Education and Advocacy Pave The Way for Better Representation Special Feature with Elladj Baldé

Life grants us opportunities to grow, change and improve if we listen, stay curious and keep an open mind. Every February we are granted unique opportunities that come with the celebration of Black History Month. This opportunity looks different for people of different backgrounds. For some, Black History Month provides an opportunity to engage in difficult conversations, to expand understanding and to take a look at the current situation. For Black and racialized people, Elladj Baldé says “this time is a moment to celebrate history and look forward to what the black experience could look like.” Baldé has become an advocate and inspiration for many in the skating community.

His social media stardom is giving young Black skaters someone they can relate to when they dream of seeing themselves on the ice. He is also igniting crowds with his authentic and entertaining style but feels like the current situation “still sits in hope and faith.” The good news is, there are steps we can take to make our way forward and it begins with education and representation.

As a skater, Baldé said the lack of representation and not “seeing someone who looks like him achieve success” was a struggle.  He was often told that he shouldn’t wear what he wanted because the judges wouldn’t like it and it was the same when it came to his music.

“It made me feel that who I was and who I wanted to be on the ice would limit me from success,” said Baldé.

At one point he was even told to cut his hair.

Baldé wants to create room for figure skaters to fully express themselves and become successful in the sport.

“The way forward is to understand what it is to live the Black experience, the Indigenous experience, the People of Colour experience. Education on different styles of music, on different styles of movement; we are so used to seeing skating done in a certain way that we identify as good. But there are so many ways to move on the ice,” explained Baldé.

In November 2021, Baldé and his wife, Michelle Dawley formed Skate Global Foundation, a non-profit organization formed on three pillars: Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI), Mental Health and Climate Change. In 2023, the key focus of the Skate Global Foundation will be EDI.

“To help support skaters of colour, starting specifically with Black skaters,” said Baldé. This support will come in the form of grants, assisting with equipment costs, ice times and more.

One of the biggest barriers to figure skating is the cost. Ice time, coaches and skates can add up quickly and in underserved communities, those barriers are compounded by systemic racism. Mix in a lack of representation adds to the challenge, “it makes it really difficult for a young Black kid to choose this sport and then make it all the way to the top,” said Baldé.

Baldé believes change starts at the top with National Sport Organizations (NSO) taking initiatives and trying to break down barriers and make sport more accessible.

One of Skate Canada’s strategic imperatives over the next quadrennial is Skating for Everyone. As part of this imperative, Skate Canada is taking action on anti-racism, Indigenous engagement and working to eliminate barriers that limit participation in skating.

Through activities such as World Ice Skating Day, the Diverse Leaders in Skating Mentorship Program, Indigenous lead sharing circles and EDIA (Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Accessibility) educational resources, Skate Canada has started to make progress in this area.

“I believe that in Canada we have a really good opportunity to make this a sport that looks a lot more diverse than it did a few years ago,” said Baldé.

Baldé encourages the skating community to continue education, have difficult conversations and be open to someone else’s experience.

In closing, Baldé had some inspiring words to share with the next generation.

“If it’s something you really want to do and you love, do it and embrace your gifts. Find what it is that is unique about you and share that with everyone and allow everyone to celebrate you for who you are – there is nothing more beautiful than that.”


**Baldé is a former National Team Member who competed at 27 international competitions. Baldé won the Canadian junior title in 2008 and would go on to compete at nine senior Canadian championships, making the National Team five times. In 2015, he won his first gold medal on the international scene at the Nebelhorn Trophy. ***

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *