The LA84 Foundation presented its Seventh Annual Summit on Thursday, October 18 at the JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. LIVE.
LA84 President and CEO, Renata Simril, kicked things off by welcoming the attendees and previewing what was coming up in an insightful and powerful day.
“We have an exceptional program and great line up of speakers. Each of one them using their platforms to take action on important social justice issues,” Simril said. “And, each one of them is engaged in meaningful and impactful work that is creating greater opportunities for youth across this country.”
Highlighting the 50-year anniversary of Tommie Smith, John Carlos and Peter Norman’s iconic protest at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico, the theme of the 2018 Summit was: Athlete Activism + Social Justice: Taking Action for Our Youth.
Simril paid homage to the three man by referencing a former president.
“Today, we wanted to celebrate how the power of sport can change the world and how, to paraphrase President Obama, ‘a silent and powerful protest in the 1968 Olympic Games woke folks up and created greater opportunity for those that followed.'”
The LA84 Foundation has used the power of sport to create opportunity for those who need it most. Simril referenced research date from across the country which shows that the lower the household income, the less like a kid is to play sports.
“That’s why we coined the phrase: PE – Play Equity Is a Social Justice Issue.” Simril said. “Hiding in plain sight, there is a national crisis in play.”
Simril gave examples of how PE classes in public middle schools have been cut down from five days per week to just one-to-two hours. With funding being cut in cities like New York and Oakland, more needs to be done to help keep kids active.
“Years of disastrous funding and policy decisions are leaving our most vulnerable kids behind,” Simril said. “Travel team, club teams and a pay-to-play system has left many out of the game entirely.”
When opportunities are available, children from underserved areas can thrive.
Simril referenced Caylin Moore, a South LA native, who went on to become a Rhodes Scholar.
“Here’s the deal as we see it; talent is universal but opportunity is not – it fuels our dreams and lifts us past our limits,” Simril said. “But not all youth have equal access to opportunity: quality fields of play that are safe, competitive teams, equipment, or well-trained coaches and mentors.”
Athletes who have spoken up about social justice issues have often been ostracized at first, but many have went on to become beloved figures.
“Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Althea Gibson – and courageous others – but that iconic moment on October 16, 1968 – it woke up the world,” Simril said. “Others like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Arthur Ash, and Billie Jean King – their legacies still endure and continue to inspire generations of athletes who’ve come after them to speak up and speak out when their moment is upon them.”
Simril wrapped up her opening remarks by reminding the attendees that they have the power within him to transform the injustices they see on a daily basis.
“People who believe they can change the world are usually the ones who do.”