What Black History Month means to Nikita Parris
Manchester United Women forward Nikita Parris has spoken passionately about her role models and the changes she would still like to see in society, in an exclusive interview for Black History Month.
Parris joined United from Arsenal this summer and is seen as one of the Lionesses' biggest trailblazers for delivering change within football and the wider world.
The Euro 2022 winner explained to us how her upbringing shaped her as both a person and a player, and discussed what can be done to help the next generation embrace diversity even further.
You can read and watch the interview in full below...
Parris: We need more people to stand up
As Black History Month draws to a close, United Women forward Nikita Parris calls for further improvements in society...
It's been a year since you released your statement with England about the impact on the community and how role models have helped you to get to where you are now. Black History Month is so important, isn't it, and you have said we should celebrate it all the time...
''It is true. I don't think one specific month in a year of 12 months should signify how we appreciate ethnicity and diversity because it should be an everyday thing. It's something we should educate ourselves on and also the next generation of people in order to push forward and create more change.''
There are plenty of role models who you mentioned in the statement, especially your family. Talk to me about them as role models and how important they have been in your upbringing?
''[They have been] massive really. I grew up in the city of Liverpool with lots of ethnicity and lots of diversity. The most important thing to me was those family members but also outside members like youth leaders. When I used to go to the youth club, there were many different ethnicities and nationalities in the youth club and you got to know different people for who they are and how they lived their lives, what they eat and how they pray and you learn so much. It just educates you and makes you more open to differences.''
''Definitely. Natasha is breaking barriers and has done since she started boxing, she started late too. She started in football, then got an injury and went into boxing and she has fought all the way. There have been up and downs and she has never given up. She has been so resilent and now look at her, at the top of her game.''
Then you, of course, were on the main stage being a European champion. Is it important to you to be on that stage and able to spread even more awareness about these issues as well?
''As an athlete, as a person who has a platform, it is so important that I use it and ensure that you help the next generation of people to help understand the cultural differences that we have. To be open too, and to also accept them because throughout my life I have met many different people and each person I have met, I have learned something new from.''
You have always consistently helped the young community and it's great that when we have these open conversations about diversity, they have an impact. Now we see it [in schools] at key stages 1-4, so this is going to help more young people learn about it...
''It is so important, as if you learn when you are younger, it becomes implemented as a part of your life. In many different areas across England, there could be little groups of diversity in your school. That's a possibility. It is important that you learn at school but also at home, it should be part of your learning and your education because you are ultimately going to go into the wider world and be able to understand difference, but also help create change. I think society is moving forward step by step but we also have a long way to go.''
These steps are of course important when we look around but not only in football. It is important we are aware of it in every situation we are in, isn't it?
''Not just in football, but in everyday life. We need people to stand up and call out people if they are in the wrong but also praise people when they have stepped up and been that educator, because it is not easy on both sides. In order to have change, you have to have people who are open and willing to come outside their comfort zone and learn.''