COMSA: finding safety and support

This fall, the NVU-Johnson athletics department founded the Coalition of Minority Student-Athletes (COMSA).
“Having a minority-based student-athlete group on campus creates a safe space for us,” said
co-founder Devyn Thompson. “School organizations here on campus have yet to do a good job of representing us and making us feel like we belong. In this group, students of color can have a safe space to be themselves and discuss our concerns and triumphs.”
The group is intended to provide a safe place and support system for all minority students. The group reflects student-athletes’ personal experiences of playing sports at an institution with a predominately white population. This group also hopes to provide an easier way for student-athletes to speak to the athletic department and eventually to the whole NVU community.
“I would like to see this group support a larger group of student-athletes by educating them on the history of minorities,” said Shokeye. “Once we educate them on our history and background, it will be easier for us to come together because it would help them grow more empathy for what we minorities go through.”
Thompson, a women’s basketball player, and Shokeye, a men’s basketball player, are the co-presidents for COMSA. Women’s volleyball player Porsche Johnson and men’s basketball player Floyd Davis are also members of the group. Miles Smith, assistant athletics director and head men’s basketball coach, and Chad Copeland, assistant athletic director for communications, are the advisors.
“Our main goal is to create a home away from home for minorities,” said Davis. “There’s people alone on campus that have no one to talk to, and we just want them to feel welcomed and let them know they’re never alone. The formation of the group came from our late close friend Mamadou. He’s gone but never forgotten. It’s not just a group. It’s a big family and we look out for one another.”
COMSA wants to open the group to the minority student community on campus who play sports. The members say they want this space to be open to students who do not play sports as well and want everyone to feel comfortable on our campus.
“My goals for this group is to recruit as many minorities and help them reach their higher purpose while helping them discover the truth about their history,” said Shoekeye. “I want people to know that this is a family.”
Above all, co-founder Thompson hopes COMSA will provide a sense of belonging and security that she feels has been lacking at NVU.
“Last year I was the only black person on the women’s basketball team, and I wasn’t close to the men’s team yet the way I am now,” said Thompson. “I didn’t have a sense of security. When I’m not with this group, I still don’t feel safe, because this campus isn’t safe. The Black Lives Matter flag was stolen, and instead of a brief message on why that’s fucked up, the school just replaced it and kept it moving. I commend Darcie Miles on addressing what the flag stands for here, but the email we all received was passive, was it not?”
Thompson said the group will focus on the issues that face the United States and explore possible solutions to such problems as structural racism, police brutality and economic inequality. The group reflects how these issues personally affect each member and talk about solutions.
“COMSA talks about these issues.” said Thompson. “We joke that if it wasn’t the Black Lives Matter flag taken, but the American flag, the whole campus would’ve been on lockdown. We talk about the state of our country, we talk about the traumas we all experience when our lives get treated with little regard.”
If you are interested in joining COMSA, contact Miles Smith or Chad Copeland in the Athletics Department.