WILLIAMSTOWN, MA- In light of the recent attention surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement, the Williams Swim and Dive teams took it upon themselves to use their platform to help make a difference. From June 12th-14th, the Ephs' men's and women's teams committed to exercising for 1,500 miles in hopes of raising $1,500 for the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI). By the end of the weekend, the team logged 2,832 miles while raising an astounding $18,841.
"As swimmers and divers, we compete in sports that are made up of mostly white and financially secure athletes," stated Eph senior David Pearcy. "We have a lot of privilege, and it would be irresponsible to not acknowledge that, particularly in this moment. We decided that the best way to both acknowledge these privileges within our own community and to contribute to the greater BLM movement was to start a fundraiser."
The Equal Justice Initiative is a nonprofit organization committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment by offering legal representation to people who have been unlawfully convicted and unfairly treated in the criminal justice system. Founded by Bryan Stevenson in 1989, the EJI defends poverty-stricken communities that have been historically marginalized. The rising seniors on the Eph teams were already familiar with Stevenson as he came to Williams in the fall of 2017 to give a speech on Just Mercy, the Williams Reads book for that year. Williams Reads is an annual initiative offered to develop new connections among the community by delving into a book that will create more awareness among the Williams community.
"Choosing the right organization was a really important decision for us," added Pearcy. "We spent a lot of time researching all of the different nonprofits and organizations that are currently working to challenge racial injustice. From early on, the EJI was a frontrunner in the process because of its valiant mission and impressive reviews."
The fundraiser mainly worked through the use of Google Sheets and a Fundly page. To track the number of miles exercised, the swimmers and divers were able to put their miles into a public Google Sheet. Supporters could then follow the team's progress through a Fundly page where anyone could choose to donate to the fundraiser. This technique proved to be successful for the team as they exceeded their goal by $17,341.
"While we had 100% of our current team members participate in the fundraiser, I think the big success came from alumni engagement," said rising senior Molly Craig. "We had over 36 alumni participate on the Google Sheet (dating back to the class of 1961) and a total of 176 donors on the Fundly page. It served as a powerful testament to the strength of the Williams Swimming and Diving community and the depth of connection to Ephpride and the sport itself."
Although many collegiate teams around the nation are doing similar fundraisers for racial justice organizations, the Eph swimmers and divers are committed to making a lasting change within their team environment.
"We acknowledge that this fundraiser should not--and will not--be the only step our team takes in regards to addressing racial injustice," said Craig. "Moving forward, we have established an advisory board of current team members that are putting together and running regular whole-team meetings surrounding topics of racism, Black Lives Matter, anti-racism, and how to best communicate these topics with others."
"I thought this was a great event for a very important cause," stated Eph head swimming coach Steve Kuster. "It was great to come together as a team even though we were spread all over the country. I look forward to continuing to take steps forward, with this team, toward making meaningful change."