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© Premier Lacrosse League
Jules Heningburg prior to a Premier Lacrosse League game in 2019.
To celebrate Black History Month, US Lacrosse Magazine and Blaxers Blog are teaming up to recognize the next generation of leaders and pioneers in the Black lacrosse community.
Earlier this month, we highlighted the most influential Black players, coaches and moments in the history of lacrosse. Since, we have committed to sharing the stories of underrepresented voices in our community.
The following players and organizations are the next wave of voices in this movement. They are listed alphabetically.
The starting goalie for Virginia Tech’s women’s lacrosse team, Benson has made her presence felt both on and off the field. While she competes in her final college lacrosse season, Benson has been active in speaking on racial issues in the sport.
Benson spent two seasons at Towson before taking two years away from college lacrosse running clinics, boot camps and individual lessons in Florida. In her free time, she co-hosts “Let’s Talk About It” on Blaxers Blog, helping give a voice to Black players and coaches around the game.
Black Lacrosse Alliance
Founded last July by Jules Heningburg and a group of Black Premier Lacrosse League players, the BLA has gotten to work advocating for change and progress in this sport. What started as a series of calls between Kyle Harrison, Heningburg and a slew of Black professional players turned into an influential coalition with a voice that carries plenty of weight in the community.
Since its inception, the BLA has connected with similar organizations in sports like Major League Soccer’s Black Players Coalition, LeBron Jame’s More Than A Vote Organization and the NFL’s Players Coalition.
The Blog, which launched on Instagram in 2015 after founders Mark Paul and Don Wilson wanted to shed light on Black players across the country, has been a cultural leader over the past few years.
Whether through its flagship Instagram show “Let’s Talk About It” or profiles of high school recruits and pro players on Instagram, the Blog has captured the attention of the lacrosse community and helped advance the progress of Black men and women in lacrosse.
“We want to create a platform that can benefit everyone in terms of the growth of the game, how the game is perceived, how it’s growing,” Wilson said. “We just want to make sure we’re telling these stories accurately and telling them with love and compassion for the game of lacrosse.”
Brown has quickly become one of the most outspoken and influential figures in the lacrosse community. The former All-Ivy honoree at Penn is now a member of the inaugural season of Athletes Unlimited — a new professional women’s lacrosse league debuting this summer.
In the past year, Brown has been featured on “Let’s Talk About It” and made her voice heard on racial issues in the sport. She has pushed for college coaches to become more involved with the growth of the game among underrepresented communities.
Lauren Davenport joined US Lacrosse as the manager of athlete development in 2019 after spending five years in the education field. A Maryland native, she played and coached for the women’s club team at LSU, helping the team win a division title in her second year of coaching. Since earning her Master’s at LSU and has coached from the youth level to the varsity college level.
A certified US Lacrosse coaching trainer and Sankofa clinician, Davenport is spearheading the US Lacrosse athlete development movement to be more player-centered while also sharing her voice to help the lacrosse community better understand topics related to diversity, equity and inclusion.
Devoe joined the Amherst men’s lacrosse in May of 2020 after two seasons guiding the Hampton men’s lacrosse program — the only Division I men’s college lacrosse team at an HBCU.
Before his experience at Hampton, Devoe lead the Navy Prep program and was at the helm of the Beloit College team for four seasons. He’s an active member of the community, mentoring and developing underserved groups and also volunteers for organizations like Brady’s Bunch and Owls Lacrosse.
“I’m looking to see action and action items be implemented soon,” Devoe said of being an agent of change at Amherst.
Mikey Diggs, a.k.a. DiggsTape, saw his name soar in the lacrosse community after videos on Twitter featuring him breaking down college lacrosse highlights went viral on Twitter and Instagram. A former middie at Saint Vincent College, Diggs’ signature style caught fans’ attention and helped him develop an audience throughout 2019 and 2020.
DiggsTape took the next step in his career by joining The Lacrosse Network, where he hosts the “Weekly Watch.” Watch out for DiggsTape on screens for years to come.
Ellis, a Hempstead, N.Y. native, came from humble beginnings to star at Garden City High School. He took his talents to Stony Brook, where he played for three-plus seasons before transferring to Hofstra.
After a successful college career, Ellis joined the New York Lizards in Major League Lacrosse. He and three other Black MLL players join together to form the MLL Four during the league’s shortened 2020 season, standing at midfield together during the national anthem before each game.
Ellis continues to speak out against racism in the sport and co-hosts Blaxers Blog’s “Let’s Talk About It” on Instagram.
Heningburg, the former All-American at Rutgers, joined the Premier Lacrosse League in the summer of 2019. The grandson of former civil rights activist Gustavo Heningburg, he was taught from a young age to speak up on matters concerning race.
By the summer of 2020, his voice was needed in the lacrosse community more than ever. Heningburg wrote a piece called “Standing at a Crossroads” detailing his family’s history and calling on the lacrosse community to step up.
Since then, Heningburg helped found the Black Lacrosse Alliance, which pushes for inclusion and actively stands against racism in lacrosse.
Jenkins became the third head coach in the history of the Delaware women’s lacrosse program in 2019. She’s made stops at Notre Dame College (Ohio), Oberlin, Division II New Haven (Conn.) and Vermont in a coaching career that dates back to 2005. She played at both Hartwick College and American during her college career from 1998-2000.
Now, she continues her passion for giving young Black women opportunities to play lacrosse.
“As a Black head coach, you have a weight on your shoulders,” she told Brian Simpkins in October. “Eyes are always on you. We need more opportunities for girls and coaches. I hope more D1 HBCUs and conferences add women’s lacrosse. It would be fantastic for the sport.”
Kandemiri, a.k.a Official Lax Girl, has seen her profile rise over the last few years after she started her Twitter account and quickly became one of the most trusted personalities in the game. She came to the United States via Zimbabwe in 2004 and found lacrosse shortly after, eventually playing college lacrosse at Sewanee (Tenn.).
Now, Kandemiri serves as a Sankofa Clinician and is a critical voice in the Black lacrosse community. She continues to advocate for the growth of the game in underrepresented areas. She also hosts the "Shoot Space" podcast in addition to an ACC Network show titled "Sound On" with guest Amari Pollard.
One of the most exciting players in college lacrosse, Montgomery captured the attention of the greater community during Duke’s 2018 run to the national championship game. Now, he’s a leader both on and off the field for the No. 1 team in the country.
Since the national conversation on race emerged in the summer of 2020, Montgomery has used his voice to speak on matters of race in lacrosse, and to share his story with fans.
“The one thing I want to do is to be able to change the lives of others around me,” he wrote in a piece on UNCUT Duke. “Because if not for all the people in my life who strove to do the same, I wouldn’t be here writing “my” story.
Nation United was created in 2016 to showcase elite high school lacrosse players and “foster long-lasting relationships that cross ethnic, socioeconomic and geographic boundaries, serving as the catalyst for increased participation in the lacrosse community.”
Led by names like co-founder Brian Dawson, board members Jeremy Ardery and Chazz Woodson, Nation United has helped many Black high school player garner attention for college lacrosse and provided them with professional development along the way.
There will be plenty more to come from Nation United as it continues to empower lacrosse players from diverse backgrounds.
Nolting has become one of the most dynamic players in men’s lacrosse during his time at High Point and could find himself a Tewaaraton finalist by year’s end. However, his aspirations have taken on a new meaning in the past year.
A bi-racial Colorado native, Nolting shared his story of overcoming prejudice to make it in college lacrosse. He hopes to one day make it to professional lacrosse and inspire kids that look like him.
“This is another pivotal moment in history where we need to take a step back and look at ourselves in the mirror and figure out how we can move forward,” Nolting said in June. “We need to continue normalizing Black lacrosse players.”
Seabrooks, like Ty Warner, will make an impact off the field at Harvard. The current Princeton senior middie and former US Lacrosse All-American will join the Harvard School of Law and graduate in the Class of 2026.
While his four-plus seasons have been impactful at Princeton, he’ll look to change a sobering statistic — just 5 percent of resident active attorneys are Black. He hopes he can have an impact on the greater Black community in the near future.
A four-year letter winner as a goalie at Michigan, Shane concluded her Wolverine career in 2019 as the program’s all-time leader in saves and save percentage. After one year as a volunteer assistant at Harvard, Shane is now back at her alma mater to help guide the UM goalies. Away from the field, she harnesses her high-energy personality, passion for music and biracial background to help support rising stars of the future.
“I love to give to others, and I want to show others that it’s good to be authentic,” Shane said. “Help others, but also raise the voice of others that aren’t usually being heard — whether that’s through race and breaking barriers or whether that’s through sports.”
Nat St. Laurent
St. Laurent has built the Ohio Northern men’s lacrosse program since its inception in the spring of 2016. During the summer, he takes the helm of Redwood LC in the Premier Lacrosse League, which he will lead for a third season in 2021.
A member of Keuka's men’s lacrosse team, St. Laurent is a member of the U.S. Army Reserves. He hopes to make this sport welcoming for his three children if they choose to compete.
During a tumultuous summer of 2020, St. Laurent issued a call to action for fellow coaches to speak on racism in the sport. “I wanted people to understand that we [as coaches] have to step up,” he said.
Urban Lacrosse Alliance
Created by US Lacrosse in 2015, the ULA is designed to support local lacrosse organizations that serve underrepresented youth. US Lacrosse assists approximately 75 lacrosse programs from 25 states through the ULA. US Lacrosse provides resources and education programming to help these programs develop the sport in their communities.
US Lacrosse resources include equipment grants or stipend grants which cover expenses such as officials fees, transportation costs, field rentals, league or tournament fees and expenses for coaches to attend the US Lacrosse Convention. US Lacrosse also provides the framework and opportunities for ULA programs to network with each other and share best practices.
“We hope the development and exchange of best practices and strategies will allow for further success in each program and further promote and support the development of additional urban youth programs around the country,” said Eboni Preston-Laurent, USL’s director of diversity, equality & inclusion. “We want to help reduce the barriers to participation in underrepresented communities and expand participation opportunities.”
Warner recently retired from a professional lacrosse career with the PLL champion Whipsnakes LC, but his impact for Black boys and girls will continue far beyond the field.
The former NCAA champion at Yale will continue his studies at Harvard Medical School this year, where he will become an inspiration in more ways than one. He will certainly have his eyes on the lacrosse world and the issues it faces when it comes to race.
“It’s no secret that I want to be a lawyer; I want to be someone who helps reform and improve some of our oldest institutions,” he said. “If society is like a big machine, then lawyers are the engineers. Lawyers are the people who read the blueprints to that machine as they decipher and help change laws.”
A high profile leader who has enjoyed a decorated collegiate and professional playing career, Woodson has now accepted a new calling, channeling his leadership skills to lead the men’s program at Hampton University. The chance to create a lacrosse legacy at the HBCU school located adjacent to his hometown of Norfolk, Va., was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.
“I'm excited to build a program that exemplifies the University's dedication to the promotion of learning, building character, and preparing students for positions of leadership and service,” Woodson said. “Coaching is fundamentally about building and maintaining relationships. That holds true no matter what sport or what level, and it's not new to me at all. It's an exciting challenge.”