The Brown Girls Do Gymnastics (BGDG) Conference wrapped up Sunday at Grambling State University with its inaugural invitational and an exhibition. A team from New York walked away with the win in BGDG’s first invitational.
Held at GSU’s Fredrick C. Hobdy Assembly Center, the Isla Invitational featured teams from Metroplex Gymnastics in Texas and Power Moves Gymnastics in New York. During the sanctioned, judged competition, gymnasts demonstrated their skills in the vault, uneven bars, balance beam, and floor exercises
Power Moves’ gymnasts impressed judges with their routines and level of skill to take home the first place banner. However, it was a tight competition with the final scores of 111.75 and 111.45.
Judges said they were pleased with the performance of both teams in their off season.
“I thought that the athletes did a really good job,” said judge Jasmine Swyningan. “The fact that they have the endurance and bravery to do this during their off season is just mind-blowing.”
Judge Courtney Johnson said the skill level was good and she expects it to be even better once the season starts.
“The girls looked like they were enjoying themselves and having fun and that’s one of the things we look for (as judges),” she said.
The high-energy exhibition featured former and current collegiate gymnasts from Seattle Pacific University, Auburn University, University of Florida, Rutgers University, and Centenary College. They are scholars, wives, or mothers and all athletes.
As music filled the arena, gymnasts owned the floor with energetic, fun routines. They made moves on the uneven bars look graceful and effortless. The women also displayed artistry on the beam, flipping and leaping as spectators cheered them on. At one point, a duo performed synchronized moves on the beam, looking like mirror images. The gymnasts also skillfully vaulted into the air to the cheers and clapping of the crowd.
Derrian Gobourne, one of the exhibitors and a senior at Auburn University, has been involved in gymnastics since she was 7. She started in cheer but quickly moved to gymnastics when she saw a facility across the street.
“It’s not who I am but it’s what I do,” she said. “I bring my own flavor to it.”
The invitational and exhibition culminated the three-day conference which is a collaboration between GSU, The Doug Williams Center and the Ruston Lincoln Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.
BGDG founder Derrin Moore said the conference goal is to increase exposure and access to gymnastics among girls and women of color. It also seeks to provide mentorship to young gymnasts and offer resources to parents.
“Brown Girls Do Gymnastics (BGDG) is an advocacy organization striving for more diversity and inclusion in gymnastics,” she said. “It’s super important because representation matters.”
As far as the Isla Invitational goes, Moore said BGDG hopes to hold many more invitationals at (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) HBCUs.
GSU is interested in launching a gymnastics program at the institution with the assistance of partners and supporters. Currently, there are no gymnastics programs at HBCUs.
Tia Kiaku, a student at North Carolina Central who attended the BGDG event, said she would have liked to participate in the sport at an HBCU. She started out as a gymnast at a college in Alabama before transferring.
“I was torn because I wanted to go to an HBCU but that would have meant having to hang up my leotard,” she said. “I love gymnastics. It has really helped me with time management and helped me build relationships.”