Leading in Times of Social Injustice

By Micah Sims ’20

If there was a person that would understand leadership through social justice, it would be Opal Tometi. On Tuesday, January 21st, the Bucknell Athletic Leadership Institute (BALI) hosted Tometi to speak to the BALI members for Martin Luther King Jr. week. Tometi is a globally recognized human rights advocate, as well as strategist and writer of Nigerian-African descent. She has been active in social movements for over 15 years and is most recently known for her role as the co-founder of Black Lives Matter. In a dialogue with Athletic Director Jermaine Traux, Tometi spoke on leaders that have impacted her, role of athletes in the time of social injustice, and many more.

Their dialogue began with Tometi talking about her admiration for leaders like Dr. King and their ability to learn and grow as leaders as they get more knowledge and perspective. Student-Athlete Alex Butz spoke on the importance of listening to Tometi and some takeaways she got from the talk. Butz said, “One thing that really stuck out to me was when she said athletes should lean into the strengths they gain from doing a sport to lead in other situations.” This was a topic that Tometi returned to multiple times throughout her talk and mentioned how important athletics can be in leadership. Butz dug deeper into her takeaway saying, “She mentioned athletes using their platform to get change. And at first, I didn’t think that we had much of a platform, but then I realized that here on campus we do have such a huge platform on issues, especially issues like social injustice.”

In Tometi’s closing remarks, she talked about starting the Black Lives Matter Movement and the impact of Trayvon Martin’s case had on the movement. It was an important moment in the movement and that is how it started to trend in more of a social media setting. One of Tometi’s last remarks was her talking about making sure that people (especially leaders) get self-care because that is something that she had struggled with throughout her time in the Black Lives Matter movement. Tometi was one of the many important speakers and performers during the Martin Luther King Jr. week here at Bucknell.

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