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The impact of Black Americans can be felt across the fabric of our nation, including within the halls, stands and pitches at Austin FC. Throughout February, Austin FC will share the stories of the Club’s Black players, supporters, and staff members, providing a platform for them to speak in their own words about personal, meaningful experiences.

Below are conversations with Austin FC Senior Manager of Community Impact Nnedinma Obiwuru, Austin FC Assistant Video Performance Analyst Mac Orr, Austin FC Fan Experience Coordinator Bryan Woodfork, and La Murga de Austin Capo and Los Verdes Starting XI Member Imani Williams.

Nnedinma Obiwuru – Senior Manager, Community Impact

NnedyObiwuru

Where are you from? 

Los Angeles, CA

How has it been to be 1 of none?  

Being the only Black woman in these spaces can be a draining, isolating experience. Giving up, for me, is not an option. I’m very aware of the fact that, as I proceed, I’m helping to pave the way for the next Black woman. It’s a tricky situation -- one that weighs heavily on the mind and spirit -- to navigate without a guide. But I do it because it’s important to not only to take up space but to provide different perspectives. Different perspectives lead to the best product for the consumer.

Why is representation important in life and in soccer?  
I hope by now we all know the importance of representation. Taking it a step further, it is no longer enough to simply hire black people. The conversation should also include, “How do you retain them?” My hope is that a significant amount of intention is given, and resources are utilized to keep black people in these spaces, rather than merely checking a box.  

What do you hope the future of Austin FC looks  like?  

How amazing would it be to see more Black faces in the stands? Austin FC has done an amazing job of creating an intimate and inclusive match day experience. From the incredible stadium design to the goals scored, match day is an unexplainable experience. Q2 Stadium is home for all, so let’s continue to fill it with an accurate representation of our city.

Mac Orr - Assistant Video Performance Analyst

MacOrr

Where are you from?

Jackson, MS

How has it been to be 1 of none?

It’s been both rewarding and disappointing. It’s rewarding personally to be able to accomplish a goal you set for yourself and show that it can be done. At the same time, it’s a little disappointing because I know there are so many others (young kids, ex-players, etc.) who look like me that are not fortunate enough to get an opportunity like this strictly due to lack of resources and knowledge. I look forward to the day where I am not the exception, but a norm.

What keeps you here?

Two things. First, the togetherness of the group. Even last season when things weren’t going well, the attitude of the technical staff never wavered and that type of commitment and belief in something or someone stood out to me. Also, the opportunity to work with our lead analyst Sam Lawson, who is the best in the business. The guy is like an almanac/wizard of Video Analysis. I’ve learned so much in the past year from him and the coaches and look forward to growing and improving in my role this season.

Why is representation important in life and in soccer?

It’s extremely important because it creates hope and turns what seems like an impossible dream into something that with hard work and prayer can actually be achieved. I remember growing up and watching the 2002 World Cup and seeing a player like DaMarcus Beasley. It provided my friends back home in Jackson and myself a realization that it was possible to be a young black male, from an inner city and still make it out with soccer. He along with others gave us a confirmation that when our coaches and parents would tell us that we could go as far as we want in this game, that there was truth in those words and that was invaluable.

What do you hope the future of Austin FC looks like?

My hope for the future of the club is that Austin FC continues in the direction of being a club of opportunity, giving even more chances to qualified African Americans looking to pursue their dreams in this game on the field and off. I hope the club continues to make a mark in the local underprivileged communities by introducing this game to those who may not have access. It’s a game that has provided so much for me and I hope Austin FC can be that resource for young black kids in the city.

Bryan Woodfork - Fan Experience Coordinator

BryanWoodfork

Where are you from? 

Pittsburgh, PA

Growing up, did you know the path you are currently on existed? What career options were presented to you? 

In my younger mind, sports were made up only of the athletes and coaches. Everything else just magically happened. It wasn’t until college I really got into the business and operations of sports. Ticket sales is the assumed starting spot for a lot of people looking to get into the industry, but I had absolutely no interest. I volunteered and did internships with game operations, community, and fan engagement departments with multiple teams in multiple leagues. I instantly knew that’s where I NEEDED to be. 

Why is representation important in life and in soccer? 

There’s not a large number of Black people in the sports live events and entertainment industry, especially in leadership positions. I believe I’m one of only a few in MLS. That means a lot to me and presents an opportunity for me to help move for more representation.

What do you hope the future of Austin FC looks like? 

I hope the future of Austin FC presses the importance of diversity and inclusion. Not only internally but also in the community and supporter base. There can be a lot of opportunity for significant movement if that vision stays inclusive.

Imani Williams - La Murga de Austin Capo and Los Verdes Starting XI Member

Imani Williams

Where are you from?

I was born in New York, and I grew up in Connecticut.

Growing up, did you know the path you are currently on existed? What career options were presented to you?
I was the only female in the bar more times than I could count when watching games. For years, I was the only Black person. There were times when dealing with racism and sexism was really difficult, especially with such little representation in the space. I often had to stand my ground, and not be intimidated by people who didn’t think I belonged there or didn’t think I should have a voice. I was lucky that American Outlaws was so open to female influence from the start. I really thrived in that environment. I also enjoyed my experiences traveling to Liverpool games and getting a warm reception from scousers. Most of the positive experiences I had were with expats, and as watching soccer in pubs became more popular with Americans, I began to have more negative interactions with folks who were brand new to soccer culture who didn’t understand how I could have a place in it.

How has it been to be 1 of none?
There were times where I felt really alone, often being the only female or only black person. I remember some people just refusing to speak to me or telling me I knew nothing about soccer even though they’d never been to a competitive professional game. For years, I was torn between loving soccer and my mental health - at the same time, I didn’t want to give in and let people bully me out of the game.

I was just lucky to have an incredible amount of support in American Outlaws.

What has your experience been at Austin FC?
So far, I’ve really enjoyed my experience at Austin FC. One of the reasons I finally threw my hat behind an MLS club was because I really enjoyed the ambition of the supporters. I hope we continue to showcase the artistry, pageantry and passion that makes Austin. I also hope that the supporters have dedication to diversity, inclusion and community values and are willing to do the work to ensure that y’all means all.

Why is representation important in life and in soccer?
Representation is so essential in life and in soccer. We are in a time where we can heal many old wounds if we just sit down and talk to one another, and in order to do that we need to have a seat at the table and support voices that are struggling to be heard.

There have been very few black faces on the supporter journey, for a while - it seemed like we all knew each other even though we were spread out around the country. It’s really painful to feel like “the other” in spaces you help create. So representation allows us to have each other’s backs and support each other.

The most important thing is having black people in leadership so we can bring important perspectives, and experience. By empowering black people in soccer whether it’s in the supporter culture, as players, coaches, media or front office staff we can be powerful influences and inspire the next generation. By having multiple black voices in spaces, we can support each other when bringing perspectives others may not understand.