She was committed to standing up for what was right!
A 12-year-old swimmer used her platform to take a stand, nearly getting disqualified from her swim meet, CNN reports.
Minneapolis has been in the national spotlight recently, and not for the right reasons. In the summer of 2020, George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police in broad daylight, the entire ordeal being caught on camera and going viral for the whole world to see, prompting national outrage and a renewed conversation about police brutality. Now, 22-year-old Amir Locke has been killed by Minneapolis police, fatally shot within seconds after waking up startled to officers executing a no-knock warrant.
The injustices have once again riled people across the nation up, organizers and laypersons alike coming together to attempt to figure out how we stop these types of wanton killings from happening. While many are galvanizing support on large and local levels, some individuals are looking to show their support in any way they can. That’s what happened with Leidy Gellona, a 12-year-old Black girl from Duluth, Minnesota, who learned of the tragedy of Locke and decided to show her support by ironing on the phrase “Black Lives Matter” to her swimsuit the night before an upcoming competition.
When Leidy arrived at the competition that Sunday at Superior High School, her mother Sarah Lyons said a volunteer official told her daughter that she could not compete in the swimsuit, leaving her daughter distraught and crying.
“I went to my mom and told her, and I was like ‘I’m not going to take it off’ and my mom was like ‘OK.’ So, she went to talk to the official and she started making phone calls because I said no... I felt bad and I felt disrespected because I wanted to show that I mattered,” Leidy recalled.
Lyons said that she and her daughter had brought another bathing suit for her to change into but ultimately left the decision up to her, deciding instead to contact the head of the Duluth NAACP to help with the ongoing dispute.
“She came and told me that she was absolutely not taking the suit off and I said, ‘Whatever you want to do I support that. So, I said, ‘If you want to take it off, fine, take it off, that’s totally cool. If you don’t want to, I 100 percent support you.’ And she said, ‘Mom, I’m not taking it off,” Lyons told reporters. What started out as a simple show of support for a child wanting to express how she felt about the injustice happening in her own backyard, quickly turned into a full-on social justice rally as the official disqualified Leidy from swimming.
The president of the local NAACP quickly arrived at the meet to support Leidy and her mother while other organizers rallied around her by showing up.
“We need to protect our young Black girls and stand up against racism without being performative,” the Duluth NAACP chapter said via statement.
Eventually, the Duluth Area Family YMCA, which sponsored the event, had to get involved and overturn the volunteers ruling, Leidy being allowed to continue participating in the swim meet after missing one of the races. The Duluth YMCA also banned the official from future swim meets hosted by the organization, stating that they “inappropriately barred a student athlete from taking part in the meet,” and issued a statement on the matter.
“The Duluth YMCA is saddened that the student, their family, and teammates had to endure this unacceptable behavior. The Duluth YMCA will continue our ongoing commitment to train all staff and volunteers on diversity, equity, and inclusion…The Duluth Area Family YMCA is committed to being an anti-racist organization and stands with BIPOC communities throughout the Northland and throughout our country. We know that Black Lives Matter and we will continue to work to educate ourselves, to stand against inequality, and to strive to be active allies in the ongoing fight for diversity, equity and inclusion,” the organization said.
Members of the NAACP stayed for the rest of Leidy’s meet and cheered her on, the 12-year-old’s heroic story resonating with millions across the internet. Lyons said her daughter received a lot of praise across social media for standing her ground, although the pre-teen isn’t online to see it. Lyons shared some of the messages with her daughter, including one of support from NBA star LeBron James who praised her for her courage.
“I was so excited when I heard about it. I told my friends and they were like ‘oh my gosh, he’s the best,’ so I was pretty excited when I heard about that. I heard that he called me a beautiful young Black queen and I was like ‘yay!’”
Yay is right Leidy! You rock, girl!
Photo Courtesy of Duluth NAACP/Instagram