The Racing Biz’s “Truth to Power” series continued on Wednesday, March 17, presenting a panel of grass-roots organizers and founders talking about their efforts to attract people of color to the Thoroughbred racing and professional hockey industries.

Host Frank Vespe, publisher of The Racing Biz, was joined by Alicia Hughes, director of communications at the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, and Teresa Genaro, teacher and freelance writer.

The guests were Renee Hess, founder and executive director of Black Girl Hockey Club (BGHC), a non-profit and advocacy group focused on making hockey more inclusive for the Black community; Ron Mack, founder of Legacy Equine Academy, which promotes the equine and agriculture industry to racially diverse middle and high school students; and Leon Nichols, CEO and founder of the Louisville-based Project to Preserve African American Turf History

Acknowledging the challenges of talking about race, Hess adopted the #GetUncomfortable campaign, encouraging professional hockey entities to “be brave” as they take on the work of diversity and equity. 

“It makes a difference when we’re talking about how to best diversify and make equitable sports that we love…but that perhaps do not have faces that look like ours on the field, and in the stands, and in the front offices,” she said. 

“We always use a narrative that it’s good for your bottom line,” said Nichols. “When you can weave that into the business section, it just makes sense.

“Knowing that your state and city is home to one of the world’s top sporting attractions (the Kentucky Derby), we can go into boardrooms to drive the message of diversity and inclusion. It’s hard to argue against that position. The work is never easy, but it’s necessary.” 

Hess and Mack stressed the importance of funding scholarships to create a pipeline of education and employment for people of color. 

“We work with students from sixth grade to 12th grade,” said Mack. “We have an end game, and we develop relationships within the (horse racing) industry so that kids can get jobs. We’ve demonstrated what can happen when a kid gets interested in something that they might not otherwise have access to. That’s what we endeavor to do: bring a new audience to the Thoroughbred industry.” 

“As we honor and celebrate the glory of the past and success of past (Black) jockeys, we’re training and cultivating our kids for the future of the sport,” said Nichols. “Because they are the next generation of the industry. We educate young people to deliver economic impact by becoming owners and C-suite executive-level industry leaders for our future.”  

The third panel in the “Truth to Power” series is tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, April 7 at 5 p.m.