Disrupting ideas of activism and allyship, the Athletes of Color Coalition’s (AoCC) “The Art of Activism” interactive virtual event created a space for meaningful conversations and communicated the challenges faced by all BIPOC students, not just athletes, this past year.
In the pre-recorded video, athletes and coaches of color discussed racial justice, their personal reactions to the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of the police and the activism work that they have been engaged in over the past year.
“Since the murder of George Floyd, everyone has had a different reaction and has found meaning and purpose in different places,” Ayana Opong-Nyantekyi ’23 said in the introduction to the event. “Despite these differences, we all share the responsibility of creating an inclusive community around us.”
Several speakers opened up about the heartbreak they have felt over the past year. Lester Jackson ’21, who is one of the presidents of the AoCC, said he was shaken by the murder of Ahmaud Arbery in the town of Brunswick in his home state of Georgia. Arbery was shot in February while he was jogging.
“As an athlete, I go jogging all the time. And when [the murder of Arbery] happened, I remembered that any day this summer, that could have been me, that that day, it could have been me, and that justice is still not found for him,” Jackson said during the event.
Although speakers noted that they have found meaning in engaging in activism with others, many admitted they have felt exhausted at times.
“Having to be a support system for many different groups of first years and upperclassmen during the pandemic and the election, while working three jobs, and being in season, and trying to maintain my own grades … has been very tiring,” said Cydnie Martin ’21, one of the vice presidents of the AoCC.
Track and Field Assistant Coach Lara-Jane Que has taken time to self-reflect on how her identity as a woman of color contributes to national narratives of racial justice.
“This has been a time for me of self-reflection of my identity—as a woman, as a woman of color, as an immigrant from the Philippines—and also a time for me to unlearn and relearn,” Que said during the event. “I feel today, I am stronger, I am wiser, I am more aware and I am also more proud of myself than I had ever been.”
The speakers’ stories about activism, growth and self-reflection were in line with the event’s title: “The Art of Activism.” As Kendall Rogers ’21, the other president of the AoCC, put it, there is no correct way to engage in activist work.
“There is not one singular art to being an activist, but we all play a role in creating change and producing inclusive environments, whether it’s in our communities, at home or back at Bowdoin,” Rogers said during the event.
After the presentation, participants were assigned to Zoom breakout rooms to reflect on their perception of race and how they envision being an ally.
Katrina Reidy ’23, who attended the event, thought that the video presentation was inspiring because of how vulnerable the speakers were.
“The individuals who spoke on the live stream—that takes a lot of vulnerability, which then opens the stage for everyone else to be vulnerable,” Reidy said in a phone interview with the Orient. “I feel like being vulnerable in these times is really difficult, but when you see other people doing it, it makes it a lot easier.”
During her breakout room discussion, Reidy also learned that activism can be joyful. She brought up the example of a student who sent a tutorial on how to make empanadas to the lacrosse team.
“I thought that was powerful because it goes along with [a] common thread that I took away from the discussion, which was that every person has more than one identity,” said Reidy. “And sharing these glimpses of joy could be another way of promoting inclusivity.”
At the end of the day, she thought that the video produced by the AoCC served as a strong reminder of the commitment necessary for anti-racist activism.
“The live stream really emphasized … the need for a commitment to activism. We can’t afford to act casually, and I think a lot of the individuals who spoke really underscored that,” Reidy said. “[It’s] making sure that we know that there’s nothing casual about what’s going on right now.”