In fall 2020, following a summer in which demonstrations for racial justice took place across the country, a group of Black student-athletes and administrators created a new student group at Monmouth, the Black Student Athlete Huddle (BSAH).
“It was a very intense summer when it comes to questioning racial injustice in the U.S.,” says Prisca Blamon, a fifth-year student and thrower on the women’s track and field team who serves as co-president of BSAH. “And we felt it was imperative for us to have a safe space for Black student-athletes to be able to talk about how we’re feeling, being that we go to a predominantly white institution.”
Since then, the group has held biweekly meetings that serve as an open forum in which Black student-athletes from any team can talk with their peers about the stressors that are affecting them, be it “racial injustice, time management, institutional changes, etc.,” says Blamon.
“Being able to take time out to decompress and talk about life in general—I feel like not only can it make your day better; it can make your week turn around,” says Blamon. “It makes me feel like others are going through the same things that I’m going through, and we can get through it together.”
Kelsey Ellis, the compliance and academic coordinator in the Athletics Department, serves as a co-advisor for BSAH. She says the events of summer 2020 made it clear that “Black student-athletes needed a space where they could feel comfortable and have an opportunity to express themselves and not feel … undermined by the other populations that are on campus.
“We want everybody to understand our point of view … and experiences,” says Ellis. “The goal, ultimately, is to find a way to merge our experiences and understand what everyone else’s are so that we can focus on the bigger picture and create peace and respect on both spectrums.”
We’re people who realize that there are issues in society, and we want to be a part of the solutions.
To that end, BSAH is undertaking several initiatives to foster dialogue on diversity and inclusion across campus. Last fall, with help from the athletics communication staff, the group recorded sound bites of student-athletes discussing their personal definitions of social justice, which were shared on social media. They also filmed a series of vignettes in which Black student-athletes shared personal stories about their lived experiences and plan to show the videos on the Jumbotron at upcoming athletics events.
The group is also looking to partner with local K–12 schools to facilitate discussions on diversity and inclusion with the younger generation, says Blamon. BSAH received funding through a Monmouth University Diversity Innovation Grant to help with those efforts, says Blamon, and both she and Ellis credit University administrators and the Board of Trustees with being incredibly supportive of the group’s efforts.
Blamon, who also serves as the social justice chair for the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference’s Student Athlete Advisory Committee, is excited about the impact these outreach initiatives can make.
“There are some people out there who believe that we’re just athletes,” says Blamon. “We want them to see that we are more than that. We’re people who realize that there are issues in society, and we want to be a part of the solutions. If we can just touch one soul with that message, it can set off a firework.”