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InclusionNLL UnitesStories/Op-Ed

It’s Not Just A Month. It’s A Movement

February marks the start of Black History month.

While many businesses and institutions celebrate the month, many athletes speak on the matter each day.

One of those athletes may be soft spoken and shy in person, but is now getting loud, using his voice and platform to share his story and his perspective.

His name is Dhane Smith— 2016 NLL MVP who plays for the Buffalo Bandits and was the first black NLL player to win the award in the 30 year history of the league.

This month means everything to him, and he continues to push his voice. The older he gets the more he wants to learn and understand Black History.

Those are his roots.

Being a black athlete himself he has strived to work hard, play hard, and be heard- because he belongs here. In a sport that is played by predominately white players he is working to pave the way for future black athletes or other players of color to play lacrosse at the highest level.

When young children of color can look up and see someone that looks like them succeeding and making an impact, it inspires them to believe anything is achievable.

Growing up he mentioned that his teammates were always supportive of him, but that was not always the case with opposing players or their fans.

With recent historical events that took place in 2020 surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement, Smith felt it was only right to use his voice, his social media platforms, and speak out and be a voice to the voiceless.

He said he went through challenges and adversity growing up and when he took to social media, Smith found many of his followers felt and have experienced similar things.

Kids have reached out to him directly, currently going through similar challenges.

He feels it is only right to teach and help in any way that he can.

“Things to avoid and things to say”, when a situation occurs as well as how to have an open dialogue to discuss these sometimes-difficult conversations.

That’s what Smith is learning to do and that is what he is telling his followers to do too.

Everyone has a purpose on this earth, and it is so important to feel wanted and cared for no matter the color of your skin.

Most importantly he said it’s time to “listen and learn” and he too is doing that and learning more about black history still each and every day.

He said he is happy to connect and help the youth of all walks of life.

While his social media reaches many people, he also wanted to do something that can be worn in support and never forgotten.

That is when one of his sponsors, Signature Lacrosse, asked to create a merchandise line in collaboration with Smith titled ‘I Belong Here’ (view it here)

The ‘I Belong Here’ line has a simple goal, educate the lacrosse community about the challenges still faced by lacrosse players and coaches of color while creating allies willing to support their counterparts.

The line was launched in the early stages of 2021.

A reminder that he belongs here. We all belong here.

100% of the proceeds are going to Dhane’s favorite charity, The Conscious Kid, which is ‘an education, research, and policy organization that supports families and educators in taking action to disrupt racism, inequity and bias’

A group that educates and supports taking action against racism through the use of children’s books.

Hoping more kids learn about Black History early on. Hoping that more kids feel and know they belong in anything they do.

Smith continues to learn the history not only this month, but every month and even wears a sleeve when he is playing lacrosse that says BLM.

Reminding everyone why he plays the sport and who is continues to flight for.

NLL