There are currently no HBCU gymnastics programs, despite how prominent black women have become in the sport.
However, there is a movement growing to change that.
Grambling State University is set to host the fifth annual “Brown Girls Do Gymnastics” conference this July in collaboration with The Doug Williams Center and Ruston Lincoln Convention & Visitor’s Bureau. The organization is pushing a grassroots initiative to introduce competitive gymnastics to HBCUs.
“Our rich history of athletic excellence and Black firsts makes GSU the perfect home for the first HBCU competitive gymnastics program,” Grambling State President Rick Gallot said. “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.”
Tia Kaiku grew up participating in gymnastics in Apex, North Carolina, right outside of Raleigh. She excelled at the sport and started her collegiate career at Ball State before transferring to Alabama. At one point, she was voted as the program’s “Unsung Hero.” But she soon left the program and the school after a series of racist incidents.
Now at North Carolina Central, Kiaku is hoping that in the near future, HBCU gymnastics programs can become a reality so that black girls can pursue the sport they love without have to deal with such instances.
“Not only is representation important, but it is essential,” Kiaku said. “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.”
Brown Girls Do Gymnastics founder Derrin Moore and her organization are dedicated to pushing for that to happen.
“There’s something magical about being on an HBCU Campus whether you’re an alum, student or fan,” Moore said. “Knowing that the space was created for us by our ancestors is truly amazing. We want our gymnasts to have a chance to experience that while continuing to compete in the sport that they love.”
The “Brown Girls Do Gymnastics” conference will take place on July 23-25.