Cornell’s student athletes will march to amplify the voices of Black student athletes in a sports department lacking representation on Sunday at noon.
The initiative’s organizers, women’s soccer players Jadyn Mathews ’22 and Emily St. John ’23 and football cornerback Kenan Clarke ’21, emphasized that the march’s message — “Our March. Our Campus.” — is to amplify Black voices in order for the University to enact meaningful change. The organizers hope to see more action taken toward recruiting more coaches and players of color onto Cornell teams.
For Mathews, president of Women of Color in Cornell Athletics, the march is yet another plea in asking for support as more than just an athlete. She said that even after WOCCA’s Hear Us Now campaign, a photo series demonstrating how Black student-athletes feel seen only as players and not as humans, their voices are often overlooked and suppressed.
As one of three Black athletes on her team, she pointed out several issues.
“Coaches need to give more consideration to diversity in their recruitment efforts,” she said. “The obstacles that athletes in underserved communities may have to overcome, creating an environment that is encouraging to students of color and being aware of racial biases in the recruitment and retention of athletes.”
According to Mathews, the athletics department must also notice how lack of representation affects its students’ mental health. She mentioned that for people of color, not having coaches that look like them can feel discouraging, leaving them unable to find effective role models.
“This is a constant problem, and it is really tiresome having to always explain what the problem is … We can only do so much, and at the end of the day [administration] needs to make the decisions,” she said.
For Clarke, marches like these that call for systematic change outline ways Cornell can change. “In my head, we just detailed something really amazing, that left a footprint in Cornell athletics history … I would love to see more Black voices heard,” he said. “I would love to not feel suppressed.”
The organizers also wanted to highlight that because of Cornell’s COVID-19 guidelines and how, given the circumstances, it may not be a typical march.
The event is limited to 300 people — groups of 10 must sign up at least 48 hours in advance — and the route will be marched in a single file line of students six feet apart. Masks are mandatory and black attire and signage are encouraged.
“This march is an opportunity for our non-Black student-athletes and staff to show support for our Black teammates as a united front as we stand up against systemic racism,” St. John said.