HoodSpace Chi: Sarah Gorden’s Mental Health Nonprofit for Girls of Color

It has been a year of milestones for Chicago Red Star defender Sarah Gorden. She started every game she played in during the team’s Challenge Cup run this summer and mostly recently the NWSL Fall Series. Logging among her highest tackles won percentages and her best ever pass-completion percentage as a pro, Gorden was instrumental for the Chicago club during this strange year,  Her efforts were rewarded earlier this month with a call-up to the USWNT. 

But, the milestone-making hasn’t all been on the field for Gorden in 2020. The Red Star has been one of the most outspoken, active pro athletes in the wake of police brutality and racial injustice protests this year. For Gorden, who identifies as multiracial, the devastating effects of system racism felt closer to her than they ever had before following the death of George Floyd in April. “I have a Black son and a Black boyfriend,” Gorden explained, “I got in this mindset of ‘I have to do something’”

So she did. The idea for HoodSpace Chi was born. 

Now, the nonprofit is in the fundraising stage. With a name playing off the meditation app “Head Space,” the initiative aims to address pervasive mental health challenges girls of color face. Unworked trauma resulting from systemic racism can lead to anxiety, depression and PTSD. HoodSpace seeks to create healing outlets for girls navigating these issues through yoga, meditation, and sport. 

As an athlete, Gorden personally knows the benefits that can be reaped from spending time to foster mental wellness. “When I was drafted, I was a basket case,” Gorden explained. “You go from being the best player on the team and the go-to-player to kind of a nobody and competing with the best players in the world. I couldn’t get it together…I was completely in my head all the time.” After her first two seasons, Gorden shifted to putting the time in to build up her mental skills. It proved to be a game-changer. 

Her personal connection to mental wellness makes Gorden feel as if this nonprofit is her best way to serve her community at a time of crisis and racial reckoning in the U.S. HoodSpace Chi programming will give girls empowering spaces and teach them mindfulness techniques and coping strategies that can be taken anywhere. 

For Gorden, the move to start an organization like HoodSpace isn’t, in a sense, extraordinary. In her opinion, you don’t have to be a public figure or professional athlete repping a city or a country to think the way she’s thinking about changing society. “It’s absolutely necessary not just for every athlete, but for every human to use their platform to promote the end of systemic racism,” Gorden explained. “And a platform doesn’t mean you have thousands of followers, it means anybody who sees your stuff. It’s not an option to not speak up. It’s not something you should do when you feel like doing it. It’s a necessity all the time.”

Depending on how the pandemic evolves, Gorden’s hope is to be hosting HoodSpace Chi events by Summer 2021. 

To donate, check out the GoFundMe.

Featured image via Instagram @sarahlgorden



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