Athletes for Racial Justice champion social change

Student group uses platform to promote equity at the Academy.

By
Adam Loyd
March 15, 2022
Club leaders of Athletes for Racial Justice pose for a photo.

Athletes for Racial Justice leaders Mohammed Kane '22, Ifeoma Ajufo '22, Manan Mendiratta '22 and Akili Tulloch '22.

In the summer of 2020, as civil unrest gripped cities across the United States, many professional athletes added their voices to the chorus calling for an end to systemic racism. A year later, a group of student-athletes gathered to create a space on campus to contribute Exeter’s efforts in creating racial equity.

Founded by Manan Mendiratta ’22, Akili Tulloch ‘22, Mohamed Kane ’22 and Ifeoma Ajufo ‘22, Athletes for Racial Justice came together as a melding of a Core Values Project and independent work under the guidance of former instructor and coach Toyin Augustus.

“It was really motivational seeing those athletes in 2020 who did speak up and stopped playing as a form of protest. That geared a lot of our conversations and how we view ourselves. We're more than just athletes. That's a big thing that we prioritize. We have a voice and we have the platform at Exeter to try and speak up against these issues,” Ajufo says.

In 2022, the work continues with regular club meetings where the group of around 30 student-athletes of color discuss current events, brainstorm ways that to promote equity and inclusion on campus and work with other likeminded student groups.

“We had a joint meeting with the Girls in Sports club that was open to all Exonians where we talked about intersections between athletes of color and female athletes. I thought it was really successful,” says Kane.

The group also has a direct line to the Academy’s administration through weekly conversations with Athletic Director Jason Baseden and the support of Dean of Multicultural Affairs Sherry Hernandez and Associate Dean of Multicultural Student Affairs Hadley Camilus.

“When we present our problems to the administration, they're really willing to listen to us,” says Ajufo. “Mr. Baseden was one of our biggest supporters within the athletic department from the beginning.”

A shared initiative between the group and the administration is to create more diversity on the rosters of traditionally homogenous teams.

“Sports are passions at the end of the day and it’s something that you put a lot of time into, and the lack of representation shouldn't be what steers you away from playing a sport,” Kane says.

Ajufo continued, “Trying to recruit more diversity in the coaching staff would encourage more people to go into these sports. You should want to be excited and not turn away from being on a team because you don't feel welcome.”

During the winter term, the group hosted a dodgeball tournament in the Thompson Field House that included the OMA faculty with a surprising result.

“OMA beat all of our teams,” Ajufo says shaking her head and smiling. “It went by so fast for my team, it was a blur.”

With the club heads set to graduate in the spring, Kane hopes the group has established a foundation for future student-athletes of color to build on.

“Being able to continue those open conversations with the athletic department and participate in making those decisions that will impact the athletes of color on campus, that's one of the biggest legacies that I want to have left behind.”