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Grambling State to host Brown Girls Do Gymnastics Conference with The Doug Williams Center

April 26, 2021Written by: Raven Thissel

The Ruston Lincoln Convention & Visitors Bureau supports the conference with eyes on changing the landscape of HBCU sports

Grambling, LA – On July 23-25, 2021, Brown Girls Do Gymnastics’ 5th Annual Conference will be hosted on Grambling State University’s campus in collaboration with The Doug Williams Center and Ruston Lincoln Convention & Visitor’s Bureau. The Conference aims to increase exposure and access to gymnastics among women and girls of color, provide mentorship from high-level gymnasts, and offer resources and information for the parents of these young gymnasts. Registration is open now for ages 6 and up to learn advanced gymnastics and acrobatic techniques.

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 Blazing a Trail for Gymnasts of Color

Just months after the untimely death of the first Black woman to win the U.S.A. Gymnastics national championship, Dianne Durham, Brown Girls Do Gymnastics (BGDG) leads a grassroots initiative to introduce competitive gymnastics to Historically Black Colleges & Universities’ (HBCU) athletic programming. Durham set the world stage for Black American gymnasts, paving a path for stars like Dominique Dawes, Gabby Douglas, and Simone Biles. Following their success, there has been a rise in national participation of young Black women and girls. According to the NCAA Demographics Database, 9% of Division I women gymnasts in 2019 were Black, a significant leap from 4.5% in 2008.

As the sport continues to produce Olympic qualifiers of color, there is a growing need to provide platforms for these athletes to pursue their craft while continuing their education in the safety of inclusive spaces like HBCUs. Because there are no HBCUs currently offering gymnastics programs, those who wish to pursue competitive gymnastics at the college level do not have the option to attend an HBCU. Grambling State University is answering this call by hosting this event and looking to the future.

“Our rich history of athletic excellence and Black firsts makes GSU the perfect home for the first HBCU competitive gymnastics program,” said President Rick Gallot. “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.”

Grambling State has a rich legacy of sports excellence including launching the careers of athletes like NBA champion Willis Reed, quadruple double queen Shakyla Hill and women’s basketball legend Patricia Cage Bibbs. Under the leadership of legendary Coach Eddie Robinson, the University’s football program has sent more players to the NFL than any other HBCU to date. One of those pioneering players was Doug Williams, the first Black quarterback to start and win a Super Bowl and now the namesake of Grambling State’s latest advancement arm, The Doug Williams Center. The Center is a learning commons founded to provide research and create real solutions to college and professional sports’ racial and gender disparities. The Center will work in tandem with BGDG and the University’s leadership to elevate access to this sport for prospective HBCU students.

“Access to sports creates opportunities and the lack of said access for Black and brown youth is a social justice issue,” said Raven Thissel, Marketing & PR Director of The Doug Williams Center. “Hosting the Brown Girls Do Gymnastics conference at Grambling State is our first step to introduce a new avenue for advancing girls and women of color.”

BGDG Conference Opens Doors for Young Gymnasts

Former Division 1 gymnast Tia Kaiku, who now attends North Carolina Central University has experienced the hardships associated with the lack of HBCU gymnastics programs.

“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.”

For students like Tia Kaiku, the chance to continue competitive gymnastics at an HBCU means the continuation of their athletic career. The BGDG conference is the first step toward introducing these programs to HBCUs.

“There’s something magical about being on an HBCU Campus whether you’re an alum, student or fan,” said Derrin Moore, founder of Brown Girls Do Gymnastics. “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.”

Previously, four BGDG Conferences have been hosted in Atlanta, GA, and in 2020 one was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 185 families from 15 states have attended along with national judges, elite coaches, and college recruiters who have led workshops for gymnasts and parents.

For more information or to register for the Conference, visit browngirlsdogymnastics.com. To learn more about investment and sponsorship opportunities for the first HBCU competitive gymnastics program, email advancementservices@gram.edu or call Grambling State’s Office of Institutional Advancement at 318.274.3330.

Click here to see the original press release.

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About Brown Girls Do Gymnastics
Brown Girls Do Gymnastics is an advocacy organization helping to guide Brown Girls through their acrobatic careers while promoting diversity in the sports of gymnastics and circus. Founded in 2015 by Derrin Moore, BGDG hosts conferences across the country to increase exposure and access to gymnastics and acrobatics for girls and young women of color. The organization has partnered with USA Gymnastics and Coppin State University among others to spread awareness and elevate the social causes of racial equity and sport access. Learn more about BGDG at browngirlsdogymnastics.com.

About Grambling State University
Grambling State University, located in Grambling, Louisiana, is a historically black university founded in 1901. The University has been accredited by 13 accrediting associations and holds accreditations in all programs required by the Louisiana Board of Regents. The 590-acre campus offers 43 undergraduate and graduate academic programs. Grambling State University is a member of the University of Louisiana System. For more information, visit gram.edu.

About The Doug Williams Center
Founded in 2020, The Doug Williams Center exists to build an ever-growing network of solutions for diversity and inclusion in collegiate and professional sports. The Center is a learning commons and advancement space for audiences to examine the history of race and politics in American sports and build holistic perspectives on the cultural impact to provide resources for ongoing social progress. With the support of its esteemed Advisory Board and multi-disciplinary academicians, the Center offers thought leadership and practical resources to sports industry entities. A hub for academic of research and development, The Doug Williams Center is an affiliate of Grambling State University.

Tags: Press

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