What happens when a previously homogeneous community gains diverse participants who continually push the boundaries of the original mold? How do underrepresented athletes celebrate the very challenges that keep them from fitting in?
Nothing comes easy in the world of All-Star cheer. Competitors must exhibit stellar focus, work ethic, and teamwork in order to advance to elite competitions. Skills honed on the mat become identities-- perseverance, discipline, and self-confidence define the alumni of this rigorous sport. For Black cheerleaders, however, the athletic hurdles of cheerleading stand atop racial barriers. As the sport was conceived in almost exclusively white communities, it has struggled to catch up to the beautiful array of cultures represented in it today. After grueling days on the mat, cheerleaders of color find themselves working hard to fit the culturally exclusive standards of the All-Star community.
Noting the additional challenges faced by Black athletes in this sport, Dr. Sharita Mathis Richardson founded Black Girls Cheer (BGC) in 2015. She formed a Facebook group that would serve as a platform for participants, parents, and coaches of color to discuss their experiences. This was a space to celebrate victories, discuss challenges, and hear each other without stigma. The need for this community speaks for itself, as BGC is a full-fledged global movement today. The organization is a multi-media powerhouse, complete with its own website; popular Instagram, Facebook and TikTok pages; Black Girls Cheer The Magazine; fundraising operations; and scholarship fund. BGC is amplifying the prominence and visibility of these underrepresented cheerleaders by providing a platform where Black cheerleaders are seen, heard, and celebrated.
The documentary chronicles Dynasty Spirit Elite’s journey to the coveted Varsity Triple Crown. As the first all-Black team to achieve this monumental milestone, the Philadelphia-based collective leaned heavily on the support of the BGC community. Overcoming the obstacles before them as a united front, these remarkable athletes are here to show the world that "Black girls cheer, and do so much more."
The conversation sparked by BGC reaches well beyond cheerleading, and even sports as a whole. It has a place at every gym, competition, school, and kitchen table.