Oberlin Athletics Celebrates Black History Month


Courtesy of V Dagnino

A packed crowd in Philips holds up their hands in support of women’s basketball during a free throw.

The Oberlin College Athletics department hosted a variety of events in coordination with the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and Black Student-Athlete Group this week to celebrate the diversity and experience of Black student-athletes. This has included social media campaigns, such as interviewing Black student-athlete alumni on what Black History Month means to them, and featuring current Black student-athletes on the Oberlin College Athletics Instagram page. 

This past Tuesday, the groups organized a pledge drive to raise funds for the Black Women in Sport Foundation during the North Coast Athletic Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament Quarterfinals game against Kenyon College. BWSF is a nonprofit organization that works to increase the involvement of Black women and girls in athletics, coaching, and sports administration. They do this through the development and management of grassroots-level outreach sports programs.

Before the tournament, the Athletics Department read a diversity, equality, and inclusion statement written by SAAC members. Second-year volleyball player and SAAC Secretary Taylor Gwynne outlined the process of writing the statement and emphasized the importance of recognizing athletics events as safe spaces.

“[Third-year volleyball player] Zoe Kuzbari wrote the DEI Statement for the conference and got feedback from the other Oberlin SAAC officers, reps, and the other North Coast Athletic Conference SAAC reps,” Gwynne wrote in an email to the Review. “Each school was given the freedom to use the statement as they see fit. At Oberlin, the SAAC reps for each team voted for the statement to be read before every game. We hope the inclusion of this statement before competition will help foster a more inclusive and respectful environment for all the players, coaches, students, and spectators that are attending the games.”

Assistant Director of Athletics Communications Amanda Phillips added that she and Senior Associate Director of Athletics Creg Jantz wanted to make this Black History Month action oriented, celebrating the accomplishments of Black student-athletes while also raising money for organizations supporting Black communities.

“We were thinking of different ways that we could celebrate Black History Month in the athletics [department] and ways that we could celebrate while also taking action,” Phillips said. “We didn’t want to focus on just posting on social media or just sharing history. These things are also very important but we wanted to have some action behind our words. So we decided to have events where we could actually raise some money that could go to supporting communities.” 

The Athletics Communications department coordinated with BSAG to choose organizations to donate to, selecting groups that focused on community-level work such as BWSF. 

“Being able to support a local organization is very exciting,” said Phillips. “We involved SAAC in the organizing process and we planned the event on BSAG’s behalf — they knew everything that was happening and helped make suggestions and recommendations, but did not have to worry about setup. It’s always great to be able to work with student groups, and it’s what makes Oberlin so special. Oberlin involves the students almost as much as they involve anybody in administration. While this event was an idea that came from the Communications department, it was flourished and nurtured by the student-athletes.”

In addition to the pledge drive, SAAC and BSAG are planning another Black History Month event.

“The Black History Month Basketball Tournament run by SAAC and BSAG is coming up soon as well,” Gwynne wrote. “The tournament will take place on Sunday, March 6th starting at 11 a.m.. Teams are encouraged to sign up at the link in SAAC’s instagram bio.”

Proceeds from this event will be donated to Black Girls Smile, a nonprofit organization that aims to empower the mental well-being of young Black women by providing them with education, resources, and support to lead  healthy lives.