront of change so that we continue to set the bar high for future generations that come after us."
The committee began by hosting town hall sessions for BIPOC varsity student-athletes, as well as the larger varsity community for all student-athletes of colour as well as allies. In the coming months, BIVSAA will be hosting a diversity book drive for local youth, organizing fundraisers to support Black-owned businesses and Black Lives Matter Toronto, and will be running a series of workshops and open conversations to celebrate Black History Month in February. For more information on BIVSAA and full details on all upcoming events, visit the BIVSAA webpage here.