Sarah Gorden has zero interest in performative action in the fight to end systemic racism.
The Red Stars defender is too busy focusing on actionable change.
Gorden considers it part of her job to use her platform as a Black athlete in the National Women’s Soccer League to speak on behalf of individuals who may be too exhausted to fight these battles, but finding her voice took time.
“I haven’t had the loudest voice on the topics of systemic racism and police brutality throughout my life,” Gorden said. “I was always very self-conscious about the fact that I didn’t feel I had a voice. Being mixed, I didn’t necessarily feel my voice was important. Over these last few months, I’ve realized there is no place for silence.”
For the last three months, part of Gorden’s mission to create change centered around establishing her nonprofit in Chicago. On Thursday, Gorden made that dream a reality with the launch of HoodSpace on Twitter and Instagram.
HoodSpace’s tagline reads: “Helping girls of color find their space of flow through yoga, meditation and sport.”
Gorden said the overarching goal is to empower Black girls and girls of color in Chicago through camps and clinics she wants to be hosting by the summer of 2021.
Gorden’s vision for these camps includes soccer sessions for young female participants while incorporating mindfulness training through meditation and yoga. She hopes to hire an in-house yoga instructor to participate in every HoodSpace session.
The idea to start a nonprofit came to Gorden in June, before she left for Utah to play in the NWSL Challenge Cup. Initially, her goal was to bridge the gap between the Black community and the sport of soccer. While she was there, her goal shifted to creating a space that prioritizes Black mental health.
“We’ve seen the trauma and violence that systemic racism creates,” Gorden said. “We’ve seen it firsthand in Chicago. Providing an outlet and helping people accept their story and narrative is really important. We’re working from the inside out.”
The name HoodSpace came to Gorden out of an appreciation for the app Headspace, which Gorden began using her rookie season in the NWSL.
It was during that time Gorden started to understand and confront her trauma. As she did, she learned how the pain from her past could cripple her future. Gorden’s journey toward living a healthy mental lifestyle helped her realize she could use her platform to provide these resources to other young women.
“It was a privilege for me to be able to find these outlets,” Gorden said. “These tools are useful for everyone, from all walks of life.”
So far, funding for HoodSpace has come directly from Gorden as well as $1,500 in donations from members of the Red Stars supporters group, Chicago Local134.
Local134 also assisted in the creation of HoodSpace’s official T-shirt, which will be available for purchase through the nonprofit’s social-media accounts. The T-shirt features an image of Gorden leaping through the air, similar to the iconic Jumpman logo. Instead of Air Jordan, the T-shirt reads Air Gorden.
Gorden is the lone staff member now, but she does have someone in mind for the nonprofit’s CFO position. She’s aiming to work exclusively with people of color from Chicago.
Gorden said throughout the process of creating HoodSpace she has run all her ideas past teammates Tierna Davidson and Hannah Davison.
“They lift me up,” Gorden said. “They’ll be board members. They have great ideas and are invested in the community and the movement.”
The Red Stars resumed training last week in preparation for the NWSL’s fall series, which begins Saturday, but Gorden has taken some much-needed personal time for mental rest. She plans to play in the fall series and will be back in training next week.
The shooting of Jacob Blake by a Kenosha, Wisconsin, police officer reinforced Gorden’s feelings that performative statements made by teams, owners, players and staff and the NWSL as a whole are not enough.
Gorden opened up about a desire to form a Black players coalition in the NWSL during the Challenge Cup. After Real Salt Lake FC and Utah Royals FC owner Dell Loy Hansen’s controversial reaction to Major League Soccer players’ walkout in protest of racial injustice — he felt disrespected and was not in support of the decision not to play — they released their first official statement on Twitter.
It read in part: “We are no longer surprised by ignorant comments made in response to courageous demonstrations by athletes committed to fighting for social justice. However, we find it especially concerning when those in leadership roles lack the ability to empathize, understand, or respect our fight against racism and the brutal killings of Black people in America.”
MLS and the NWSL announced a formal investigation into Hansen after a report from the Athletic came out detailing his use of racist language. Both leagues have since announced Hansen will sell Utah Soccer Holdings.
The NWSL Black players coalition has about 50 members and eight board members, including Midge Purce, who Gorden said founded everything, Jessica McDonald, Crystal Dunn and Lynn Williams.
Members have been holding weekly meetings to establish the organization and the work they will do within the league.
“As much as we think things are beginning to change, there’s clearly so long to go as we see Black men still getting shot in the street,” Gorden said. “It truly is a life or death matter at this point.”