Two weeks ago, Missouri head women’s soccer coach Bryan Blitz watched from the east-side bleachers inside Memorial Stadium as one of his student-athletes took center stage.
At the conclusion of the debut event for the Mizzou Black Student Athlete Association – a peaceful march protesting social justice issues from the Columns on Francis Quadrangle – Keiarra Slack, the MBSAA vice president and junior women’s soccer player, spoke for nearly 10 minutes about her experiences with racial injustice.
“It was incredible,” Blitz said of the peaceful march. “My wife went on the walk with me as well as with the group. I’ve been here 25 years, that was the most positive thing that I’ve been involved in with the athletic department.
“You saw people from Stephens College and Columbia College and the general student population, it was amazing and it was moving. I didn’t know what to expect one way or the other. And then really, I knew (Keiarra) was involved, but her words that she put together were awesome, especially to be a Black female athlete or Black woman, I think that was really great for us and our team.”
Larger public events protesting racial injustice have been ongoing with MU athletics since early June, when a peaceful march from the Columns to the Boone County Courthouse transpired in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death.
As support for the MBSAA grows inside the university and awareness of their objectives become more widespread, Slack’s message of vulnerability shown on Sept. 2 will be remembered.
Slack spoke of how treating everyone with respect is a human issue, not a political one, and how younger African Americans such as Trayvon Martin and Breonna Taylor lost their lives because of racial injustice.
“I just turned 57. So, I’m an old dude … I couldn’t have done that at her age,” Blitz said of Slack’s speech. “That was impressive. That inspired me and I think it inspired all of us on our team.
“So, it was fantastic because we asked them ‘What do you want from the staff and the coaches because this is a student-led thing? We want to support you how you want to be supported.’ And their answer: ‘We want you there.’ And we’re like ‘Awesome. Okay, cool.’
“And so, we just supported them and a lot of us, we just watched and we’re so proud … I could have not been that articulate at her age. I would’ve bumbled all over the joint, no matter how passionate I was for anything in my life, I couldn’t have been that mature and moving in speaking to a large group and speaking to something I was so passionate about. So it was, it was awesome in all forms. I was thankful to be there.”
At the end of Slack’s 10-minute speech, Blitz and her teammates in attendance gave her a standing ovation.
“It was an unreal experience,” Missouri junior Zoe Cross said of taking part in the march. “It was great. Keiarra is trying to make change on campus and I think it’s such an important topic that on our team has been a central aim since the start of lockdown. And it’s something that we feel very passionate about… one of our main goals is to make sure as a team that we’re all inclusive and we’re all one. It’s something that we’re going to carry on throughout the season and for everyone to carry on throughout the rest of their lives.”
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