Motorsports has a mixed history for people of color in the U.S. Racecar driving got its start in the South, where both Blacks and whites enjoyed go-karts and drag racing, but not together; tracks and racing were segregated. Linking Sports & Communities (LSC), Brotha Love Productions and Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) have partnered on an innovative approach to reignite the interest of people of color in these sports and, ultimately, increase the diversity of fans, vendors, drivers, crews and others involved in the top spectator sport in the US. The third Photographers of Color (POC) workshop was held at PIR Nov. 12-15, 2015.
The Richard Pryor movie—Greased Lightning—detailed the tough time Wendell Scott, had becoming the first Black driver to win an upper-tier NASCAR race. Successors, like Bill Lester, and current driver Darrell Wallace Jr, continued to have challenges. Many people of color still do not think they will be welcomed at NASCAR tracks.
Hassan Abdul-Kareem, CEO of Brotha Love Productions, and Glenn Cherry, a media executive, who can trace their families’ historical involvement in motorsports back to Daytona, developed the idea of encouraging diverse photographers to learn how to shoot NASCAR races. PIR CEO Bryan Sperber and LSC had already been working together to increase minority involvement at the track.
So now, during NASCAR weekends, male and female photographers of all races, with different expertise, and from all parts of the country attend the four-day workshop. They are taught and mentored by Kareem and other skilled photographers. They are quickly addicted to the thrill of the sport. Once home, they use their art to spread their enthusiasm to other communities.
“I came because I love photography,” said Kathy Vick from Seattle. “ I thought this might be a good experience. It turned out to be a great experience.”
Yulanda Gilliam-Williams, the first Black female instructor, gave the group helpful hints during the orientation meeting on Nov. 12. “I am honored to have the responsibility of helping new attendees have a safe and successful experience.”
By the time the Sunday race was delayed by unexpected rain, the twenty photographers looked tired, but happy to have been given this unique opportunity. The Photographers of Color workshop is an example of how a simple, innovative idea in the hands of committed partnership can inspire a new audience, increase inclusion, and expand the market for motorsports.