What are your top three (3) priorities for the USA Fencing Board?
My top-3 priorities are:
COVID 19 recovery and revitalization that enhances club and membership development opportunities which stabilizes and positions USA Fencing for sustainable growth.
Expanded access through competitive and recreational pathways; and •
Full-throated support and funding for diversity, equity, and inclusion policies and initiatives.
As a member at large, I would help push for greater support of fencing clubs, the backbone of our sport. As small businesses that are a part of the fabric of local communities and are economic drivers in these areas through tournaments and employment opportunities, it is critical to the sport that clubs remain a healthy driver in the fencing ecosystem. Unfortunately, many clubs have reduced operations or closed permanently due to COVID19. Revitalization of the fencing community back to pre-COVID 19 levels will take an “all hands-on deck” approach. Therefore, it is important for USA Fencing to learn from the collective experiences of COVID 19 to be prepared for future issues. I think a COVID 19 debrief or “conversation” with impacted community members would be beneficial to glean areas of weakness and opportunities for growth. Additionally, we need to investigate more resources such as business to business opportunities, community outreach, and training of new and recreational coaches, if we want to help increase the general fencing population and expand our sport. Our recreational, veteran, and para programs are critical to the sport and offer great opportunities for expansion and growth as well. For example, the upcoming World Veterans Championships in Florida this fall is a great opportunity to attract attention to the sport. As a nation, we have been dealing with racial relations. As a professional black woman, I have both seen these issues all my life and worked with organizations to help with diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. Studies show that an organization with greater diversity is more successful. Differing views, be they from women, African Americans, Asian and Pacific Islanders, Latinos, or Indigenous people help find more creative and successful solutions to issues at hand. If elected, I can help look at policy through a lens of equity and help support marginalized voices that are critical to our sport. The only way to move forward in a substantive way will be to look at policies, initiatives, and efforts through a more equitable lens.
Tell us more in depth about how you plan to approach issues of racial and gender equity in USA Fencing. Here is the WFencing Report Card -- Please feel free to refer to any of the issues raised within the report card to focus your answer.
I believe the Board of Directors can play an impactful role in advancing racial and gender equity in USA Fencing. First, I believe it is important for the Board to have shared language and understanding around race and gender, especially as it relates to equality and equity. According to experts in the field including the National Equity Project, equality means sameness and each individual or group of people is given the same resources or opportunities. Equity, on the other hand, is the guarantee of fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all while striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of under-represented and marginalized groups. As mentioned on page 4 in the WFencing Report Card, it took over 100 years for USA Fencing to make all weapons and events available to women. Although there have been gains because of Title IX, the report highlights that there are lingering consequences due to the historical systemic treatment of women in the sport, especially in leadership. To address gender and racial gaps and disparate treatment in the sport, USA Fencing should adopt Targeted Universalism which focuses attention on dismantling structural barriers in systems and makes way for new designs that inclusive and equitable. The recommendations highlighted in the WFencing Report Card such as sponsoring networking opportunities for women professionals during tournaments and collecting and maintaining data on diversity in fencing by race and gender, for example, can be facilitated by the Board of Directors through strategic planning and resource allocation. As lead staff on a statewide initiative with city leaders throughout North Carolina to talk about systemic racism, I have identified pathways in which we can have those difficult and needed conversations to move forward. These are skills and experiences that I would bring to the National Board of USA Fencing.
As a society, we have been taught to not talk about race and issues that create discomfort. COVID 19 has revealed that approach is not a sustainable business model. The great news is that USA Fencing does not have to start from zero as there are opportunities to build upon the wonderful work being done in the sport by the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Resource Team and WFencing, among other efforts. If elected, I will do my part to advocate for lift the voices of the needs of our fencing community members who have been most marginalized while ensuring that all groups advance toward USA Fencing’s shared mission.
What else would you like the WFencing community to know?
This has been a trying year for everyone. Clubs, athletes, the national office, and the fencing community at large have had their ups and downs navigating COVID19 related issues as well as race and equity issues. My experience with non-profits on the local, state, and national level as well as over 20 years’ experience working on local governance gives me the experience to help USA Fencing successfully navigate through these rough waters and to get us on the other side toward sustainable growth and expansion.
I ask for the vote of WFencing members. To learn more about me and my campaign, please visit https://votevickiemiller.net/.