Throughout October, we will be sharing video messages and written stories from a range of Black members of the Netball Family, to celebrate what Black History Month means to them and their work within netball.
From coaching to umpiring, assessing and mentoring to founding a club over 36 years ago, Marlene Wander has been involved in netball in a variety of roles for over 40 years. She is also currently Vice Chair of the London and South East region and Chair of Kent County Netball.
Here she shares what Black History Month means to her, why it’s important that England Netball recognises Black History Month and her love of being involved in netball.
“Over the past few months obviously with everything with Black Lives Matter for example, I feel that Black History Month is extremely important for us to really focus on what that means to the local community.
“It needs to be a celebration of understanding of what Black individuals have actually done for this country.
“Talking about the history and the ethos of what Black history is about needs to be part of the foundation going forward for our youngsters taught in school. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen at the moment so obviously we’ve got Black History Month which is the beginning and it is a focus where we need to start to drive and think about what are we saying and how are we educating the community.
“And it’s not just as I would say white or other communities, I feel as well that even our own Black individuals need to be educated about Black history, understanding what we have contributed over the years, the history and to make Britain exactly what it is now.
“We are the core; we’re the essence of really ensuring what Britain is and without Black history, Britain would be on a different path and I think people need to realise that.
“And it means going and reading and really thinking about where we get all this information and do not be basically ashamed to ask questions – I would encourage and welcome questions from individuals and help to support them.
“I think England Netball should really think about how they join in that celebration; how they use their network and the actual sort of membership base, especially for the youngsters coming up so that we’re starting from the core; getting that education going in regards to what Black history is and using Black History Month, use it as one of the celebrations that we do as an annual festival for our members and really profile it and make it great.
“Then I feel that will say that netball is really engaging, it’s diverse, it’s giving that opportunity and feel that people who love the sport would be getting this information from a different resource.
“I have been involved in netball for over 40 years sort of playing from school and sort of just helping to drive and make netball as successful as we can for all our grassroot individuals.
“I love netball; I’m really passionate about it as you can tell being involved for so long.
“And the reasons why I continue: I like to make a difference. I like to know that I’m here to help, shape, mentor, be someone to talk to; making it easy for the next person to come along; setting the standards that we want the sport to be; and going forward making sure that not only are we the number one sport in England, we want to be number one sport for women in the world. But we all need to work together for that.
“I just feel that netball has made us sort of great friends with lots of different people that we probably would not have met if we weren’t doing the sport.
“We’ve created long-term relationships, long-term friendships and I think netball is a family, it’s a network. And unless you’re in it, if you’re outside looking in, you would not understand.
“So I think that we just really need to spread the word, not only just about all our different denominations of people that’s within the sport and celebrate who they are, but also ensure that saying netball makes us be the person that we are and that netball is me.”
Keep an eye out on our social media channels to see and hear more from a range of Black members of the Netball Family over the coming weeks.
Read the previous Black History Month articles featuring reflections from youth netballer Ebiso Whyte and Vitality Rose Jodie Gibson, as well as Walking Netball Host Jenny Thomas.