Matador Athletes Reflect on Black Excellence and Black History Month

  • Cedric Hackett, left, stands at podium and gestures to the student panel, seated, at right.

    Cedric Hackett, professor of Africana studies and faculty athletic representative, asks a question of the students at "Game Changers Unleashed: Black Student Athlete Exchange Panel" at the University Student Union Grand Salon on Feb. 12, 2024. (Photo by Sonia Gurrola, CSUN)

  • Three women and two men stand behind a table with a screen behind them.

    The panelists, from left to right: Treasure Brown, women's track and field ; Kayanna Spriggs, women's basketball; Erin Anderson, women's soccer; Jabari Vaughn, men's track and field; Jordan Brinson, men's basketball at the University Student Union, Feb. 12, 2024. (Photo by Sonia Gurrola, CSUN)

  • Two women wearing red team shirts sit at podium and hold their hands together.

    Kayanna Spriggs and Erin Anderson speak at the "Game Changers Unleashed: Black Student Athlete Exchange Panel," Feb. 12, 2024 at the University Student Union. (Photo by Sonia Gurrola, CSUN)

For student-athletes, balancing a college sport with rigorous coursework demands time management and organization. Practices, games and travel time are added to the mix of classes, projects, study time and jobs.

In a recent panel discussion for Black History Month, five of CSUN’s Black student-athletes spoke about their goals and how they manage demanding sports and classes. They also spoke frankly about issues they face as young men and women of color, including racism and microaggressions. They talked about the importance of representation — for themselves and others — the challenges of overcoming injuries, and their future beyond sports and studying. Cedric Hackett, professor of Africana studies and faculty athletic representative, led the Feb. 12 program, which was followed by a Q & A with audience members, at the University Student Union Grand Salon.

After the panel, the student-athletes also spoke with CSUN Today about how they define Black excellence, what Black History Month means to them and some of their proudest accomplishments. Here are some highlights:

Kayanna Spriggs seated at table.

Kayanna Spriggs. (Photo by Sonia Gurrola, CSUN)

Kayanna Spriggs, 20, is a junior in sociology with a minor in Africana studies. She plays on the Women’s Basketball team and is planning a career in social work.

On Black History Month

“It should be more than a month. It just shows appreciation for your Black neighbors, your doctor who is Black or your dentist or your counselor, your teacher. It should be celebrated every day.”

A Personal Achievement

“I have been on the Dean’s List all three years. I’ve had a 4.0 GPA [during] my three years in college and in high school. I’m here for basketball, but I do take care of business outside of the basketball court.”

On Black Excellence

“Excellence comes in many different shapes and forms. For me personally, that is just being really who you are and succeeding at whatever you do. There’s a lot of meaning in just being a Black human being, let alone a Black woman. I see Black excellence in all Black women, to be honest with you. And I see it every day, in my peers, my family, my little nieces, my mentor.”

Treasure Brown, seated at table, poses for the camera

Treasure Brown. (Photo by Sonia Gurrola, CSUN)

Treasure Brown, 18, is a freshman on the Women’s Track & Field team. She is studying psychology and chose CSUN for its family-like atmosphere and particularly for the psychology program.

On Black History Month

“It’s a celebration of all that our ancestors have done. It’s all the sacrifices and all the accomplishments and everything that paved the way for us to be in these spaces and to be in a college, or just be able to succeed. That’s what Black History Month is about.”

A Personal Achievement

“In my senior year of high school, I was throwing shot put and I was like, constantly under 40 feet — and I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t get over 40 feet. But then, once I finally did it, I broke 42 feet, when I was trying to break 40. I never threw under 40 feet again. Once I prove to myself that I can do it, I’m gonna keep doing it consistently. So, I’m taking that same idea with college. I got through my first semester, so I know I can get through my second semester.”

On Black Excellence

“A lot of the things that make the world and the United States successful have come from Black people. So, Black people being able to overcome the obstacles and still be successful is Black excellence.”

Jabari Vaughn, seated at table, poses for photo.

Jabari Vaughn. (Photo by Sonia Gurrola, CSUN)

Jabari Vaughn, 20, is a junior in communication studies with a minor in business analytics. Vaughn is on the Men’s Track & Field team and wants to pursue a career in marketing.

On Black History Month

“It is a month of representation, and to honor those who made it possible for us to be in the positions that we’re in. Just being at this college as a Black man is a privilege. Setting a month aside to give thanks and to represent myself and the people who look like me is the meaning of Black history.”

A Personal Achievement

“The main accomplishment that I point to is my Most Improved Track Athlete (award) for 2023, because it shows the hard work I put in and that it paid off.”

On Black Excellence

“Just being able to represent ourselves in a positive way is what I define as excellence, whether it’s in athletics or in the work field or politically.”

Jordan Brinson, seated at table.

Jordan Brinson. (Photo by Sonia Gurrola, CSUN)

Jordan Brinson, 24, is a senior in Africana studies. Brinson plays on the Men’s Basketball team and currently is recovering from an Achilles tendon injury.

On Black History Month

“It means a lot to me. It’s just where we came from, acknowledging it, and that we all deal with certain things. Being Black, it’s honestly different.”

A Personal Achievement

“My college career has been a lot of ups and downs. Every time I overcome, like I overcome getting hurt, I overcome this system. Just being able to get over these challenges and these hurdles and see myself doing good when a lot of people didn’t expect me to be where I am or [doubted] me, it feels good.”

On Black Excellence

“I love to see Black people putting their brands to use and doing things like playing basketball, being a teacher, just anything. I would say anything successful is Black excellence.”

Erin Anderson seated at table, poses for camera.

Erin Anderson. (Photo by Sonia Gurrola, CSUN)

Erin Anderson, 23, plays for the Women’s Soccer team. She graduated in May 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and is now pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Africana studies.

On Black History Month

“It makes me feel like we’re actually being represented properly and shown love, and I hope in the future, we can get more people to join the experience with us and actually represent us a little bit more.”

A Personal Achievement

“I’m really proud of myself for giving the Africana studies major a chance, because at first, I was like, ‘I already know about my history. Why would I do that?’ But my eyes have been opened. It’s definitely a new world, and I’m super happy that I chose to do this.”

On Black Excellence

“We talked about this in [Africana studies] class today … It’s how we express our traditions and who we are as people, what we’ve been through and our experiences.”

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