Danielle Hogan: What Black History Month means to me

“For me Black History Month is so important because it’s not just about learning about black history, this is about highlighting the amazing progress, despite the barriers and focusing on black futures.”

A lifelong member of the Netball Family, Danielle Hogan sat down with us to talk openly about her netball journey, discuss how her experiences as a black woman have changed during her time in netball and talk about what Black History Month and the theme of Celebrating Sisters means to her.

Tell us about your netball journey 

“My netball journey started the moment I was born.”

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Danielle credits her mum and aunts’ influence of being heavily involved in netball from infancy, supporting her family from the sidelines from a very young age. Growing up in Nottingham, Danielle’s experiences at Cliftonettes Netball Club led her to “understand why we use the term Netball Family.”

After first taking to the court at eight years old, Danielle went on to play in various competitive junior environments, including in the National Clubs competitions and eventually went on to be selected for England’s junior programme at the age of 14. This is where she had her first taste of elite netball, attending the World Netball Championships in Birmingham in 1995 as a flag bearer, alongside teammate at the time, current Vitality Roses Head Coach Jess Thirlby.

Danielle aged 14 with England teammate Helen Sully who Danielle took to the court with for the first time aged nine and is still a close friend now (see picture below).

Danielle continued to play at a high standard, competing in the Premier League for both Linden and Turnford. She now plays regional netball and coaches at Sutton Town Netball Club where her daughters, who are 12 and nine, both play.

“I’ve been an England Netball member since I was 10 years old, right to this day, even during both my pregnancies!

“I’ve not had a life without netball in it.”

Alongside a vibrant playing journey and a newfound love for coaching, Danielle is also the Diversity and Belonging Lead at England Netball, working hard to make our sport a place for everyone to belong, flourish and soar.

Now a mother of two, Danielle’s experiences as a black woman in the sport have evolved over time.

“When I was young, I was brought up with black women around me playing netball, so I always saw black women in netball. But when I was playing with England, I was the only person of colour in the team and the whole setup.”

She feels that in the past, she needed to mould herself to fit in with the norm because of the way she has been perceived. Her experience of unconscious bias and societal negative stereotyping of black athletes has meant that, at times, she’s adapted her behaviours in order to be accepted.

“I have felt in the past that the side to me that has a lot to say – and is loud, proud and big and bold – wasn’t necessarily acceptable.

“As a fact can I say that’s down to race? Potentially not, but for me, it seems to be a bit of a theme in terms of my personal experiences and that of others.”

Change in netball 

Danielle also reflects on how much the sport has changed over the time she’s been involved:

“Some of the biggest differences now are that there’s more visibility of black and brown girls and women playing sport, especially in the netball that we see on our screens so within your team,  -whether that’s Vitality Roses or grassroots – there’s more opportunity to be yourself without fear of judgement or misunderstanding. But we still have a long way to go.

“Having a more diverse playing cohort around you can help you to feel like you don’t need to hold back, you can be who you want to be, and that hasn’t always been the case. Whereas now I feel like netball is more accepting, and not only can it give you amazing friendships, but it can also help you to find people that you feel most comfortable and accepted by.”

For Danielle, what does she think is the key to seeing continuous change in netball? “Having those in decision-making positions who understand lived black experiences will continue to improve the game by creating more positive and inclusive environments for all who play netball and for those who make netball happen every day.”

Although there has been a notable increase in the number of black and diverse ethnic groups represented at both grassroots and elite levels of the game, for Danielle it’s an ongoing culture change that is key.

When asked about her vision for the future and what she hopes the sport looks like as her daughters grow up, Danielle’s thoughts turn to basketball – a sport that both she and her family have had a long-standing involvement with.

“We’re very heavily involved in basketball – my daughter loves playing both sports. I know that basketball has a wider global reach, but I’d love to see netball be similar in the way I see basketball as a cultural melting pot, each embracing the other.

“The vibrancy of our culture shines within basketball, through music, fashion, big personalities, and everything that is popular culture. It is important that my daughters feel like they can always be unapologetically themselves on and off the court.  My experiences of basketball are that young people learn from the amazing melting pot of each other and understand cultures and ethnic groups better.

“For example, you might have ten black and brown girls in a basketball team all with different heritages, family backgrounds and traditions that we are all individually so proud of. So, continuing to develop understandings of culture is key”.

She resonates strongly with the #WeMatter hashtag that has been used this Black History Month and feels a greater appreciation of culture and diversity of culture can help women and girls of all ethnicities feel they belong.

Celebrating Sisters

The theme of this Black History Month is Celebrating Sisters, a concept which resonates strongly with netball’s unapologetic focus on women and girls.

Considering this year’s Black History Month theme, Danielle feels it is a “beautiful and amazing theme, and in our sport of netball, it is making people think about the contribution of black women and netball as a place where we can find family and thrive.”

The first people that come to mind when Danielle thinks of Celebrating Sisters? Her friendship group.

“My closest girlfriends are an amazing group of strong black women who are players and coaches and give everything to the sport while trying to live life as professional working mothers and everything in between.

“I think my friends are amazing and we celebrate each other all the time.”

For Danielle, the Netball Family can facilitate building connections that stay with you for life. Referring to the photo below, she says: “It’s crazy to see Helen (below in green), my first netball partner aged nine. We both went on to be selected for England in the same year as juniors and are still close friends now.”

Danielle with some of her Netball Family. 

Alongside celebrating the women who make an impact on her daily life, Danielle also discusses how high-profile black netball players have also had a profound effect on her and feels they should be at the forefront of being celebrated.

“Both Kadeen and Sasha Corbin and the representation on TV, for my daughters, I feel like it’s really important.

“The reason why these two women stick out to me is because it seems like they’ve always been themselves. They’re role models to a lot of young girls.

“Camilla Buchanan is someone else who needs a shout out and should be celebrated. She made history as the first black woman to lead out a Netball Super League team as Head Coach. At one point there were seven black players on the court for one team at the highest level of domestic netball in the UK, and for our community that was a big moment.

“I’m curious to understand more from their perspective about their experiences in netball. Seeing these women and many others on Sky Sports representing netball and their culture is a massive achievement and just so important to see. From hair to trainers, it’s just so refreshing. They’ve changed the game.”

Danielle also speaks about the pride she feels around friend and Vitality Roses Assistant Coach Sonia Mkoloma and her netball career.

“I’ve always really respected Sonia. From afar, I feel like she’s always been her authentic self. I definitely feel like I would celebrate and be proud of her global contribution to netball. I am only a year younger than Sonia, but I definitely looked up to her.”

Danielle Hogan with Sonia Mkoloma.

What does Black History Month mean to you?

“It means so many different things and impacts me in so many different ways, especially as a mother, a woman and a netballer.”

A key impact that Danielle feels Black History Month has made is around opening up education and starting important conversations.

“From young children in school learning about inspirational people to starting conversations with those across generations, I think it opens doors to education and awareness we never had before.

“Now, my kids come home from school and teach me things which allows us to celebrate the achievements of black people in history together. It provides an openness to education which is so important.

“It’s bittersweet because you learn about these amazing people, which is great, but then sad because they have been dismissed from British history books for so many years.”

For Danielle, the central role of Black History Month is about respecting and appreciating the struggle of those before us but also about looking forward.

“I think for me Black History Month is so important because it’s not just about learning about black history, this is about highlighting the progress despite the barriers and focusing on black futures.

“We’re in a moment in time where we can really start to see how the learning from the past can really shape the future for black people.”

She adds: “I’ve been learning a lot about intersectionality.”

Danielle credits the influence of academic Kimberlé Crenshaw, who first coined the concept of intersectionality, which she first described to illustrate the struggle against both racism and sexism for black women. It is now used more widely as a lens to understand the ways in which multiple forms of inequality can create obstacles that impact many different people.

“For black female athletes, there’s a safety in finding your tribe and a strength in finding your voice. I am so proud to celebrate black women in sport and beyond who continue to smash through the systemic barriers and change the game.”

‘In Conversation With…’

As part of England Netball’s ongoing commitment to amplify black voices, to tell stories about lived experiences and to celebrate our sisters in the netball community, we are launching a year-long series: ‘Celebrating Our Sisters: In Conversation With…’

This series will start conversations with black women across the Netball Family, from elite to grassroots, coaching to playing and everything else in between. Danielle will be hosting an episode of the ‘In Conversation With’ series every month as we shine a spotlight on and celebrate some of the amazing black women in our Netball Family.

What are Danielle’s hopes for the series? “Definitely good vibes! I think one of the main things that I am hoping for is to have open and honest conversations full of love and laughter, I also hope we can inspire girls and women who may listen or watch one of the episodes and think ‘wow that was a struggle for her too and look where she is now’.”

“I think it’s so important to continue to open conversations and to tell stories about the experiences of our multi-cultural group of women in netball. It would be amazing if we can educate both other people and each other along the way too.”

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