Black Girls Surf - THE WOMEN BEHIND WOMEN'S SURFING NGOS SERIES PART 5
We are finishing off our series with an interview with Rhonda Harper the founder of Black Girls Surf (BGS) whose mission is to not only around empowerment but also developing surf camp for Black girls wanting to pursue professional surfing. Currently, Rhonda is supporting and raising funds to send West African, female surfers, Khajdou Sambe (Senegal ) and Kadiatu Kamara (Sierra Leone) to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
1. Can you share with the audience some background about your organization? (mission, goals, etc.)
Black Girls Surf is an organization who focuses on training, coaching, mentoring and up and coming professional surfers.
2. Each of your organizations targets a specific need/gap you saw in a local community and/or the surf community in your respective locations. What were some of these needs/gaps, and what are the steps you took to address this/these gap(s)?
Africa Surf International was founded out my personal need to see Afro surfers competing. Black Girls Surf was founded after we searched for girls to compete in the Africa Surf International only to find out that they have been neglected by various surf associations. Plain and simple, they weren’t training their girls.
3. For you personally, what was the primary motivation to get involved with this cause/issue, and using surfing as part of the strategy to create change? What aspects of your own upbringing, sporting or cultural experiences lead you to this?
I was tired of seeing the same old thing when I knew there was great talent out there beyond blonde hair and blue eyes. I was born into civil rights activism. I was a member of the Kansas City NAACP at the ripe age of 5. In Kansas City, they had a Black public swimming pool where we learned to swim miles away from the house. We walked. We couldn’t go to the one just three blocks from where we moved. It was an all White neighborhood. I could see the exclusion a mile away once I entered into the surf industry. It slaps you in the face daily. My mission is to make a real change in how we view surfers.
4. As an organization, what are some of the challenges you are facing at the moment? What are some of the strategies you are using to help overcome these challenges?
Racism and financing. As for the racism, I confront it now. The financing we’ve been using crowdfunding until we find a genuine sponsor. I’m in no hurry.
5. This will be a three-part question. I am sure you all are aware of this; on Thursday, September 6th the World Surfing League (WSL) announced equal prize money would be awarded to both male and female surfers. What areas still need to be addressed in terms of equity in surfing?
a. When you first heard what were some of your reactions?
b. Do you think this will have any impact on your organization?
c. What areas still need to be addressed in terms of equity in surfing?
Racism and sponsorship which go hand in hand.
6. Tokyo 2020 is a big year, with surfing making its debut at the Olympics. Have you seen an increase in interest in surfing NGOs as a response to Olympic inclusion? (e.g., in people wanting to learn how to surf, more interest from volunteers, more support from donors, industry, corporations).
Oh yes, I’m pretty busy right now.
7. Finally, based on your experiences, what do you see as the biggest challenges for women trying to create social and community change via surfing NGOs? And why is it important for women to be involved in leading such initiatives? Do you feel women bring something different to this type of work?
The biggest challenge is conformity. Some start out serving disadvantaged youths and after “making it” and conform to the status quo. It’s maddening because it sets us all back. Women bring the fun. Men have sucked the life out of the most beautiful of all sports. It’s sad, but there is hope. Black Girls Surf to the rescue.
You are doing amazing work Rhonda!