Racial Justice Education in Figure Skating

We hurt for our broken communities and the pain being felt all across the country. We stand together with the victims of murder, violence, and repression because of their skin color. As inclusion is one of American Ice Theatre’s  Core Values, we believe it is imperative that we speak up and engage the figure skating community in working together against racial injustice. 

Those of us in leadership at American Ice Theatre are not members of the Black community. With humility, AIT recognizes we weren’t doing enough, and the George Floyd murder has ignited our commitment to taking action. We are encouraged, like so many, to more actively pursue this work, to stand with and support people of color, and strive to be an active voice of change for the figure skating community as a whole.

Figure skating is historically a sport of privilege. Its affordability, accessibility, and elitism has created a system still in place today where marginalized people do not have equal opportunity to participate. 

As a figure skating community, we share the love felt when the ice is under our skates and the self expression realized when we freely glide, jump, spin, and move through the cold air. It would be a continued injustice for our community to perpetually hinder that feeling for someone who yearns to experience it, but may not be able to because of the color of their skin and the opportunities unavailable to them. 

The following resources are intended to shine a light on the people and organizations making an active stand for racial justice and also to provide supplementary materials for further understanding on the racial injustices that still exists within the structure of figure skating. For those of us with privilege, we must do the work to not only understand the uneven playing field that exists in figure skating and beyond, but then we must rise to action to actively change it. 

We discovered Get It Called has put together a similar resource list for figure skating. Its google document specifically lists resources for synchronized skating teams and skaters. We are encouraged by more and more resources becoming available!

ORGANIZATIONS

Brownbody

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Based in the Twin Cities and founded by Deneane Richburg, Brownbody offers productions, learn to skate classes, and educational training affirming black communities and experiences. 

“Brownbody’s mission is to build artistic experiences that disrupt biased narratives and prompt audiences to engage as active participants on the journey. Brownbody accomplishes these things through a blend of modern dance, theater, social justice, and figure skating.”

Brownbody is a multi-genre artistic vehicle that critically reframes cultural memory as a force of truth and beauty that continues to evolve through performance, conversation and in the act of coming together. Focused on the historically rooted trauma of Black communities living in the U.S., we cultivate time and space for reflection, healing, and celebration through our donation-based learn to skate lessons, community dialogues and embodied racial consciousness workshops, and artistic work. 

Color of Ice Productions

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Founded by professional skater Rory Flack, the company stems from shows she has created including Ebony on Ice, featuring an all African-American cast. Rory is the first African-American to win the U.S. Professional Championships.

Diversify Ice 

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Founded by Joel Savary, a U.S. National and International figure skating coach based in Washington D.C., Diversify Ice is a non-profit providing scholarship, mentorship, networks, and opportunities, for minorities in figure skating. He is the author of the book  “Why Black and Brown Kids Don’t Ice Skate” (linked below) where he outlines many of the issues plaguing the sport and provides strategies for infusing diversity to reinvigorate the sport overall.

Figure Skating in Harlem

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Created as a safe space for young girls to achieve academic excellence and physical well-being through the lens of figure skating, Figure Skating in Harlem helps girls transform their lives and grow in confidence, leadership and academic achievement. FSH’s holistic approach to youth development recognizes that both academic achievement and health education play a pivotal role in combating systemic challenges that girls face, especially those growing up within a culture of generational poverty. The organization, the only one for girls of color that combines the power of education with access to the artistic discipline of figure skating, was founded by Sharon Cohen. 

Figure Skating in Detroit

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An extension of Figure Skating in Harlem, Figure Skating in Detroit continues the mission of helping girls transform their lives and grow in confidence, leadership and academic achievement. Geneva Williams, the Detroit Site Leader, says, “Figure Skating in Detroit is designed to help young girls build a foundation on ice…a place and a program where young women can realize their full potential through access to information, resources and experiences that may otherwise be out of reach.”

 

IceReach

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IceReach is a non-profit outreach program for ice sports. Their mission is to promote participation, diversity and improved health & wellness through all four Olympic ice sports including figure skating. IceReach was created in 2004 by Ann Marie Shipstad. Inspired by her father and her mother’s efforts to expand diversity in ice sports, as part of her thesis project for her master’s degree at Northwestern University, she started doing free ice sport lessons in Chicago.  This free programming has been recognized and now funded by the City of Chicago, with hopes to expand into more urban areas.

Kids On Ice

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The Kids On Ice® (KOI) program, provides figure skating, hockey and speed skating lessons to children 5-18. This program is unique in that all three types of skating are Olympic sports, it offers programming to both boys and girls, and parents can choose from either a team sport or an individual sport.

 

ARTICLES & BOOKS

Skater Asher Hill sees hypocrisy in racial equality statements issued by sports teams, organizations

“Figure Skating’s Diversity History” article by the Washington Post

From White Wash to Black Ice: Black Athletes in Unexpected Places

Why Black and Brown Kids Don’t Ice Skate: A discourse on the disparities of race in figure skating

Racism thwarted skater’s ambition

The Rebellious, Back-Flipping Black Figure Skater Who Changed the Sport Forever

Standing Out in Synchro: My Experience as a Black Synchronized Skater

Black History Month Just Ended, but the Conversation Can’t: Figure skating coach Asher Hill on barriers and biases he’s seen in his sport

Detroit Figure Skating Program Aims to Increase Racial Representation In the Sport

PODCASTS

“On the Edge” Radiolab podcast episode on Surya Bonaly 

Manleywoman Skatecast with Debi Thomas 

Manleywoman Skatecast with Rory Flack

VIDEOS

Mabel Fairbanks and Breaking the Color Barrier in Figure Skating

Rebel on Ice

This Figure Skating Program Is Helping Young Woman of Color Fight Discrimination

Diversify Ice News Report

Diversify Ice Foundation aims to bring diversity to figure skating nationwide

Brownbody | Performing Arts

Rory Flack Color of Ice Productions

FUNDRAISERS

Brampton Hill Skating Academy  — a Black-owned figure skating school in Canada that’s main goal is to create a safe space for minority and figure skaters of color to train at. They are actively fighting for more representation in the sport with the help of a diverse team of coaching staff.

BUSINESSES

Princess and Her Frog — business owned by Mariyah Gerber and her husband Peter, Princess and Her Frog sells a variety of personalized items that promote diversity and inclusion in the figure skating world.

PETITIONS

Get Skate Canada to Reopen Asher Hill’s Case  — The Figure Skating Diversity and Inclusion Alliance’s Demands:

1. We demand that Asher’s Case is reopened

2. We demand that Skate Canada hires their own third party investigators to do the investigation.

3. We demand that Skate Canada removes Asher’s Letter of reprimand on his file.

Watch the CBC Interview with Asher

SHARE, CONNECT & CONTRIBUTE

Please share these resources with your networks so we can continue to connect through open dialogue. We welcome your input to the list of resources above. We plan to keep adding to it and will maintain it as a living document for the figure skating community. Please email info@americanicetheatre.org to contribute additional links or make suggestions.

Let’s keep this conversation alive and maintain collaboration both on- and off- the ice to stand for equality of all people.