As a key member of the Cornell Big Red’s defensive unit, Cassandra Poudrier’s leadership skills have extended off the ice. In collaborating with Atticus DeProspo, Poudrier is one of the architects behind “We Don’t Say”, an admirable initiative defined by kindness and compassion. Acknowledging the influence of Duke University’s groundbreaking campaign “I Don’t’ Say”, the movement comes to life with a strong potency of emotion. While reflecting in Duke’s success, Cornell simultaneously looks to the future with great immersion in the cause.
Setting an athletic precedent for the Ivy League School, key supporters include a kaleidoscope of important organization within; Athlete Ally, Cornell Athletics, Red Key Honor Society, Student Athlete Advisory Committee, to DeProspo a few. With an almost boundless variety of athletes providing support, it has expanded the cause, demonstrating the power of teamwork.
“I am currently co-president of the Cornell Athlete Ally chapter with Atticus DeProspo. It is a national organization that now has chapters in many Universities across the US. Its goal is to make sports more inclusive for everyone regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Athlete Ally decided to partner up with Cornell Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and Red Key Honor society for student-athletes in order to create an athletic environment where every individual feels like a valued and accepted member.”
Among Poudrier’s efforts to increase awareness of the initiative, she has taken to the widely popular social media site facebook. One of the most notable aspects of the “We Don’t Say” facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cornell-We-Dont-Say-Campaign/1565224733746955?fref=ts is a striking series of photographs. Through the efforts of photographer Jevan Hutson, athletes from practically all different sports that the Ivy League school offers bring their presence to these iconic images.
Using the color red as its backdrop, its sets the tone for the message being conveyed about the support of the Big Red athletes. All the photos have a common theme as the words of the campaign “We Don’t Say”, adorn the top of the photos in block letters. Accompanying it underneath is a derogatory word (in smaller type) in quotes. Following is a message in white text evoking a positive meaning. The simplicity of the photo’s message is its genius. It helps to achieve resonance with a positive message, socially engaging in the process.
Of note, Poudrier and teammate Emily Fulton are captured in front of Hutson’s lens holding a Canadian flag with the rainbow colors of the LGBT community on both sides of the Maple Leaf. The caption at the top of the image states, We Don’t Say “dyke”. The white text says “because one’s sexual orientation shouldn’t be labeled as a slur.” In addition, other members of the Big Red women’s hockey program such as Hanna Bunton and Brianne Jenner have also loaned their support by appearing in a photo.
“The "We Don’t Say" Campaign was inspired by the Duke’s Campaign. We tried to have as many sports as possible represented in our posters. It turned out really nicely as so many athletes got involved. We felt that as athletes we had an opportunity to get conversations started on campus and across our friends group. We felt that we could impact people around us and raise awareness towards social issues that are not only part of the athletic community, but also part of our campus and the society as well. I think that what made it so successful is the partnership between the three athletic organizations.
Together, we were able to reach out to more athletes and get more of them involved. We launched the campaign 24hrs ago and we already have 928 likes and over 37, 000 total reach. These numbers don’t take into considerations the conversations that stem from that, which again is our ultimate goal. Everyone that I have talked to so far has been very impressed with the campaign and is really happy about the initiative that we took with the athletic community.”
Not just a leader, Poudrier is also an astute pupil. Knowing the potential for an even more accomplished future exists, the GROUP has also welcomed guest speakers. With profound appreciation, the chance to acquire knowledge and insight from said speakers demonstrates that goals, such as equality and fairness are a constant process. Among the speakers that have visited Cornell includes a pair of influential sporting heroes from the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, speed skater Anastasia Bucsis and ice hockey goaltender Charline Labonte.
Labonte, a renowned ice hockey goaltender helped pave the way for a new generation of hockey heroes in Quebec. Considering that Poudrier was raised in Mont-Laurier, Quebec, and has donned the colors of the Canadian national team at the U18 and U22/Development levels, the chance to absorb Labonte’s insights would prove to be enriching, providing a springboard for further inspiration.
“Having Charline Labonte and Anastasia Buscis was part of our annual speaker event with Athlete Ally. It was definitely inspiring to hear them talk about LGBTQ issues in sports and at Sochi specifically. Anastasia had been involved with the national organization of Athlete Ally, and therefore it was great to have her and Charline come talk to the athletic community here at Cornell. It is always great to see that there are people that are raising awareness on social issues outside of our efforts on campus. I think that their talk here at Cornell was just another example that we need to take a stand for social equity. It reinforced our commitment towards creating a more inclusive athletic environment.”
Passionate in equality, Poudrier and DeProspo have generated a collaborative work of emotional power. Doing so in a pacifist method, they have been leading lights, a pair of champions, harnessing positive methods to improve the quality of life.
Traditionally, sport and accepted views of the LGBT community have been a tangled relationship, sometimes myopic in thought. Through the courage of individuals like Poudrier and DeProspo, and the influence of athletes such as Bucsis and Labonte, a healing process is taking place. In these turbulent times, their efforts not only heighten awareness, but it results in a fertile wellspring of understanding and dignity, with the goal a win-win situation for all.
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”