Tartans Form Black and Latinx Athlete Coalition
(PITTSBURGH, Pa.) – Carnegie Mellon University students are problem solvers driven to explore the questions that lead to change. This trait, along with the passion and knowledge to enact change, has led a group of Tartan student-athletes to be pioneers and form the Black and Latinx Athlete Coalition (BLAC) to build a cohesive, centralized affinity group and network of support, camaraderie and mentorship among Black and Latinx student-athletes and alumni.
The formation of Carnegie Mellon BLAC comes in light of the recent increased visibility of the systemic oppression of and violence against people of color, especially Black individuals, in this country. Currently, Black student-athletes only make up 3.3 percent of the population in CMU Athletics.
“I am proud of our students for forming this important coalition and look forward to our collaborative efforts to help Carnegie Mellon become a more diverse and inclusive community,” said Director of Athletics Josh Centor. “Systemic racism continues to be evident in our everyday society and we must take action. Our department has instituted a number of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives over the past few months and will launch our DEI strategic plan in the coming weeks. This announcement from our students paves the way for the work we must do together, and the work we must do now.”
One of the missions of Carnegie Mellon BLAC is to work with the athletics administration to hold staff, coaches and fellow student-athletes accountable for attitudes and actions that do not promote an environment of inclusive excellence.
“CMU is not a bubble, it’s not exempt from addressing these issues of inequity and racism,” said junior football player Obi Nnaeto, one of two co-leads of BLAC. “As student-athletes, we’re starting with our community within athletics as an avenue to bring change to our campus. One of our main aspirations is creating a strong sense of community for underrepresented minorities in athletics so that they do not feel as isolated as they might across all other parts of student life. Having open and consistent dialogue with coaching staffs and athletic administrators will go a long way in helping to promote this.”
Another mission of the coalition is to establish a legacy of diversity, equity and inclusive excellence through actively serving as ambassadors in the process of recruiting more underrepresented minority student-athletes to address the current lack of representation within our programs.
“The CMU experience for students of color is different and challenging in ways that many of our peers don’t necessarily understand or empathize with,” said senior men’s tennis player Joshua Pinckney, a co-lead of BLAC. “As current student-athletes from underrepresented minority groups, we want to advocate for more diversity and inclusion starting with the individuals that we recruit to join our community. That may look like sharing our experiences with prospective student-athletes of color or connecting them to alumni in their hometowns that they have affinity with.”
The group is also committed to working to empower the Black and Latinx youth of Pittsburgh in underserved communities through sustained partnership and service with community organizations with missions that align with their desired impact.
RJ Holmes is a first-year athlete on the men’s basketball team and will serve as the vice president for member engagement.
“I want to make sure that the Black athletes are utilizing each other while at CMU. As a Black athlete anywhere, especially at a predominately white institution such as CMU, it’s hard for athletes to feel heard within their sport and furthermore within their department,” said Holmes. “As the VP, I plan on making sure that the Black athletes are made aware of and utilize this resource that is so integral to their success. Because there are so few Black student-athletes and because they are spread out across so many sports it is important to have a centralized group so that student-athletes don't feel alone in the athletics department or in their sport.”
Read the full Carnegie Mellon BLAC Statement.