This Skating Trailblazer Refused to Let Rejection Stop Her From Breaking Barriers

skating rink
Via Pixabay
Adé Hennis
September 11, 2023

Mabel Fairbanks was unhoused until she was finally able to find a job as a babysitter. That babysitting job would be the start of her extensive career in nurturing  youth. But there was something else important to Fairbanks.

Fairbanks dreamt of being an ice skater.  But racial discrimination kept her out of competitions, in spite of her immense talent. Instead, the jilted skater channeled her competitive energy into breaking down barriers for younger skaters.

After moving to California in the 1940s, Fairbanks became an ice skating coach, primarily focusing on coaching Black skaters and fighting for them to get into competitions. Her relentless advocacy paid off.

“She fought for us. She broke down those doors for us,” said former World Figure Skating Champion Tai Babilonia. “So now we fight for her, and we are fighting hard.” Former Fairbanks proteges like Babilonia are now determined to make their coach’s legacy live on and create opportunities for even more Black skaters.

The barriers we face today can be overcome, especially when we use our power to create opportunities and spaces for future generations. Barriers are never stronger than our fight for a better future.

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