Imani Lansiquot on George Floyd protests and fighting for Black Lives Matter

"It is time to not just wish for hope, but to be a hope for the future"

Mark Ashenden

Monday 8 June 2020 17:10, UK

Imani Lansiquot 3:27
Imani Lansiquot has opened up on a week of emotions and how she'll push for positive action.for Black Lives Matter

"My mental health, along with so many others, has become even more vulnerable during the past week and it's been difficult to even put my emotions into words. However, like Lebron James said, I felt it was time to be more than just an athlete."

The words of British sprinter Imani Lansiquot who calls it a "time of awakening" and has been ignited to "take an active stand against racism".

The 23-year-old Sky Sports Scholar, whose dad's family come from St Lucia and St Vincent, reveals her emotions about the worldwide protests since George Floyd's death, her experiences as a black athlete and her hopes for helping the Black Lives Matter movement.

"This past week has probably been one of the hardest I've been through as a young black woman and athlete. When I was a little girl, the world I imagined growing up in was governed by blind justice. Justice that is impartial and objective to race.

As the world watched George Floyd take his last breaths on May 25, we saw yet another act of police brutality ending a black life. The 88th act of US police brutality committed against a black person in 2020 alone. Another name to add to the long list of names whose lives have been failed by their justice system.

Another family left to grieve, when those who they trusted to protect, chose to attack.

It has been a time of awakening for a lot of people across the world; where the impact and presence of racism has been scrutinised under the magnifying glass. It has transcended the boundaries of politics, of nationality and of sport. It has shone a light onto the institutionalised racism that underlies and weaponizes our societies. It has brought us all together as one to choose change.

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George Floyd protest rally
Image: Protests over George Floyd's death have spread around the world

This is not just an American problem. It's not about 'them' or 'us'. Racism is a universal issue. So many black people, myself included, can attest to countless instances of overt and covert racism in the UK, where sadly, we have been seen for our race and not for who we are.

I am someone who has been filled with pride to represent my country and wear the union jack flag during laps of honour all over the world. But there have been times while representing my country, that my fire of pride has felt dampened by direct racist behaviours that have been expressed by others.

There have been times when even I have felt like an outsider.

My mental health, along with so many others, has become even more vulnerable during this past week and it has been difficult to even put my emotions into words. However, like Lebron James has said, I felt it was time to be more than just an athlete.

Imani Lansiquot 1:28
Lansiquot reveals her difficulties in adapting to a delayed Olympics with her university studies helping to focus her energies

Positive steps

I want to educate and be part of some positive action against racism, so that young girls and boys who look like me or are inspired by me, can be proud of who they are. So what can we do?

I think that the beginnings of any change in life starts with you as an individual. Introspection should precede external action. This could be addressing assumptions that are deeply held, yet we are rarely aware of.

Expressing opinion as opposed to being silent when friends, family or colleagues say things that are offensive or discriminatory of any nature.

Reading articles and case studies about race issues that we feel we are not educated enough on. Or even simpler, not being afraid to ask questions to better inform the language and knowledge that we use. At the end of the day, truth is at the foundation of awareness, and then from awareness we can ignite positive action.

Next, I think that this is an opportunity for organisations to be a part of the bigger picture of change that we want to see. It has been great to see so many brands in sport use their platforms to take an active stand against racism.

But it is time to not just wish for hope, but to be a hope for the future. In my own sport, I think that this would be a great opportunity to improve black representation in coaching and administrative roles and to see a governing body that reflects the incredible diversity and culture of its athletes. Remember, our leaders are in a position to be our greatest role models.

Anthony Joshua 1:35
World heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua joined the Black Lives Matter protest in his hometown of Watford. Pictures from Instagram/@anthonyjoshua

Historic changes

Finally, we need to keep our foot on the gas. One of my favourite quotes from author James Baldwin is: "If we do not falter now, we may be able to change the history of the world."

I have been comforted by seeing so many people use their platforms, no matter how big or small, to support the Black Lives Matter movement. However, this goes beyond a trend, a hashtag or a reposted picture and it is an ongoing reality that affects too many lives.

The place where you are born, where you base your identity and where you raise a family, should be a place where you have a seat at the table. We are one human race. Let's turn this past week's frustration into positive action.

A huge thank you to the Sky Sports Scholarships programme for giving me the platform to discuss something which is so important to me.