Anna, a YMW participant from Jefferson Middle School, interviewed Gia Lewis-Smallwood on April 22, 2010.
Gia is a professional athlete born and raised in Champaign. She competed in the 2008 Olympic trials in the discus. Gia is currently an assistant volleyball coach at Parkland Comunity College. She spoke to Anna about race and athletics and how things are very different today than during her parent’s time. Her parents grew up in the deep south, lived in segregated neighborhoods, picked cotton, and had virtually no opportunity to participate in school sports. In contrast, Gia was enrolled in sports beginning in grade school, and was treated fairly by her coaches, both black and white. In the fields of track and field and basketball, it is white athletes who have to prove themselves today.
Sports kept Gia occupied and connected to all kinds of people. She was an honors student, one of few African-Americans in such classes. Her brother was once asked why he was in an AP physics class. Gia’s mother promptly went to the school to advocate for her son.