Hayes' race to make world a better place

Kelli Hayes of the Philippines has started the 'Together We Link' foundation to fight racism. DH PHOTO/ BH SHIVAKUMAR

Kelli Hayes’ ambition extends beyond the confines of a basketball court. She wants to make the world a better place and is willing to put in the hard yards to achieve it.

The Philippines’ basketball team forward had created ripples in the United States during her stint with the UCLA Bruins in the NCAA.

Raised in San Jose in California, the 23-year-old grew up in a mixed-race family. Her mother was an immigrant from Philippines and her African-American father hailed from Los Angeles.

Growing up, she was subject to racial discrimination in the US. “Of course. I mean... racism exists,” stressed Hayes, a Filipino-American, on the sidelines of the FIBA Women’s Asia Cup here.

Hoping to do her bit to create awareness, Hayes came up with the idea of linking arms in 2017. Hayes was inspired by the stand taken by American football quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who went on one knee during the national anthem before the game in protest of police brutality and racism against the African-Americans in the country.

“We linked hands during the national anthem. The US national anthem doesn't really exemplify the people of America of what it is today. There is lot of racial disparity, lot of injustices are involved in our justice system, our law and so on…

“So, linking arms in lieu of putting our hands across our heart is showing that I don't stand for what the government and what the society has regulated. But rather we are sticking together as a unit, as a team, regardless of what's going on in the outside,” asserted Hayes, who has a major in gender studies.

It was an idea that later blossomed into Together We Link, a foundation which aims to uplift and unite people. “Basically, it is from the thought that a chain is stronger with more people than one link. So, we are all linking arms together against the powers against us,” she said.

Hayes’ move attracted a lot of attention, luckily, most of it was positive.

“Of course, there is always backlash but when you do things you respect and honour, people will understand. You can always expect people to appreciate and respect it.”

Hayes chose Philippines over US, and this is her first appearance in the Asia Cup. “Representing my birth country is always great but why not also represent another country that's also representative of me. I'm half black American and half Filipino. So, it's great that I get to represent one of them,” said the forward.

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