A Truro man is hoping to make the sport of curling in Nova Scotia more diverse and inclusive through the Black Rock Initiative.
Andrew Paris, who is Black, told CBC Information Morning Halifax on Friday that there’s never been a time when he hasn’t been in love with the sport.
6:46Meet Andrew Paris, founder of the Black Rock Initiative
“I grew up rolling soup cans on the floor,” he said. “It drove my mother crazy and then I started curling on the ice at the age of seven.”
Paris said his experiences of often being the only person of colour on the ice and some of the incidents of racial prejudice he has experienced led him to set up Black Rock Initiative.
“What has historically happened is a lot of people will say things to me: ‘You’re a really good curler for a Black person,’ and there’s been a lot of microaggressions similar to that.”
He said the initiative’s mission is to bring more Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) into the sport and to provide curling clubs with the resources to be more welcoming.
Those resources focus on education about topics like unconscious bias and privilege.
“When you walk into a facility and nobody there looks like you, there’s a lot of trepidation and a lot of nervousness,” said Paris. “So really, what we want to do is we want to create that welcoming environment for those kids so that they don’t go through those same obstacles that I did.”
He said they ran three pilot programs last fall: one for Black youth, one for Indigenous youth and another for youth who were new to Canada.
About one-third of the young people who participated went on to sign up with junior programs in their communities, he said.
“So while the numbers were small for our first round of pilots, we know we’re definitely on the right track if we can get a third of them to convert to be part of their local program,” said Paris.
Paris said the pandemic caused them to scrap their plans for this winter but they will relaunch the program this fall for all three target groups.
He said the initiative will partner with the same curling clubs and will have a full program this year.
“[It’s] really just understanding and reinforcing that every single person who comes to the curling club doors is treated exactly the same … with that welcoming smile that we know exists within the curling community,” he said.
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.