A Call for Change

Upon reading, reflecting, and listening, our organization asks, “Are we doing enough to fight racism in our club, in our community, in our sport?”

Here is where the Mid-South Fencers’ Club is today. I hope this post will promote more open dialogue about leveling the playing field in our sport. The recent racist comments and firing of an NCAA coach in addition to the Black Lives Matter movement should force all sport institutions, like fencing clubs, to reflect and act. These are the things our club is thinking and acting on as we acknowledge our own implicit biases. We can do better by:

More clearly showing how our club supports diversity through tiered membership options and scholarships. Pre-Covid we offered tiered memberships to allow more easy entry into participation. Formalizing this process to build diversity has been a challenge as an S-Corp. We are ramping up our conversations with the Durham Sports Commission, our Advisory Board, staff, and other local business owners about how to formalize our scholarship program and create more transparency in this process. 

Do we need a solidarity statement? (So many fell flat!) We prefer action over words, but this powerful letter from Temple Fencing written by the team and led by one of the few African American women coaches in the United States, Nikki Franke, should be elevated and serve as an example to follow. You can read it here.

When we hire, we try as hard as we can to seek out persons who reflect our community and/or the representation we desire to increase equity, access, and inclusion. If you share these same values, we want you here. The challenge of hiring for racial diversity among fencing professionals is real. We acknowledge this, and have been working with the United States Fencing Coaches’ Association to help start a corrective path and see if this is something the USFCA organization is willing and able to take on. We are also teaching our fencers to coach through our Teen Leadership Program. Who can guess what student today will be a coach tomorrow!?! 

Mid-South will increase and continue to foster relationships with local Black-owned businesses. These t-shirts from Bull City Apparel should look familiar!

Men’s foil team at the Charlotte NAC supporting Bull City Apparel.

Nationally, Coach Jen is co-founding a nonprofit organization to advance the sport of fencing by promoting diversity, unity and equity between women and men. Race cannot be ignored. Look for this organization, WFencing, to have an official launch soon. Networking through this organization has led us to connect with RISE, a national nonprofit that educates and empowers sports communities to  eliminate racial discrimination, champion social justice and improve race relations.  Through partnerships and programs, they inspire leaders in sport to create positive change on matters of race and equality. Examples of RISE’s programming and other work can be found on their website. Let’s get this conversation going and set goals for ourselves. Email Jen directly about how to get involved. 

We challenge our entire Fencing Community. An important question leaders can ask is, “What racist and misogynist behaviors have we overlooked for the sake of results, for the sake of winning?” Bring it to your Board, talk about it in your coaches meeting and ask your Advisory Board to reflect back. Ivan Lee, USA Fencing Referee and Black leader in our sport reflects,

Lastly, let’s celebrate evolution while we move forward. Feedback and suggestions are always welcomed and appreciated. Mid-South’s work in Durham reflects back to our greater fencing community. At every level of evolution our club is forced to listen to and participate in uncomfortable conversations. We want to thank everyone who, over time, has been willing to have dialogue with us. Bring your questions, concerns, comments, and support anytime. 

Speaking of celebrations, here’s East Coast Swag winning at Summer Nationals last year. With no Summer National Championships this summer, does this mean this team will remain the reigning National Championship Women’s Saber Team for two years? Go Team!

 

Respectfully,

 

Coach Jen and Mid-South Staff 

 

 

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