Football Fan and Feminist: Shaunda Lewis on the Patriots, Family, Boston and Identity
Posted by Christy Pardew Feb 2, 2018
Football fan and feminist – those are not usually two identities that you hear paired together. They are however, two parts of my identity. As a Bostonian, native New Englander, and a strong woman dedicated to building strong girls, I grew up following and rooting for my city’s sports teams; especially the Patriots.
I can remember my first time watching the Patriots play in the Super Bowl. We were facing the Green Bay Packers that year. I was 8 and in the 3rd grade (the same age and grade as the girls when they enter our program). Drew Bledsoe was our quarterback and the Kraft/Belichick/Brady powerhouse had not yet come to be. I remember everyone being so excited, and my parents struggling to make Jambalaya to impress our party guests that evening (the game was taking place in New Orleans).
I watched the game closely sitting next to my Dad, rooting whenever we made a positive play, and mimicking the adults’ disgruntled shouts and comments whenever the opposing team scored. I had no idea what I was talking about, I just remember wanting to be a part of the excitement, wanting to be a part of the action, and feeling connected to my family, friends, and greater community in a way that I had never felt before. The Patriots ended up losing the Super Bowl that year to the Packers.
Flash forward 21 years later: I have witnessed my hometown team star in seven Super Bowls, winning five of them! I was there; I was a part of the experience. From skipping, I mean leaving school early in the 8th grade to attend the first Patriots Super Bowl Parade, and see Tom Brady, Tedy Bruschi, Ty Law, and the kicker that saved the day — Adam Vinnitieri on City Hall Plaza, to running around in circles screaming in my living room for 30 minutes when this unknown cornerback intercepted Russell Wilson’s winning play at the goal line with less than 30 seconds left in the game! We all know that cornerback now; none other than Mr. Malcolm Butler.
And who can forget those heartbreaking losses to the Giants. I can still hear those annoyingly happy screams from all the New Yorkers in my GWU dorm room at the end of the 2008 Super Bowl. The Patriots have played an in integral part in my upbringing, and aided in a pride in my city, and a pride in my identity. Anywhere I go I never hesitate to tell others where I’m from: “Boston” I say with emphasis, and represent my city with my head held high. Watching the Patriots not only play, but win, and continue to be the best has encouraged a desire in me to be the best at any and everything I aspire to.
It is that same pride in identity and that same sense of agency that we strive to build in the girls in our program every day. Our team works tirelessly to promote six competencies in girls:
- and confidence.
This is all to ensure that we’re empowering the next generation of Boston women with the self-esteem to realize their inner strengths to dream and do. These are values that my Caribbean parents instilled in me while growing up in here in New England and values that are reinforced in the families and Greater Boston communities that our girls come from. We work to promote the diversity of the girls, and create inclusive spaces for them to explore their individuality and thrive. We also work to cultivate a community that allows the space for them to connect with each other, explore their commonalities and shared culture as New Englanders, as Bostonians, as girls.
The girls in our program are fortunate enough to know nothing but winning Boston sports teams. A current 5th grader in our program has not only lived through two Patriots Super Bowl wins, but a Celtics NBA Championship, Bruins Stanley Cup win, two Red Sox World Series wins, and witnessing those teams play on the ultimate national stage a combined 10 times! I have no doubt that the girls in our program love the Patriots, enjoy football, love their city and their communities, and are proud to represent them.
And I have no doubt that the same sense of pride that I received growing up watching the Patriots play is a similar or increased sense of pride and aspiration for greatness that they get watching the Patriots play.
On Sunday the girls in our program and I will be watching our hometown team compete in Minneapolis for their sixth Super Bowl Title. All across New England there will be a pride in our region, and a desire to see our hometown team succeed, and maintain their status, our status as the best; a pride and desire that connects us. It is that pride and desire that contributes to our shared culture.
It is that connection that makes my Montserratian-American mother Tom Brady’s number one fan. It is that connection that makes my Antiguan-American father a New England sports connoisseur who is able to list the entire starting line-up on the Bruins. It is that connection that makes all of my siblings and childhood friends diehard Pats fans!
And it is that connection that allows me the ability to identify as a Black woman, daughter of immigrants, West Indian American, Bostonian, New Englander, football fan, Patriots lover, social justice warrior, feminist, and a strong woman building strong girls. Our program exists so that little girls like me can be proud and confident to say and believe that.
Thank you, Mr. Kraft, for building us a football organization that will continue to connect us throughout New England this Super Bowl Sunday. Thank you also for investing in SWSG to build Boston, a city, a community that is loved by our girls, into a place where they can be who they are, who they want to be, actualize their potential, and realize their dreams.
Thank you for investing in making Boston a city where just like its football team, strong girls not only thrive, they win!