The trouble with silence in the face of Anti-black oppression

As a supporter and past player of the South Sudanese Australian National Basketball tournament, it hasn’t only been sad to see and hear all that’s been going on, but incredibly disheartening to witness all that’s happened to keep this tournament from existing. Not only was this tournament pivotal for me and my progress as an athlete, but it was also instrumental in my establishing roots here in so called Australia, when I first arrived.

I formed a great many friendships, relationships and camaraderie through and within these tournaments and community. It’s sad to see the stance folk have chosen to take because of their own internalized anti blackness. This tournament has created platforms and safe spaces for kids like me who were often shunned by a society upset at their existence, kids who were turned away as not being good enough, smart enough or just enough. It’s given outlets and alternatives to those who haven’t often been afforded those opportunities, it’s given refuge for those who have had no where else to go. This place is not only been community for so many of us, but it’s become our family, and to take that away is to spit in the face of all those that worked so diligently to ensure it’s survival. Shame on all those who don’t understand the value in continuing to hold such spaces, yet simultaneously shun our kids for doing what they do when they have nothing left to turn to.

In the years I played I can’t name anywhere else Ive ever faced so much external adversity through over policing, police brutality and assault, threats, violence and state as well as local rejection all from the simple desire of wanting to exist. No other tournament garners such extensive police attention all because the folk that attend and participate in it, have a pigment different to what’s perceived as ideal.

But despite it all the tournament persevered. It was one of the most inclusive, supportive and encouraging spaces I’d ever been a part of. No other tournament I’ve seen here has produced such high caliber of athletes who have gone on to play internationally and dominate the leagues in which they play. A feat achieved because the racism faced in sport here in so called Australia, ostriches talent based on proximity to whiteness and the only time you get claimed as ‘Australian’ is when you make it outside of so called ‘Australia’.

I am so proud to have been a part of this incredible legacy and will continue to stand in solidarity with SSANBA, as well as my Afro decent fam who continually stay under fire rooted in the anti blackness of the First Peoples of these Nations,
as well as my South Sudanese fam who have had to endure the brunt of those attacks of late.

For us to have continue to go through all of this although not surprising, it is shameful. Shameful not only to the local/national governments that misrepresent and label us, shameful to the stadiums that refuse to acknowledge and give space to us while continually profiting off of our talents and skill sets as well as all those so called allies who do nothing but stay quiet and unbothered in the face of it all, shame on you. If you’ve ever wondered what your job as an ally is in moments like this. This is your opportunity to shine. #BringBackSSANBA

- wāni

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Wani Le Frére