SOUTH SHORE — Local sports stars and political leaders celebrated the 50th anniversary of a landmark anti-discrimination law by opening a South Side ball field to get girls and women involved in softball.
Members of the 2021 WNBA champion Chicago Sky team joined political leaders, national nonprofits and ESPN staffers Wednesday at Rosenblum Park, 7547 S. Euclid Ave.
Title IX was passed June 23, 1972, to prevent discrimination based on sex in any educational program that receives federal funds.
The legislation is considered a milestone in the push for gender equality and is well-known for its role in expanding women and girls’ participation in sports. The U.S. Department of Education announced in June 2021 Title IX protections extend to trans students, according to Politico.
To honor the law, volunteers helped renovate a field at Rosenblum Park, which will exclusively be used by softball teams to complement the baseball fields at the other end of the grounds.
Kahleah Copper, a guard and forward for the Sky, said the renovated field will offer skill-building and community to South Shore girls — much like the basketball hoops at 33rd and Diamond streets in North Philadelphia did for her.
“Just walking up to [Rosenblum Park], I felt like I was home,” said Copper, who was the 2021 WNBA Finals MVP. “I think this is a great place for young girls to have a safe space to be able to come out and compete with their friends, or come out here by themselves and get better.”
South Shore nonprofit Lost Boyz Inc. will use the field for its Lost Girlz MVP Youth Softball Program, which teaches softball, tutoring and civic engagement. National nonprofit RISE will hold panels at the park focused on equity for Black residents.
“In the landscape of fastpitch softball, you don’t see many Black girls playing,” Lost Boyz founder LaVonté Stewart said. “There’s so much opportunity … for fun; there’s an opportunity for scholarships to college because you play.”
Alds. Greg Mitchell (7th) and Michelle Harris (8th), state Sen. Robert Peters and mayoral candidate and state Rep. Kam Buckner also attended Wednesday’s celebration.
Chicago first lady Amy Eshleman spoke at the ceremony, touting the My CHI. My Future. app as a way to get youth involved in summer programs like the ones planned for the Rosenblum Park field.
ESPN partnered with Lost Boyz, RISE and nonprofit love.fútbol to renovate the softball field and provide its programs. ESPN will fund the project for the next year, said Kevin Martinez, the media company’s corporate citizenship vice president.
The Rosenblum Park field is part of ESPN’s month-long commemoration of Title IX’s 50th anniversary. The initiative includes the documentary “Dream On,” which explores the 1996 U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team’s role in launching the WNBA. It also debuted Wednesday.
“If you go back to the spaces that you’re in, and the girls’ opportunities are not the same as the boys’, you can speak up and get that for them,” said Sarah Spain, the event’s host and an espnW reporter.
“Don’t just assume that if the boys have better facilities and resources and coaches and money and equipment, that that’s just the way it is. That is illegal thanks to Title IX.”
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