Earlier this week we sat down with Mercedes MacAlpine. Mercedes is a Public Ally serving as a Program Leader for Husky Sport in addition to her role on the SNAP4CT team with Husky Programs. We talked about the opportunity to utilize sport as a vehicle for other ideas, the importance and limitations of relationships, and her experiences doing social justice work.
“Leadership is lacking is because we don't identify what leadership looks like in a broad enough sense. I think the common understanding of leadership is an individual who is charismatic and loud and has all the right words to say. That isn't the case. There are all sorts of people who lead -- Public Allies, ‘everyone leads,’ right -- but what does that look like? I think sport can be a useful vehicle in that sense. For example, on an american football team, the assumption is that the quarterback is the one leading the team, not leaving space for the other integral roles on the field to get their proper respect. People add value and motivate one another in different ways. In a cheerleading sense, the way a traditional stunt is set up, you have two bases, a backspot, and a flyer. Each one is important and there are different body types and strength levels that are important. If there is no flyer, who is going up? If there is no back spot, the stunt is unsafe. Everyone is necessary and everyone has a unique and specific role. If we acknowledge and approach leadership and athletics from that framework, the two have a deeper resonance. It creates the opportunity for sport to serve as a real vehicle of ideas and concepts beyond simple competition. “
“On the most fundamental level, relationships help you develop your humanity. You move beyond a self oriented being into an understanding of a shared existence. I think that affirmation of humanity is important to doing honest social justice work that can be accountable and effective but is also important in just moving through the world. While I believe in the power of building relationships across the boundaries that separate our society, it’s just a start. We need to take the time to understand what honest and sincere relationships look like and how to build them. We need to understand the process of self reflection and criticism. We need to develop an understanding of injustice. I think we are seeing the results of a world where people misattribute injustice willfully in the interest of maintaining their level of power or comfort. We need to make it clear to people what we are fighting against and why. People need to understand how they can be a part of it. So again, expanding leadership. People have a voice as long as they are breathing, the question is to what end we are activating that voice.”
“Amherst uprising was sparked by a student led sit in that transformed into a student occupation of the library and the creation and delivery of demands to the president, the trustees, and the college as an institution. This sparked an internal conversation about social justice on Amherst’s campus which was meant to generate lasting community action for social justice on the part of students, so something that couldn't be co-opted by faculty or administration. The thing that’s frustrating is that people don't understand that it was organic. Yes it was an explicit social justice action, but beyond that, it was a massive expression of human affirmation. I remember sitting in the library sobbing, hearing the depth of people's pain and thinking about things that I and the students before me had gone through, and being so hopeful. We are young people and we are the future. If this can happen here, there is no reason that can't happen everywhere. There's no reason why this small moment can't get bigger. There were six or seven hundred people in that library. If each one of those people goes out into the world with what they experienced, even if they don't become activists, on some level each one of those people changed and have the tools change other people as well. When I think back on that moment and all the people that literally stood up and supported one another because they could, because they wanted to, I am hopeful. I know that can happen again.”