In Conversation … Black Lives Matter

As part of our commitment to deepen our understanding of inclusivity and diversity in our sport, we at Rounders England have invited open and frank conversations with those in our BAME community. We are dedicated to educating ourselves on the issues and building tangible change toward inclusion for all in rounders.

1. Can you briefly explain your current role within the rounders’ community?
Nicolla: I am the vice-captain of the England Senior Rounders Team and I’ve been playing for England for 15 years. I have taken part in the first England Women’s Calendar and various interviews and articles to raise the profile of rounders as I have always believed that Rounders is a sport that can be played and enjoyed by everyone.

Alayah: At Rounders England, as the Growth and Participation Officer, I focus on the growth of the sport and caring for all aspects of participation at Rounders England.
I build our relationships with organisations and individuals that work within the community, and with the communities themselves. I am able to take the game, and use it as a powerful tool to assist the needs of communities, encouraging activity, social inclusion, encouraging positive mental health, improving sports spaces and parks, and in general, I can use my position to give back.

2. What does the black lives matter movement mean to you on a personal basis?
Nicolla: For someone who is Black and part of the BAME community, this subject is very personal to me. I have grown up and been taught to always treat people how you would like to be treated and Black Lives Matter is a movement to conquer injustice and racism where we believe all lives should be equal – but unfortunately this has not been the case throughout history and black lives matter means an opportunity for us all to collectively make a change now.
I have had personal experiences of racism growing up and this is something I would not like my children or the next generation to go through so there must be change or the opportunity to make progress will be missed

Alayah: Black Lives Matter, to me, is hope. It’s hope for a future that looks different to this one. I’m hoping less people will stereotype and be blatantly racist, to see none is an unrealistic expectation. I’m hoping people will stop judging me based on my skin and not my actions. I’m hoping my daughter will grow up and experience less judgement than I received.
Black Lives Matter is also unity. There are so many people, all colours and creeds standing up for a common goal, racism, institutional prejudice and more.
Black Lives Matter is truth. This jaded history taught in the history books that shows pride in the “conquerors” and doesn’t show the murder, oppression and destruction of nations, cultures, of generations of trying to rebuild.
Black Lives Matter is encouragement. The backing to feel able to speak out against what affects both others and myself.
Black Lives Matter is education. Bringing to light the current situation. Sharing petitions to try and encourage justice and equal treatment.
But most of all, Black Lives Matter is sadness. In 2020, how are people still having to try and reason to be seen as equal? To not be less? Why are we still having to tell people you can’t say that, that’s not right?

3. How do you think the movement applies to the current times in the UK?
Alayah: This movement very much applies to the UK, the same way it does in the USA or other counties where there is oppression, institutional racism, prejudice, bias, and micro-aggressions.
Although the UK police force rarely carry guns, they have members that are just as guilty as the American police currently in the public eye. The UK police have beaten and killed people with batons, with physical force, and are guilty of the same stereotypical behavior the American police are guilty of. There are countless videos online of unfair stop and searches because they fit the “description” or are “more likely” to be carrying weapons.

Nicolla: Many people associate racism with outright remarks or actions, but it is actually instilled in society where we may not be aware. This is systemic racism. This has been ingrained in society from the slave trade and throughout colonisation, we need an honest understanding of this part of our history in the UK to challenge these systemic issues, but we can also work to challenge the general perceptions of Black and minority people.
One study I have found interesting is being aware of our unconscious bias. We may have a preference towards a race and once we are aware of this, we can in certain situations consciously be held accountable for our actions and correct our bias belief. This is throughout society including the police where some have resulted in over aggressive actions towards the BAME groups.

Alayah: As an adult I have been followed around shops as though I look suspicious, I have had people cross the road to avoid me, I have had people speak to my white friends and act as though I don’t exist or dirty look me when I acknowledge them, but if you say something you’re seen to be either making it up, being dramatic, or attention seeking, but it’s a very real reality.
Comments are made on my personal appearance, my hair, my features, my skin tone, it’s all unnecessary, but people still feel comfortable to say something, it’s absurd. People do not realise these are micro-aggressions, and are not acceptable.
“Oh, your hair is frizzy isn’t it” … Well no, it’s curly, because I am black.
“Why is your hair like that?” and an arm stretches out, or “Can I feel your hair, it’s not like mine is it” … Well no you can’t, because I’m not an animal to be petted just because I don’t look like you. Or even worse, some feel they can just invade your personal space and just touch “oooh, this is thick isn’t it” … If I walked up and touched someone’s hair and said “isn’t this thin and flat” it would be completely different.
And my all-time favourite hair question … “is your hair real, it’s so long!”.
This has 3 points to address…

  1. Just because a black woman has a protective hairstyle, like a weave, hair extensions, a wig etc., it DOES NOT mean that a woman has no hair, regularly, a woman is protecting her natural hair from damage and tries other styles.
  2. Black women CAN grow long hair too, don’t assume because it’s long, that it is fake.
  3. Shrinkage – this is when curls tighten up throughout the day as they lose moisture, making the length appear less.

And PLEASE, if you have been tanning, don’t compare your colour to mine, it is NOT the same.
It fits within the wider representations of beauty within our country. In posters, films, and television we typically represent beauty as pale skinned. If you are white, you rarely notice this, but for young black children it can be powerful, to the point where I’ve had black children confess to feeling ugly because they don’t see people them like on posters or in beauty ads.

Nicolla: I have had a few experiences in the past of racism although subtle but also explicit. One was in a shop when the owner of the shop refused to serve me but another person from another ethnic group was served. When I asked, ‘why would you not serve me’, he said because I don’t want to and I don’t have to’.
Another gentlemen was also there and said to me ‘I know it’s wrong that he will not serve you but they do the same service next door, it will be easier to go there instead of trying to get served here’. I felt a sense of anger and confusion but knew I was helpless and left the shop.
At school, I used to be called an Oreo or Coconut, because the way I spoke and mannerism was apparently ‘white’. What does sounding white mean? I didn’t know ‘Black’ was a language. These stereotypes need to be crushed. Don’t judge me due to the colour of my skin but judge me on my personality and skills and me as a human being.
The worst was a couple of years ago when I went to a physio appointment for my back and the physio said ‘due to your Afro-Caribbean background I need you to go into an Ape position as this will help with relieving your back’ he proceeded with saying to get in the position on all fours and to walk back and forth like this. This was a physio that was stepping in for my usual physio and I have been to a few and never had an exercise like this before.
Those are examples of some of experiences that have stuck with me for life and my parents have always said to me that I need to work 200% harder compared to my peers, because as a woman and a black person the odds are stacked against you. No matter how explicit or subtle the experiences are, we should not have to deal with them and for some of these experiences they end in individuals dying.

4. There seems to be a lot of confusion across generations over “black lives matter” vs “all lives matter” – what do you think the distinction is here, and why is it important to distinguish this?
Nicolla: When I see white lives matter or all lives matter, I feel that they misinterpreted the black lives matter message. I was reading an article the other day and I thought this quote couldn’t have explained it better.
‘White Lives Matter or All lives matter reactions miss the point because the Black Lives Matter movement is not about denigrating the worth of other ethnic groups; it is about highlighting a specific problem Black Lives Matter is against racism and systemic injustices against the Black community, and it works for equality.’
As I have said before we are not saying that white or other people’s lives do not matter, we are saying that Black Lives Matter just as much. The movements message is that the Black community need support for equality. We are all human and the colour of my skin should not be a barrier to how well I do or the life experiences I have to encounter.

Alayah: Black Lives Matter means Black Lives Matter Too, not Only Black Lives Matter.
All Lives Matter ignores the fact that the black ones are at risk. If all lives matter, why is everyone not outraged that black ones are in danger?

5. What changes would you like to see come from the current groundswell of momentum?
Alayah: From the current attention that the Black Lives Matter Movement has gained, there are a few things that would be great to see:

  • Equality – in how people are treated, in the opportunities available, in how people are judged
  • Correct Education – teach both sides of history, teach black history in fair proportion, teach people how to recognise bias and discrimination, and how to combat it
  • Reform – although it is a far cry, it would be great to see a fairer justice system, recruitment systems, more opportunities for growth and learning

Nicolla: One major change is for people to educate themselves on people’s experiences and grow an understanding of how experiences can lead to certain decisions or situations. With understanding there can be change and conscious change in their thought process.
I would like there to be more representation of black people in a positive light. This may be in the media, books or magazine covers. More success stories from the Black and ethnic minority groups would be great to see. An achievement is a beautiful thing especially for the next generation to be inspired and motivated.
These are a few examples of changes but this is small compared to what needs to be done and working together with solutions can only be a positive thing.

6. What role do you think sport can play in overcoming these issues?
Nicolla: In the sports world we are already seeing support from televised sports and through media which is great. I do think there needs to be harsher punishment for racism to show solidarity against it. In some popular sports there are opportunities for people from different economical background but this could stretch to smaller sports organisations like Rounders England.
Sports has a massive part in media and showcasing to millions of people and making sure they provide programmes that promotes inclusion and diversity then we are moving in the right direction.
Some sports are quite elitist and you can only participate if you fund it yourself. Sports that operate like this miss out on so much talent and alienate so many people. There should be programmes to make sports more accessible for people from different socio-economic backgrounds and from Black and other minority groups to encourage and promote diversity. In doing this we also need to make sure they do not become the ‘Token’ player as this label is the complete opposite of what we are trying to achieve.

Alayah: If there were equal opportunities in sport, there would be such vast and diverse talent pools, rather than just those that can afford the chance. This potentially could raise the standards of all kinds of teams.
Many sports are inaccessible due to costs associated such as specialised kit, travel, location etc, but also because of inclusion and judgement, which is even worse.
Sport can provide so many opportunities on so many levels From team sports and coaching to broadcasting and advertising The opportunities are endless

7. How is rounders addressing issues around inclusion?
Alayah: Rounders England are currently reviewing our policies and procedures relating to inclusion, diversity and equality. If there are internal changes needed, these will be made. We have already taken steps to extend our work into communities
Rounders has been a game that has always been played by people from all walks in life, regardless of age, gender, race, religion, sexuality, disability or any other difference a person has. If I am successful in the work I am doing, I will be able to bring different communities together, and highlight the need for more, and more specific help in these areas.

Nicolla: The first step is that Rounders England has acknowledged there is inequality in society and in England Rounders. I was one of the only BAME players in all the England Rounders Squads and if it wasn’t for one of my teachers putting me forward for trials there may have not been any for years.
The beauty of rounders is that it can be played in a field with minimal equipment and a sport that can be played by many. This gives opportunity for people from all backgrounds to play together on a common ground and enjoy working, cooperating and having fun with each other.
Playing with England Rounders, I have been lucky to travel around the country to places that I have not been familiar with. Some of the events were in predominately white areas, the exposure on both sides was educational and nice to see that we can play together, enjoy everyone’s company and potentially change someone’s perception of other people.
When I was younger, I attended a talent centre where 2 young individuals would have the opportunity to train with top quality coaches and players. Programmes like this is accessible for many children to attend and therefore the scoring and multiple activities of hand and eye coordination will limit discrimination and exclusivity if carried out around the UK.
My experience with England Rounders has been a positive one. My team have been inclusive and we work well as team. For many years of playing Rounders for England it has been about what skill and commitment you could bring to the team and I am very thankful for this experience. With this on a small scale this gives me hope that we can progress to a bigger scale. I am excited to be a part of improving diversity and inclusion across the board and with everyone’s help and support we can achieve change. I live by my favourite quote ‘nothing is impossible, the word itself says I’m possible.’

Alayah: Coming from a background where I am considered a ‘typical statistic’, I have worked hard to get to a place where I am in a position to empower and support people using sport and physical activity.
Currently, at Rounders England I am working on projects in a few locations to try and find out what Rounders England can do and provide to support as many people as possible, and to develop a sustainable structure that can be replicated and applied across the country.
I am working in our home town of Sheffield and the midlands, particularly Birmingham and Sandwell, alongside a list of amazing organisations, such as the University of Sheffield, Youth Sport Trust, Move More, Sport Birmingham, The Active Wellbeing Society, Tanayah Sam and many more to develop opportunities and options.
I am working with Sports Partnerships, local authorities, sports centres and additional groups that support BAME and LSEG communities, to provide opportunities to deliver and maintain regular sessions and events. Rounders England are hoping to secure funding to provide the necessary training, equipment and support going forward, both in these areas, and further afield.

Article by Rounders England:

Rounders England is a non-profit sport’s national governing body (NGB) in England.
Rounders England provides a structure for the sport from the Board, local deliverers and teams right the way through to individual members and volunteers.