When Daelon Floyd ’21 first came to Lewis & Clark, he experienced a culture shock.
The power forward had been the co-president of the Black Student Union at his high school and had even spoken at graduation. But at LC, Floyd quickly noticed an unspoken division among the student body. Student athletes kept to themselves on the athletic part of campus while the rest of the student body remained on the academic side.
Initially, Floyd had attempted to become active in other parts of campus life. During his first year, he applied to be an intern for Student Leadership & Service. After he did not pass the interview stage, Floyd decided to apply himself to other parts of his life.
“I was just (focusing) on myself, my team and my studies,” Floyd said.
That changed last summer when an unarmed Black man — George Floyd — was killed at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department. His death set off a slew of protests across the country. At LC, the athletic department was also spurred into action.
According to Director of Physical Education & Athletics Mark Pietrok, the LC athletic administration began focusing on the foundational bricks necessary to build a sustainable network for student athletes of color.
“We are trying to make sure we have that awareness at a level that we can support our student athletes,” Pietrok said.
Floyd, along with his teammate Brendan Patrick ’23, were appointed leaders of their team by Head Men’s Basketball Coach Tim McCrory.
“We would lead these conversations about social justice and what it looked like for us as Black men,” Floyd said. “And how we felt about these things going on around us that obviously had implications for us.”
It was McCrory who connected Floyd to Interim Director of Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement (IME) Dominique Gardner. Since her transition from the office of Campus Living to IME in 2014 Gardner had been actively advocating for student athletes of color after noticing the little engagement they had with IME.
“I asked the question of, well, if we’re here serving students of color, and there’s a significant portion of students of color within athletics, we need to do more to collaborate,” Gardner said.
Floyd was offered a summer internship with IME that focused on social justice and male athletes of color. It was out of this opportunity that The Locker Room was born. Floyd created the name in an effort to mirror the important conversations happening in the Pamplin Sports Center locker rooms. The Men of Color Collective was formed within this program. In the future, IME hopes to expand and include more collectives aimed at different groups of student athletes of color, particularly non-binary and female identifying athletes.
Along with encouraging community service, engagement and providing a support network, The Locker Room was created to recognize and validate the existence of student athletes of color, both in athletics and academics.
“This program is trying to set this foundation of how athletes of color want to be represented at this school,” Floyd said.
The Locker Room is currently being led by Floyd in its pilot year. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, it may remain in the pilot stage longer than originally anticipated. Yet the program owes its funding almost entirely to those same restrictions.
“Because (IME) had to go so virtual this year, we had room in our budget … Typically a lot of our money goes to programming,” Gardner said. “That was a huge chunk of money that I wanted to continue to benefit students.”
The Locker Room/Men of Color Collective were able to host their first event last fall, when COVID-19 restrictions had eased up. The eighteen students who attended the socially distanced dinner were excited to dicsuss their hopes for the program.
During this process it was apparent to Gardner that more than ever students of color at LC needed to have these spaces.
“Walking into a space that’s full of people of color, people that look like you, is so refreshing, that you don’t even realize you need it until you need it,” she said.
The program has also received a substantial amount of support from the athletic department. According to Floyd and Gardner, multiple coaches from the football team and members of athletic administration reached out to offer assistance to the group. Pietrock, in particular, expressed hope that the program would expand to include support for female athletes of color as well.
All of that is yet to come. Floyd, Gardner and the rest of the group have big dreams for the program. However, they intend on taking it slow in order to create a strong and sustainable foundation that will continue to serve student athletes of color for a long time.
For information about upcoming events regarding The Locker Room/Men of Color Collective, follow @menofcolorcollective on Instagram. Any suggestions or ideas for future events may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.