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Black Texas A&M Athletes Create Safe Space With BLUEprint

by Hollis Bernard

 

Aggies enter Kyle Field for a Saturday night Texas A&M football game (Photo Credit: Shane Dinwiddie).

 

 

Maroon, White and Blue


Texas A&M University’s African-American student-athletes have formed the BLUEprint, which will give African-Americans a safe space to discuss racial issues that they face on the College Station, Texas campus.


Recently, many college and professional athletes have leveraged their power to affect change in their communities and on their campuses.


“The focus of the BLUEprint is to give Black student-athletes a setting to truly express themselves in their authentic, intellectual selves and to be able to share experiences being at a P.W.I.—a primarily White institution,” said Texas A&M safety, Keldrick Carper. “To be able to mold Black athletes to understand they have the mechanisms to be leaders and thought provokers and to be firm and strong in their ideals.”


The BLUEprint stands for “Black Leaders who Undertake Excellence” and is officially recognized by the Texas A&M University athletic department.


Athletic director Ross Bjork said, “I appreciate (the) leadership and collaboration with our athletics staff and the thoughtful and intentional approach to making our program the best it can be. I also commend this leadership group for developing most of these plans in early 2020, well before the current social strife impacted our nation. This vision (allows for) a long-term impact for current and future Aggies.”


Texas A&M University has a student enrollment of 65,000 students.


However, last fall semester, Texas &M University only had an African-American enrollment that constituted 3.32 percent of the total student enrollment.


Like many African-American students at P.W.I.s, being an athlete does not make one immune from bigotry.


Unfortunately, Carper experienced a driving while Black incident in his 1997 Buick LeSabre exiting out of a parking lot near the Aggies practice facility in College Station, Texas.


Carper began noticing a police officer tailing him for a couple of miles.


The safety, who is African-American, said, “I was super exhausted, just ready to get home and relax and recharge for the next day…He tailed me for about two miles. I hadn’t done anything, hadn’t broken the law or anything like that. I started getting a little anxious because I knew he was following me.”


When Carper turned into his apartment complex, the police officer turned into the apartment complex as well.


Carper added, “I said, ‘You know what? I’m going to pull up where there is some light and some people around because I know how these situations go.’ He ended up saying I didn’t have my turn signal on within 100 feet of making a turn…but (really) he just pulled me over because he thought I was suspicious.”


The Texas A&M student-athlete admitted that he feared for his life during the encounter with the police officer.


He said that his encounter with the officer encouraged him to join other African-American Aggie athletes to form the BLUEprint.


Carper, who received and “Academic Excellence Award” by the Texas A&M football program and reads to elementary school children as a way to give back to the community, also said the incident left him shaken.


Although football is the cash cow at many universities, especially at schools like Texas A&M, the BLUEprint developed during the spring semester when Aggie soccer player Karlina Sample attended an African-American college athlete summit.


Sample began brainstorming ideas for a support group for African-American women athletes at Texas A&M.


The aim of the group expanded after the death of Houston native George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.


“Black women and men often fight similar battles with society,” said Sample. “We thought it was imperative to make a joint group where Black men and women could essentially learn from and build off of each other.”


Despite the support from the university and the athletic program, not all Aggies support the activism of this new generation of student-athletes.


Many current and former Aggies have denounced an effort to remove a statue of Sul Ross from the Texas A&M University campus.


Ross was a former Confederate general and former president of Texas A&M University.


Despite some pushback, the BLUEprint aims to use their voice to educate the local African-American community on their history and their rights.


Carper said, “I just had that conversation with some of my teammates. It’s paramount to understand who you are as Black men and Black women—that you understand your legacy didn’t begin on the shores of the East Coast of the United States of America back in the early 1600s when slavery started here.


“We’ll also educate Black student-athletes to understand our legal rights, and we’ll team up with the NAACP to gather information so we can present it to student-athletes so they’ll be informed, empowered and equipped with the proper information. So we’re confident in ourselves and in our encounters with police and our overall understanding of our rights.”


Many Black Lives Matters opponents have said that the current focus on racial justice and racial equality only divides the country.


However, Carper disagrees.


He said, “No one says anything about women’s organizations set up not only on A&M’s campus but across the country and says their trying to divide or separate or anything like that.


“No, they’re creating a safe space for individuals, people who want to be in an environment where they can have a common goal or vision. It’s the same thing we want to do with the BLUEprint, and we’re willing to have opportunities where other students who are White or from the Asian and Hispanic communities, or anyone, can come in and be able to observe and take in information…


“For years down the line, we’re hoping this becomes a part of the fabric of this institution, with the BLUEprint making an impact.”

This article was published on Friday 21 August, 2020.
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