Black History Month: Mason Holgate highlights importance of visible role models

Mason Holgate on representation: "To feel that you can influence a younger generation, I had that when I was young, I could see footballers [who looked like me]. To give that back to the next generation is important"

Mason Holgate is working with the Anthony Walker Foundation during Black History Month
Image: Mason Holgate is working with the Anthony Walker Foundation during Black History Month

Everton defender Mason Holgate says visible role models were key in his journey to becoming a Premier League footballer, and he is now determined to set that example for future generations.

Holgate has been working with anti-racism charity The Anthony Walker Foundation, teaming up with leaders from Liverpool's black community to celebrate the present and inspire future generations through representation.

The foundation was established after the racially motivated murder of Anthony Walker in Huyton, 2005. Since then the organisation has worked to promote racial justice, diversity and inclusion and runs a support service for those who have experienced hate crimes across the region.

As part of Black History Month, Holgate spoke to Sky Sports about the importance of representation in his journey and why he now wants to give back.

"Everton have been working with the Anthony Walker Foundation for a few years now on how to deal with racism, I got the opportunity during Black History Month," he said.

"[The murder of Anthony Walker] was a massive thing to happen not so long ago, to be able to bring it back to light, it is a special thing for me to do.

"To feel that you can influence a younger generation, I had that when I was young, I could see footballers [who looked like me]. To give that back to the next generation is important.

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"I was quite lucky, there were a lot of black footballers, people like Rio Ferdinand and Thierry Henry. They were coming out and speaking publicly about [racial inequality], raising awareness. When you see that it inspires you to think you can do it as well."

during the MLS All-Star Game at Red Bull Arena on July 27, 2011 in Harrison, New Jersey.
Image: Holgate says he was inspired by players like Rio Ferdinand and Thierry Henry

Black History Month has come towards the end of a year when the issue of racial equality has moved to the forefront following the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Holgate feels more people are now aware of what racial inequality entails.

"Anytime the awareness increases of what people are going through it is beneficial, it keeps the conversation going, it keeps people learning.

"It all triggered from the death of George Floyd, up until then there was a conversation but it became a major talking point.

"Generations growing up can be around others talking about race openly and see things need to change. It can't be something which is stopped in a month or two."

Holgate, who is working on the campaign alongside Liverpool City Council social worker Maleka Egeonu-Roby and the city's black Lord Mayor Cllr Anna Rothery, also understands representation needs to come at all levels from the boardroom to the mayor's office.

"It's massive, it is not just a problem in sport," he said. "Not everyone wants to be a sports person. To just speak about it in a sporting sense is not going to help enough. [Representation] needs to happen everywhere, in every situation, in every job title.

"I'm going to be beneficial to people who want to do sport or be a footballer, the mayor is going to be beneficial for a different audience."

Black History Month

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