A group of Black, Indigenous and Persons of Colour (BIPOC) and ally student-athletes and staff have come together as the Diversity and Anti-Racism Council (D.A.R.C.) at Langley’s Trinity Western University.
“It was a really inspiring group of students,” said TWU’s Cheryl Jean-Paul.
“They were very vulnerable; they came from a place of love, even though they were talking about some difficult circumstances and experiences that they’ve had with racism. We were able to really come together and provide education for their peers, and an opportunity for them to speak.”
The start of D.A.R.C. came from an annual coaches conference, the Spartan Sports Leadership Superconference, held on October 23, 2020.
In preparation for the event, Jeff Gamache, TWU’s Director of Athletics, had asked Jean-Paul to head up a diversity panel.
Jean-Paul said, “We reached out to all the coaches to say that we’re thinking of putting together this panel of student-athletes to speak on their experiences with issues around racism and diversity, to consider, ‘What is diversity? What does that look like on our campus, and within our athletics department?'” The group met on a Zoom call to introduce each other, and the conversation took off.
“After the superconference, it became evident to me that these students needed an outlet to continue to share their experiences and their thoughts,” Jean-Paul said. “They were so gracious in how they spoke, and I felt that this is something we could continue beyond the superconference.”
The first group of students who came together attracted other like-minded supporters. “We decided to start something within our athletics department and just reached out to staff and coaches, from a BIPOC perspective and also from an ally perspective.”
Since last fall, the group, now named D.A.R.C., has met four or five times via Zoom, and Jean-Paul has noticed some positive effects.
“During COVID (pandemic), we’ve been talking a lot about the mental health of our student athletes,” she said. “I think when it comes to being able to share your story, it’s just so healthy for athletes to be able to have a safe space to talk about their experiences (of ) being someone of colour – both challenging and positive experiences.”
Jean-Paul is head coach of women’s basketball for Trinity Western Spartans and president of women’s basketball in the Canada West Conference. When she began first her role at TWU in 2010, Jean-Paul was one of the first Black female head coaches in U SPORTS basketball history.
Tips from Jean-Paul on how to foster diversity within your workplace, organization or community:
1. It requires collective will or desire. “There needs to be a desire among people within the group. What we’ve been experiencing is that if people don’t want to participate…that it’s actually worse, because it’s just discouraging. There needs to be someone or a group of people who really want to fuel this.”
2. Seek out the counsel of others. “There are a lot of resources out there. For larger organizations there are companies and consultants that can help them improve what diversity looks like within their organization.” Beyond simply relying on one or two of our personal contacts who are Black, there are definitely some professional companies and consultants out there that can improve a work space to allow more diversity.”
3. Be humble and open-minded. “We all have something to learn from each other. I don’t come from a place where I know all things about even my own community, and I definitely don’t know everything about everybody else’s community. It’s really coming into every meeting and every call with an open mind and open heart, knowing that I’m likely going to learn something about myself, and I’ll learn something about other people as well.”
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