In its efforts to increase exposure and access to gymnastics among girls and women of color, Grambling State University is collaborating with the Doug Williams Center and Ruston Lincoln Convention and Visitors Bureau to deliver the latest installment of the Brown Girls Do Gymnastics Conference.
Scheduled from July 23-25, the conference will provide mentorship from accomplished gymnasts in addition to resources and information for parents. Following the untimely passing of Dianne Durham (the first Black woman to win the USA Gymnastics national championship) in February, Brown Girls Do Gymnastics looks to honor her memory and trailblazing contributions to the sport by providing a platform for athletes to master their craft while continuing their education in inclusive spaces like HBCUs. This is important because despite the fact that Black athletes continue to qualify for the Olympics, there aren’t any HBCUs that currently offer gymnastics programs. So athletes that wish to pursue gymnastics competitively have to attend schools that aren’t HBCUs.
By hosting this event, Grambling State University is being proactive in addressing this dynamic. It’s also the perfect school to do so, considering its robust legacy of sports excellence. Legendary football coach Eddie Robinson sent more players to the NFL than any other HBCU to date, and Grambling also gave us NBA legend Willis Reed, women’s basketball icon Patricia Cage Bibbs, and Doug Williams, who became the first quarterback to start and win a Super Bowl in 1988.
“Our rich history of athletic excellence and Black firsts makes GSU the perfect home for the first HBCU competitive gymnastics program,” Grambling president Rick Gallot said in a statement to The Root. “The need is clear and we are motivated by the opportunity we can provide for young gymnasts of color. With the right partners and sponsors, we are ready to bring the sport to life right here on our campus and build a platform for young women to advance their athletic and academic pursuits.”
Former Division 1 gymnast Tia Kaiku, who now attends North Carolina Central University, knows firsthand how the absence of HBCU gymnastics programs has a significant impact on Black athletes.
“Not only is representation important, but it is essential,” Kiaku said in a statement to The Root. “Hopefully, an HBCU gymnastics program will not only give young African American girls the exposure to gymnastics, but it will also give them the opportunity to take their talents to an HBCU.”
For those interested in attending, hit up their website to learn how you can register.