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Black businesswomen bringing diversity to ski slopes

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Black businesswomen bringing diversity to ski slopes
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(CNN) — In January 2019, Simisola Oke traveled with a friend to Flachau, one of Austria’s busiest ski areas. Following their arrival, they were greeted with many hellos and waves from fellow skiers. Initially, “we just assumed people were being kind and friendly, or maybe they thought we were famous,” Oke recalls.

This all changed during apres-ski amid the warm fires and hearty meals. Skiers began opening up with probing comments such as, “It’s different for people like you to be here.”

Oke describes two young men asking her and her friend for their photograph. When the girls questioned why, the men replied, “You guys are just so beautiful.” Not convinced by their flattery, she notes that “there were plenty of beautiful girls. We all knew the reason behind their request.”

In an arena that is predominantly White, Oke described feeling as if she were an “exhibit,” with her Blackness on show against an undeniably White backdrop.

A few months later, Oke went skiing in Chamonix, France, with her university friends and future business partners — Tobi Adegboye, Wenona Barnieh, Blessing Ekairia and Adeola Omotade.

The uncomfortable stares and unsolicited comments about “not realizing Black people ski” continued. Oke explains that you can’t help but “feel insecure” when people stare, noting “It’s as if you are walking around naked.” Despite this, Oke describes skiing “with a group of other people who looked like me” as “the best experience” she’d had on the slopes.

The close friends found inspiration behind their shared encounters, sparking the formation of Mount Noire, a London-based ski travel company with the aim of “bringing color to the mountain.” Adegobye explains that: “Mount Noire reminds you that you are welcome in all spaces, no matter what your background or heritage is.”

Lamont Joseph White’s artwork deals with issues of race in sport.

Lamont Joseph White

The organization offers luxury ski packages all-inclusive of accommodation, equipment rental and events. Mount Noire has hosted two trips so far, and their next one is scheduled for March 2021 in Val Thorens, France — with a contingency plan in place for December due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Companies like Mount Noire are transforming snowy landscapes into inclusive spaces. However, Anthony Kwame Harrison, Professor of Sociology and Africana Studies at Virginia Tech, argues that the real change in this area needs to come from ski companies increasing representation.

A Google search for “Skiing Holidays” leads only to a plethora of ad campaign images with white faces. The skiing region of Flachau’s Instagram page, for example, boasts an impressive 18,000 followers. It is the “official account of Flachau’s tourism” yet in all its posts, to date, there is no person of color.

Motivated by this lack of representation, Lamont Joseph White, an artist from Park City, Utah, decided to curate expressive paintings of Black skiers. He explains that much of his work is concerned with “elevating the presence of Black people where they are an extreme minority.” As an avid skier himself he talks about the importance of “people seeing themselves” reflected and hopes that “a young boy or girl might see these images and say, I want to check that out.”

Similarly, Barnieh — who leads Mount Noire’s social media presence — is also challenging the traditional messages on ad campaigns. Barnieh views social media as a powerful platform to represent Black people skiing as normal.

Blessing Ekairia, a Mount Noire co-founder, shows off her ski gear.

Blessing Ekairia, a Mount Noire co-founder, shows off her ski gear.

Mount Noire

Through strategic and snappy hashtags such as #blackgirlsski, Mount Noire has cultivated a global following. Ultimately, reinforcing, and spreading the message that quite simply, yes, Black people can — and do — ski.

The women behind Mount Noire and their own personal experiences expose the underlying exclusionary practices that have been unwittingly maintained by the skiing industry for far too long. It’s troubling that if you are not White, your complexion could become the main attraction rather than your actual enjoyment of skiing.

Mount Noire cofounder Tobi Adegboye.

Mount Noire cofounder Tobi Adegboye.

Mount Noire

However, hope is not lost. Mount Noire and other notable organizations like the National Brotherhood of Skiers (NBS) are tackling these issues head on. NBS was established in 1973 with the aim of increasing snow sport participation amongst African-Americans. Since then, its mission evolved “to become the largest winter sports organization in the United States with over 50 clubs and 3,500 members.”

Mount Noire acknowledges that skiing is expensive and says they plan to develop an outreach program to make the sport more accessible to those from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Following in the footsteps of NBS, Omotade tells CNN Travel that she is determined to “inspire a generation” of young Black and ethnic minorities to take up skiing.

The push to alter the “uncomfortable experiences” for Black skiers looks promising, with groups like Mount Noire now leading the way.

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British Gymnastics faces legal action over alleged ‘systemic physical and psychological abuse’

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British Gymnastics faces legal action over alleged 'systemic physical and psychological abuse'
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“This is a landmark moment in our campaign for justice,” Claire Heafford, a former elite gymnast and one of the 17 claimants, said in the statement.

“This is not and has never been about a few bad apples, this is about decades of systemic abuse, encouraged and covered up by those at the top.

“The hopes and dreams of countless children and young adults of competing as professional gymnasts have been destroyed and their love for the sport is now shrouded in fear and suffering. My heart goes out to everyone who has felt this pain and have not yet spoken out — we want you to know that we are here, fighting on your side.”

In a statement sent to CNN, British Gymnastics said: “We took receipt of the Letter Before Action on the afternoon of 25th February. It would not be appropriate or fair to all parties for us to make any comment until we have had the opportunity for it to be fully considered. “

The claimants, who are all women, allege the abuse took place at clubs across the United Kingdom, all of which were affiliated with British Gymnastics, according to the statement from Hausfeld.

The claimants, who were between the ages of six and 23 at the time, allege physical abuse included “inappropriate use of physical force by coaches against gymnasts constituting physical assault,” pressure on gymnasts to continue training while injured and “abusive and harmful coaching techniques which have no justification in science or theory,” as detailed in the statement.

The Letter Before Action cites “consistent reports of coaches slapping, pushing, and using physical force to reprimand, punish, stretch, and/or ‘correct’ gymnasts during training.”

The claimants also allege coaches “excessively controlled” gymnasts’ diets and engaged in “widespread bullying and intimidation behaviour” against gymnasts and parents.

“The focus on weight served to create a culture of ‘body shaming’ for gymnasts,” states the Letter Before Action sent to British Gymnastics.

The Hausfeld statement says in nearly all cases, the alleged abuse has left gymnasts with lasting psychological and physical damage, including depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The letter follows the launching of a pressure campaign called Gymnasts for Change by Heafford and Olympic gymnast Jennifer Pinches in 2020.

“For too long we have seen British Gymnastics prioritise podiums over people, which has led to untold damage to the lives of young people,” Pinches said in the Hausfeld statement.

“It is a heart-breaking truth to face, knowing the level of abuse that we and so many others were subjected to. This is just the beginning of the sweeping changes that we are demanding, and the justice that we will fight for.”

In December, the CEO of British Gymnastics, Jane Allen, retired amid an independent inquiry into allegations of abuse in the sport.

Allen lauded the gymnasts who had spoken out about abuse as “very brave” in an October interview with the BBC and acknowledged the organization had “‘fallen short’ in protecting its athletes.”

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Shamima Begum: UK teen who joined ISIS not allowed to return home to fight for citizenship, court rules

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Shamima Begum: UK teen who joined ISIS not allowed to return home to fight for citizenship, court rules
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The President of the Supreme Court, Lord Robert Reed, said that the UK Court of Appeal made four errors last year when it ruled that Begum should be allowed to return to the UK to carry out her appeal.

Begum was 15 years old when in 2015 she left the UK with two school friends to join ISIS in Syria. She was stripped of her British citizenship by then-Home Secretary Sajid Javid on February 19, 2019 upon being discovered in a northern Syrian refugee camp.

According to Reed, the Court of Appeal was mistaken in ruling that Begum’s right to a fair hearing should prevail over other competing rights.

“The right to a fair hearing does not trump all other considerations such as the safety of the public,” Reed said.

The UK Court of Appeal last year ruled that Begum should be granted leave to enter the UK for her appeal because otherwise it would not be “a fair and effective hearing.”

Reed added that the Court of Appeal did not give the Home Secretary’s assessment of the requirements to enter the UK “the respect it deserved,” adding that the court made their “own assessment of the requirements” despite an “absence of relevant evidence.”

The Supreme Court also ruled that Begum’s appeal against the revocation of her UK citizenship should be “postponed” until she can participate without “public safety being compromised.”

In his judgment Reed said Begum is currently being held at a camp in Syria. This is “not a perfect solution as it is not known how long it may be before that is possible,” he said.

“There is no perfect solution to a dilemma of the present kind,” Reed added.

The decision to revoke Begum’s citizenship has come under fire from human rights campaigners and legal experts alike who argue that the revocation rendered her stateless and compromised her right to a fair appeal.

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GameStop stock is surging again: Shares close up more than 100%

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GameStop stock is surging again: Shares close up more than 100%
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Shares were halted once around 3:40pm ET after climbing nearly 74%, and again just over 10 minutes later after gaining 104%. GameStop’s trading volume was roughly three times higher the five-day average for the stock, according to data provider Refinitiv.

Less than an hour after the closing bell, the stock was on the move again — gaining nearly 90% in after-hours trading.

Having déjà vu yet? The surge comes about a month after a wild GameStop (GME) trading frenzy caused its stock to jump around 1,600% in a matter of days, though it quickly fell from highs around $350. The late January surge was fueled by individual retail investors, many from the Reddit page WallStreetBets, some of whom believed the GameStop was undervalued and others who wanted to squeeze hedge funds that had shorted the stock.
The jump in GameStop also comes a day after the company announced its chief financial officer would resign next month to help “accelerate GameStop’s transformation,” which could fuel investors who believe in the long-term value of the retailer and its ability to shift from relying on physical stores to an e-commerce sales model.
AMC (AMC), another “meme stock” involved in the trading frenzy last month, also jumped around 18% on Wednesday.

Redditors on WallStreetBets cheered as GameStop soared. Posts on the subreddit included diamond emojis (a reference to holding a stock long term) and titles like “NEXT STOP IS THE MOON BABY” with rocket emojis, representing a belief that the stock will continue its upward trajectory.

Some GameStop investors have talked publicly about not selling their positions in the company during last month’s trading frenzy because they believe in its long-term potential.

Around 4pm, the entire Reddit site was down for many users, though the company did not identify the cause of the outage. Within about half an hour, Reddit said it had identified the underlying issue and “systems are beginning to recover.”

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