When Separate Equals Hungry

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Inspiring the Next Generation of Great Lakes Sailors

Photo Credit:
Photo by Mila K Marshall

Season 4 of Sail GP began again at Navy Pier this past weekend. Chicago’s freshwater lake is ideal for the Sailing Grand Prix and a nod to the unique and diverse sailing community of Chicago. While many were excited to see the race Chicago News Weekly caught up with to learn a bit more about the INSPIRE program. The program is an education and outreach initiative with a moto of “Powered by Nature, Driven by Purpose”. Young athletes with the program raised the sail to commemorate the start of season 4 and their collective efforts learning about sailing, racing technology and opportunities in the sport.

Sailing may seem quite inaccessible, but there are quite a few ways Chicagoans of all economic backgrounds can enjoy time on the water. Jackson Park Yacht Club Foundation is one of the most accessible and premiere sailing programs for African American youth in Chicago. JPYC Foundation has different programs for members and non-member children to learn how to sail. Sail Chicago is another non-profit organization making sailing lessons affordable to adults and in 2022 partnered with Environmentalists of Color to offer scholarships for professionals interested in learning how to sail. Chicago is also home to one of 11 Black owned marinas off the Little Calumet, Chicago’s Finest Marina owned and operated by Ronald Gaines which is also a historic landmark and a stop on the underground railroad.

Sail GP found themselves in good company and modeling the partnerships, valuable to showing Black Chicago that while they are here to race, they are also here to build a diverse community and break down barriers at every level in the racing world. Laura Hadley INSPIRE’s coordinator shared that her team activates in every city they race in.

“We have different pillars to connect to various ages, so for example we have one pillar that is for young athletes ages 9 to 15, these are kids that may have never seen a boat or had any time on the water. We take them for a walk in the pit lane, they meet some of the teams and get insight behind the scenes. We even tie in STEM hands-on learning experiences to make this more relatable. Sometimes we will have the kids make wind turbines or construct boat models to understand buoyancy or drag and then do a fun competition,” she said excitedly.

Sail GP has partners like the RISE program, a non-profit organization seeking to address discrimination and advance racial equity through sports and recreation. “We begin our outreach about six months out and identify partners and activations, every year we have some returning youth athletes, some new and always new connections. It’s growing and we look forward to working with new partners,” said Laura. Sail GP is on the right track and their program is indeed inspiring. As summertime kicks into full swing and families look for unique opportunities Lake Michigan offers an abundance of possibilities.

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About Author:

Dr. Mila Marshall is an environmental professional and journalist with a passion for advancing sustainability in all sectors. Her passion is directed towards urban food systems in segregated cities.



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