Reflecting on Black history can lead to change, says student-athlete

Jenna Parris recognizes that history can be learned, but also lost.

The Brock women’s soccer forward wants to ensure Black history is not forgotten and that it continues to help shed light on important issues affecting society, such as systemic racism and discrimination.

Growing up in a Barbadian and Ukrainian household, Parris was exposed to a variety of cultural backgrounds and viewed Black history from a unique perspective.

“Researching Black history’s milestones reveals these extraordinary stories of struggle, achievements and perspective of how far we’ve come as a society and how far we have to go,” said the first-year Teacher Education student from Hamilton.

Brock University celebrates Black History Month and African Heritage Month in February to foster a culture of inclusivity while acknowledging the achievements of Black Canadians and beyond. A list of events taking place throughout the month is available on ExperienceBU.

On Feb. 1, Brock Sports and Recreation launched a fundraiser for its Black/Indigenous Heritage Student-Athlete (BIHS) bursary through proceeds of an ‘All for Change’ T-shirt and tickets to varsity home games.

Ten dollars from each shirt sold will go directly towards the BIHS bursary. Visit the online store to place an order.

While reflecting on Black history, Parris highlighted the history of the American Civil War, the Underground Railroad, Jackie Robinson breaking the colour barrier, Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus boycott and the Black Lives Matter movement.

“These moments in history promote awareness, education and cultural pride,” she said. “It has shed light on ongoing issues of systemic racism and discrimination. Our history is also full of excellence and love for each other, and those who want to celebrate.”

Parris credits her aunt, Kimberlyn Casciano, for playing a strong role in educating her about her cultural background.

“Growing up, she found interesting ways of engaging and educating me through stories, music and hairstyles,” Parris said. “She has taught me to not be afraid to stand out and to confidently be the person God has made me to be.”

That confidence enabled Parris to try out and start for the Brock varsity women’s soccer team as a walk-on. She finished second on the squad in regular season scoring by contributing two goals and an assist with 15 shots on target. Parris started 10 regular season games in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) and appeared in 12 total matches.

“Jenna is a fantastic representation of the Brock women’s soccer program. Her dedication to the team and her willingness to learn has aided Jenna in having a fantastic first year as a student athlete,” said head coach Carli Tingstad. “Jenna is an exciting attacking player. She has the pace to exploit space behind the opposition’s back line and can be dangerous from wide areas as well. We look forward to Jenna being a key contributor in the 2023 OUA season.”

Parris said her Brock experience has exceeded expectations while pursuing her career goal of becoming a teacher.

“I have desired to be a teacher all my life and was drawn to Brock’s highly recognized Concurrent Education program,” she said. “I’m excited to spend my university experience building new friendships and bonds with my teammates, creating a sense of community and belonging with a team so vibrant and a school that is so authentic.”

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