NewsBlack History Month

Breaking down barriers: How exposure and accessibility are bringing more Black kids to specialty sports

Posted at 11:47 PM, Feb 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-10 23:47:35-05

DETROIT (WXYZ)  — When Simone Biles first somersaulted onto the scene, her stunning flips, signature moves, and perfect posture captured the heart of America and 7-year-old Imani Hall too.

“I felt like woah I kinda want to do what she did,” says Hall.

Imani’s parents, Kiera and James Hall say their daughter has been flipping and dancing around the house for years, but it wasn’t until they showed her videos of a Black gymnast that she fell in love with the sport.

"We said hey listen, this is Simone Biles this is her story, this is Gabby Douglas this is her story, watch them look at them, and you know she began to study them and she said that is going to be me,” says Kiera Hall.

From four to seven Imani was self-taught. She would watch Youtube videos and mimic what she saw. Seven months ago she joined a gym and quickly ran up the ranks. But for sports like gymnastics, the higher you go, the higher the cost.

“But we’re prepared for that. We’ve already made the decision that we will not let finances or anything else stop her from doing her dream and her passion,” says Kiera Hall.

Money, however, is a major barrier for others. Professional training can cost $200-$400 hundred bucks a month. Costs can skyrocket to $15,000 annually to train for the Olympics. It’s not just a problem within gymnastics, but ice skating too.

Kendyll Martin first began dancing on ice in Elementary school through a program called Figure Skating Detroit. A non-profit youth development program offering free classes and mentorship to girls 6-18.

“When I first started there was a lot of black people that I knew but once I started to move up in the levels they started to wither down,” says Martin.

Money being the main factor, and that’s one of the reasons Dream Detroit Skating Academy was born.

“We want to bring something that is more affordable,” says Angela Blocker-Lloyd, the co-founder of Michigan’s first black-owned ice-skating club.

Blocker-Lloyd's vision is to make ice skating more accessible for black and brown people, without losing any of the prestige.

“Students can come and they can take it nationally, they can have a career in skating they can go to the Olympics, we haven’t had a skater come out of Detroit.”