After donning a Black Lives Matter (BLM) swimsuit, Leidy Gallona, a 12-year-old, was nearly disqualified from a swim meet over the weekend.
Sarah Lyons, Gallona’s mother, describes how Leidy was inspired to design the BLM swimsuit after 22-year-old Amir Locke was shot and murdered by Minneapolis police last week. Furthermore, as a woman of color, she values the Black Lives Matter movement.
“She is very passionate about social justice. She has been through a lot already at a young age,” Lyons said. “It’s a big part of her which I think is wild at 12.”
On Sunday, the YMCA hosted the Wisconsin swim meet, which took place at Superior High School. During the event, an official called Leidy over and warned her that she was at risk of being disqualified for violating the rules.
The official’s action was unacceptable, according to a spokesman of the Duluth YMCA.
“An independent volunteer official inappropriately barred a student-athlete from taking part in the meet, due to their ‘Black Lives Matter’ swimsuit,” the representative said. “stating that it ‘went against USA Swimming’s policy of no political language.”
Lyons enlisted the support of their local NAACP chapter after Leidy refused to take off her bikini. Gallona’s decision, according to Classie Dudley, president of the NAACP Duluth branch, was a human right decision, not a political one.
“This is a humanitarian issue. It’s not political,” Dudley said. “It’s human. It’s humanizing something.”
In the end, Leidy was able to compete in her Black Lives Matter outfit, but people who were there to cheer her on felt that the episode highlighted a major issue in the community.
The Duluth YMCA issued a statement on Sunday claiming that it is committed to being an anti-racist organization that educates itself on diversity and inclusiveness.
“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 race’s sponsors, the Duluth YMCA, overturned Leidy’s disqualification and barred him from participating in future YMCA races in Duluth, Wisconsin.