The Power and Potential of Change
"Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced." - James Baldwin
Change has always been a topic of concern; yet, for me, it has been a heavily sought-after experience. You see, growing up in spaces that cultivated the intellectual and creative potential within me heightened my curiosity for the unknown. It also provided an onus to discovering the roots of everything, becoming the foundational spark for my quest of purpose.
One would think such an educational journey is the desired outcome for a young, gifted, Black child. Yes, I navigated classrooms and schools that were diverse racially, ethnically, and with almost equal male-to-female ratios. I was privileged in every aspect of my educational experiences. Moreover, I even had over half a dozen teachers of color, including Black male teachers for my high school math courses. Unfortunately, such experiences also left me void of an understanding of my Blackness. This all changed once I got to college.
As a collegiate athlete, I attended two private, predominantly white institutions (PWIs). For the first time, I was forced to face the fact that I was a minority. Not only face being a minority but also recognize and accept that I was Black, which meant I was different. In some capacities, being Black and different was, indeed, a negative. I faced assumptions and ascriptions of intelligence, (cap)abilities, aspects of my gender performance, and even physicality. Yet, being Black and different also provided positive elements. I found community within athletics, amongst my collegiate peers, and I was even afforded the honor of mentorship from other Black faculty and staff. Furthermore, my Blackness enabled me to have a seat at tables that needed a different voice. In particular, I became the first student of color to be elected and serve as my undergraduate institutions' student government vice president.
While I often wonder if such opportunities would have been afforded had I been just another White, male student, what I do know is that my Blackness, my maleness, and eventually my queerness, each intersecting identity that I possessed provided me with an opportunity to affect change. Change for me as a marginalized individual, for my fellow students seeking respect and agency, for womxn affected by instances of patriarchy and misogyny; my difference afforded me a newfound consciousness where I was faced to recognize that I had a duty to affect change for others who live outside the margins of society and respectability.
After I've said all of this, what does it mean for you? What sort of advice can I impart upon others? That's simple, BE the change you want to see. Do not wait for others to step up and take on the mission; let it be you. Find ways to make space for others, while also bringing others along with you. I would not be in the position I am today to make an impact upon others had it not been for many fearless individuals who saw the potential in me to change the world for the better.
Such change doesn't have to take on society, or even a large institution. Change can be as small as asking someone what their pronouns are, or even how their day has been. But remember, never face adversity alone. Find your community and most of all, find balance. Being a person of color, a member of the LGBTQ+ community, anything outside the norm comes with a degree of trauma and baggage that can weigh you down more than you recognize. You must take care of your foundation, which is yourself.
In closing, as with the opening, I leave you with a quote from James Baldwin to continuously reflect upon as you embark on a journey to become the change you want to see: "I am what time, circumstance, history, have made of me, certainly, but I am also, much more than that. So are we all."
Marques R. Dexter is a third-year Ph.D. student in the sport management & policy program at the University of Georgia. Hailing from Philadelphia, Marques is a former NCAA Division I & III track & field coach and was named the 2013 & 2014 USTFCCCA Division III Atlantic Region Men’s Indoor Assistant Coach of the Year. Currently serving as a Graduate Assistant for Student Programs in the Office of Institutional Diversity, Marques also has the pleasure of being the Program Coordinator for the institution’s African American Male Initiative (AAMI) program, a grant-funded initiative under the University System of Georgia. Additionally, he is a member of the Sport Instruction Research Laboratory. Outside of the many leadership, social justice, and service involvements, Marques research focuses on the experiences and identities of Black male athletes, particularly those who are academically and athletically high-achieving. Through his scholarship and involvement in student engagement initiatives, Marques desires to broaden the narrative surrounding Black male athletes to conceptualize a more holistic scholar-athlete identity.
Marques Educational History:
2003 - HS Graduate, The School District of Philadelphia
2007 - BSBA in sports management , Robert Morris University
2009 - MS in kinesiology (sport management & policy), University of Georgia
In progress - Ph.D in kinesiology (sport management & policy), University of Georgia
Connect with Marques:
Marques Dexter (LinkedIn)