C/O Yoohyun Park

The newest safe space and friendly face for McMaster’s Black student-athletes

By: Acacia Lio, Staff Writer

In October 2020, a systematic review of the Black student-athlete experience within McMaster’s department of athletics was conducted due to reports of anti-Black racism from student-athlete alumni. A recommendation of this report was to increase representation among leadership. In addition to other beginning initiatives, the Black Student-Athlete Council was established to represent and advocate for McMaster’s Black student-athletes. 

The mission of the council is as follows: to establish a safe learning environment for BIPoC student athletes, and students at McMaster University, to foster a culture of equity and inclusion at McMaster University, to educate others on anti-racism and allyship, and to establish a platform of outreach.

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All student-athletes who identify as Black are automatically members of this council, but it is headed by a team of executive members, such as Internal and External Relations Director, Marissa Dillon. 

“[We] attended a lot of [equity diversity and inclusion] discussions, giving our input as student-athletes as to how we feel the department could work better to promote more culture and inclusion [and] address the existence of anti-Black racism,” said Dillon.

Many of the executive members have a similar motivation for joining the council—helping to point the future of McMaster’s Black student-athletes in a positive direction. One member who was particularly passionate of this vision was External Relations Director, Brandon Bernard.

“[I want to] create a better future for a lot of the incoming Black students [at] McMaster. The past is the past, so we can’t dwell on it too much, but we can still learn from it. And in doing so, we can create a better future,” said Bernard

In addition, the executive members hope this council can become a safe space for Black student-athletes. Administrative Director, Enoch Penney-Laryea spoke to the motivation of the board members, stressing the importance of having a safe space. 

“Part of the motivation for joining is just that we can make a difference and create a safe space where student-athletes could go if they’re having trouble with such things and have a group of people they can trust to help them navigate the spaces at McMaster,” commented Penney-Laryea.

Renelle Briggs, one of BSAC’s Marketing Directors, echoed the statement from Penney-Laryea, further stressing how critical a safe space is. 

“One of the things I would love to see is [BSAC growing] into a safe space and community for people to come to. With everything on social media and with more awareness of this coming up, I think it’s good to have a space for people to come to where they can feel safe and know the people there are there to support them and help them,” said Briggs

Members of the BSACeach have personal goals they would like to achieve with their time on the council such as Penney-Laryea, who is striving to set a high standard for the future of the council. 

“Because this is our first year I would like to establish a groundwork for documentation for what the club should look like. I think it’s a really good opportunity to set the standard high and to have concrete documentation that will last for years down the line,” explained Penney-Laryea.

Briggs also commented on the importance of the council’s future, explaining that she is proud to be a part of this team. 

“I’m excited for all the leadership opportunities that have come up. I think that when I leave, when I graduate this year, it’s gonna be a great thing to look back on and something that I'm proud to have been a part of,” said Briggs

Additionally, BSAC has many initiatives planned for the year, including their launch event. This is something students can get excited for in the coming weeks.

“As of right now, the [event] that’s nearest would be our launch event. We’re hoping to do that some time mid-October. But we also have a plethora of other events that we have in the works,” said Bernard.

Some of the other upcoming events include alumni outreach and coordinating with different teams within the athletics department. In addition to these exciting events, BSAC should be something Mac students are on the lookout for in general this year as the much needed initiative establishes its roots and creates a more inclusive future.

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