In the UK and Europe its Black History Month throughout October, in the US and Canada however it is celebrated during the month of February. I suppose whilst these times of year act as a nice reminder for people around the World to speak about and celebrate black history, it is important to note that it doesn’t mean we are restricted to only celebrating it at these times.
We’re taking this opportunity to educate those who don’t already know about some of the inspirational people and important events within the history of black skiers.
In 1973 Art Clay and Ben Finley founded The National Brotherhood of Skiers or The NBS, at a time when African Americans on the ski slopes were a rarity and black ski clubs were an exception. Its first annual trip took place that year in Aspen and has been going strong ever since, the latest edition in March of this year actually ended up becoming victim to what is now the very well known global pandemic, COVID-19. Both founders were among over 100 participants who showed symptoms of the disease, both are now back to full health and we hope to see them and their community continuing the great work they do when we can safely return to the mountains soon.
Jim Dandy Ski Club is the first known African American ski club in the US (and quite likely the World) and was established in 1958 by Frank Blount, William Morgan and Reginald Wilson. Their mission was to provide a friendlier environment in which to travel, ski and enjoy this shared passion. The ‘Dandies’ as they are known, are still going strong in 2020 and invite likeminded people to join their community and experience the fun they quite clearly have when they get together.
In 1988 Seba Johnson became the first black woman to ski at the Winter Olympics, and the youngest alpine ski racer in Olympic history. At age 14, Johnson represented the Virgin Islands in giant slalom and Super-G at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Canada - she was also the flag bearer in the opening ceremony. At age 15, Johnson also became the first black ski racer to finish in the top 30 in international competition. She competed again for the Virgin Islands in slalom and giant slalom at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France.
There are many more that deserve a mention like Andre Horton, Ralph Green and Bonnie St. John, and we encourage everyone to do their own research on these icons of skiing. There are some great stories that should also act as inspiration for the next generation of skiers and snowboarders.
It would be remiss of us not to take a look and celebrate some of our very own who have broken down barriers and achieved their dreams within an industry that perhaps doesn’t always make it that easy for everyone.
Oneskee ambassador Mia Clerc became the first female athlete to represent Madagascar at the Winter Olympics in 2018, she was also the flag bearer at the opening ceremony, following in the footsteps of Seba Johnson. A year later Mia went on to become the first African woman to ever qualify for a second run at the World Championships in Åre, Sweden. Mia is still hard at work and back on her skis preparing for the 2020/21 season.
When somebody mentions Barbados, skiing is not the first thing that comes to mind, but Oneskee ambassador Victor White dared to make history for the paradise island when he took the country's first winter sports medal at the 2019 Europa Cup in Poland. Victor has suffered a string of serious head injuries but continues to have a great passion for skiing and is continuously creating quality content for his followers.
We will also continue to celebrate our ambassadors throughout October and well beyond that, as well as hopefully doing credit to the legacies started by some of those mentioned in this blog.