Celebrating black sport pioneers can help us to break down barriers

Lipa Nessa, Chair of the Youth Sport Trust Youth Board, blogs about how sport is an anchor in her life and a special visit to 10 Downing Street to mark Black History Month.

To mark the first day of Black History Month I was invited to attend a speech at 10 Downing Street with other selected young people. I was given the chance to meet Sergeant Johnson Beharry VC and listen to his inspiring story, where he spoke on adversity and how he was awarded The Victoria Cross.

Though our paths are worlds apart there were lessons learnt, and he spoke about how I can transfer those skills within my work at the Youth Sport Trust and further.

Sport is an anchor in my life and it has played a fundamental part in my growth. It has given me a physical and artistic way to express myself through my academic years and allowed me to centre myself and my mental wellbeing. But not every young person has had this experience. More needs to be done to break down barriers and ensure sport provides a safe space that is enjoyed for all young people.

We need to be telling this story through the media and through research, improving understanding of what inclusion really means and creating a collaborative environment, entertaining togetherness, and empowering young people to influence change. Some may not see the fruits of sports and physical activity until they leave the education system.

For me, I was able to appreciate from a young age the power of sport to empower children and young people to drive change, tackle discrimination and be the voice in other areas of life.

Giving power to young people to lead through sports will assist the growth of their grit and resilience, especially when driving change within the sector.

In recent months young people have seen and been inspired by well-known sporting figures leading campaigns which have driven political change. Young people are pioneers when it comes to change, but we cannot do this on our own. We need the help of charities, and governing bodies to create the change needed in and around sports, especially in regard to celebrating black lives, and Black History Month.

We should be allies not only for one month, but for 365 days a year. We should not stop growing in knowledge and understanding, nor should we leave it for the next person.

There are many black sport pioneers like Emma Clarke, James Peters, and Jesse Owens to name a few. We can all play a role in celebrating these stories, and ensuring educators, volunteers and the wider sporting workforce help young people to understand and build on the huge part black excellence has played in sport and driving social change.

Published on 22 October 2021