Q&A with Black Players for Change & Black Women’s Player Collective

We sat down with Quincy Amarikwa, Imani Dorsey, Justin Morrow, Ifeoma Onumonu, and Jasmyne Spencer of Black Players for Change and Black Women’s Player Collective to learn more about their aspirations for their organizations and the 12 new mini-pitches being installed across the country.

Why did you decide to get involved in Black Players for Change or the Black Women’s Player Collective?

Quincy Amarikwa: I joined the BPC because I was motivated to continue to invest my time in collaboration with my fellow Black professionals in making meaningful impact. I was originally brought on board to help lead the charge of building the organization’s culture, structure, and standard operating procedures as the interim Executive Director. My role has since shifted to focus on the development of strategic partnerships and raising funds for the organization’s mission and initiatives, as well as an advisory role to all Executive Board members.

Jasmyne Spencer: I decided to get involved with the BWPC because it enables me to continue my efforts of giving back to my community on a larger scale. It’s been so exciting to work alongside my peers to launch initiatives that will provide resources to the Black community while also serving as an example to demonstrate what a group of strong and powerful Black women can accomplish.

What do you want people to know about your organization?

JS: I want people to know that BWPC is truly a sisterhood of incredible Black women who share the common goal of breaking down barriers and elevating young girls of color. We may have been united through sport, but our vision is to change the current landscape across all major industries so that Black women can be seen and celebrated for the innovative leaders we are.

Justin Morrow: Black Players for Change is a special organization because it is completely player led. With this, we have created a space for players to feel comfortable and we’re extremely proud of this. When we hold meetings, we work on the impactful initiatives we are implementing, but we also talk about now and how we are being treated right now. Players aren’t afraid to speak up amongst each other and that’s not always the case, especially for a group that has been marginalized for a long time.

Why did you start this mini-pitch partnership? How does this partnership help your cause?

JM: One of our pillars of our organization is creating access to the game for underserved communities. Our partnership with U.S. Soccer Foundation was organic because they have been fulfilling that mission for some years already. We immediately saw value in working with each other because our partnership strengthens the initiative in many ways. With Safe Places to Play and Soccer for Success, we can circumvent this play-to-play system that is excluding so many minorities. By including professional players that often come from these very places, we can show that the dream is real and forge a lasting connection with these communities.

Imani Dorsey: The BWPC wanted to be a part of this mini-pitch partnership because we felt it was important to have a female voice at the table. I attended the first BPC mini-pitch opening in Newark, and while it was a fantastic event, it was drastically missing the presence of younger girls and female pros. Pickup soccer has been formative for my development as a player and just overall passion and love for the sport, yet I know how intimidating those environments can be because they oftentimes are dominated by the boys. I want young girls to see these pitches as a safe space where they are welcomed and encouraged to play, and I feel BWPC can help support that endeavor.

The BWPC’s mission is to elevate the image, value, and representation of Black women as athletes and leaders. A large part of the way we intend to carry out our mission is through the medium of soccer. I have learned so many life lessons from my time as a player, yet I think I have played for one Black female coach so far in my career. While it is not only important to get more girls involved with the sport, the BWPC wants to provide more Black, female leaders in the sport with opportunities as well. U.S. Soccer Foundation’s Soccer for Success program already understands how important it is for young people to have mentors and role models in their lives. And the BWPC wants to have Black female leaders interacting with young people, especially young, Black girls consistently. While the mini-pitches provide us with a community and place to play, the BWPC hopes to use these pitches as a catalyst for programming that focuses on a variety of subjects including mental health, wellness, and education alongside soccer.

QA: We started the mini-pitch partnership because we’re committed to investment at all levels of our game, especially at the grassroots level. These mini-pitches addressed a real barrier—lack of access to a safe place to play, something that leaves too many Black youth from having a path to build equity in our game. Partnering with U.S. Soccer Foundation, Musco, and adidas was a monumental moment in US soccer history. It was our first step in creating real, tangible assets invested in local communities and it serves as a launching pad for future investment over the long term.

How can others get involved and help at the ground level in their communities?

ID: First of all, if you want to stay up to date on the happenings of the BWPC, follow us on our social media handles: @Blackwplayercollective for Instagram and @BWP_Collective for Twitter.

The best thing a person can do to help at the ground level in their communities is to encourage and uplift young girls, no matter what they want to do. Far too often, girls are told all of the reasons they can’t do something. We need more leaders who encourage girls to follow their dreams and help them find opportunities to do so. We believe the mini-pitches are a safe space for anyone at any level of experience to discover the game of soccer and the community that comes with it. Therefore, concerning the mini-pitches specifically, be the person that works to include and support everyone, whether it is through your actions or words.

JM: Our initiative is about serving the communities that need these fields. We want to grow the game, but we want to do it with equality in mind. Please get in touch with U.S. Soccer Foundation if your community could use a mini-pitch. If a mini-pitch already exists by you, please get involved. Our idea of success is seeing more Black and Brown kids playing this game.

QA: I think the most important part of getting involved is listening to the people of these communities. If you spend enough time being present and actually listening, you’ll discover the best ways in which you can help do what is needed, not how you feel is best.

What are your plans for the future? In five years, where do you see the organization?

Ifeoma Onumonu: In speaking about the future of the organization, we plan on expanding the current projects we are working on and adding more through the years. We hope to mentor, educate, and supply scholarships to Black women to become leaders across the industry. Ideally, our hopes are that we can pass on the BWPC to capable hands outside of the athletes in the NWSL. There will still be major player involvement within the league, but with our growth plan that we hope for, the BWPC will have expanded outside of just soccer and into multiple facets of media.

QA: My experience in the league has been a grind, as should be the road of a professional athlete. After over 10+ years of a professional career, I can self-reflect on much of my process and know very clearly that many mechanisms that are in place have become obsolete. I plan to use this platform to address, improve, and change those mechanisms to become more equitable.

#TogetherThereWillBeChange

JM: We’ve built this organization for now and the future so that the next generation of Black players will have a voice. In five years’ time, I see our organization as an integral part of FIFA World Cup 2026. Everyone knows the leaps by which the game grows after each World Cup. We want to use that opportunity to celebrate our diversity in North American soccer which will capture the attention of a new generation of young Black players.

Follow this link to learn more about the BPC/BWPC partnership to install 12 mini-pitches nationwide in partnership with adidas, Musco Lighting, and the U.S. Soccer Foundation.

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    adidas, the Foundation’s Safe Places to Play – Mini-Pitch Partner, supports providing children in underserved communities with safe play spaces nationwide. adidas strives to be the globally leading and most popular sporting goods brand. Dedicated to innovation,  adidas embraces creativity and seeks to be socially responsible in all facets of its brand. For more information, please visit adidas.com.

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    Target announced a national partnership with Safe Places to Play in 2017, along with a $6 million commitment to build 100 new soccer play spaces with the U.S. Soccer Foundation by 2020. This is the latest initiative in the Minneapolis-based retailer’s multi-dimensional approach to the sport of soccer, bringing the game to more kids and families across the country, and unlocking access and increasing involvement at all levels.

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