With all the issues of racism raised in 2020, a group of Black student-athletes from NVU-Johnson have come together out of a desire to ignite change at the college and Lamoille community. The Coalition of Minority Student-Athletes (COMSA) has started with four minority student-athletes Ayo Shokeye, Floyd Davis, Devyn Thompson and Porsche Johnson. Ayo and Devyn are the co-presidents of COMSA. COMSA’s mission is to advocate for student-athletes of color at NVU-Johnson, regardless of their sport, race, class, sexuality, gender identities and religious affiliations.
Our group is open to all minority students, providing a support system in which students of color can freely discuss their respective experiences on and off the playing surfaces at a predominately white institution. COMSA is intended to encourage communication between the NVU-Johnson Athletics Department and its minority student-athletes as well as to create dialogue surrounding the experiences of students of color to the larger NVU-Johnson community.
In just three meetings, the group has grown and has engaged all our members to have confidence to express how they feel within a predominately-white athletic department and institution. Members have stated the following: “This has become our home away from home,” “I feel excited about just opening up on how I feel being an athlete of color, and COMSA has been our safe space.”
Coach Miles Smith who is the staff advisor for COMSA stated, “I have learned so much from Ayo, Floyd, Devyn and Porsche being the only person of color in Athletics and being 1 of 3 minority staff members on campus. I needed this Coalition more than our students know.”
With the recent passing of Mamadou N’Diaye, the group talked about how it felt around his passing. It seems like our campus has moved on, but being a part of this group, there is a connection to someone that we all lost that was very close to our hearts. COMSA has been working to educate student-athletes and coaches on the importance of voting and voter registration. With student-athletes representing 24 different states, COMSA has worked closely with the athletics communication office to help educate students on voter education and registration.
COMSA will also be connecting with the students in the BIPOC community in Lamoille County to provide a safe space for the youth as well. Coach Smith stated, “For the last 6 graduation ceremonies that I’ve attended at NVU-Johnson, our minority students are graduating without ever having a professor that looks like them. I can only imagine what that looks like for students in the Lamoille County BIPOC community ages K-12. There is a strong need for the Lamoille County BIPOC students to freely discuss their respective experiences. COMSA will look to give them that opportunity. COMSA means more to us than just another group that is [on] our campus. This is the beginning of a remarkable family that will continue to cultivate self-confident leaders and educators.”