iBelong event at Coliseum celebrates inclusiveness and diversity

MORGANTOWN — WVU hosted its second iBelong event at the Coliseum on Saturday prior to the Women’s Basketball team taking on Oklahoma that evening.

Pat Biondo, director of basketball operations for women’s basketball, said the idea for iBelong formed because West Virginia gets a bad rap sometimes.

“They think we’re not culturally diverse, so we wanted to have a celebration through athletics of diversity and culture and inclusion,” Biondo said.

He said the demographic of fans are young people and their families. iBelong gives them a chance to see different cultures and diversities throughout the state.

“We just wanted to educate the community on that, so we thought it was a good idea to do it, and why not bring athletics. A lot of people love sports. Come through and celebrate this. It’s a great event for everybody,” he said.

The idea of iBelong was born at a WNBA game, where different cultures and colleges were celebrated.

“We said, ‘why can’t we do this for a larger thing at West Virginia?’ cause we get a bad rap at times in the nation’s eye and wanted to really kill the stereotypes, so that’s why we did it,” he said.

Over 30 student groups had tables at iBelong on Saturday. The Chinese Club of WVU, Culturas WVU and the Caribbean Students Associations were among the many organizations participating.

Local community organizations and statewide coalitions were also in attendance offering activities and giveaways in the concourse. Participants received an “I Belong” T-shirt and free admission to the game for themselves, family and friends.

Biondo said iBelong is great in part because the game was broadcasted on TV on Saturday, and iBelong would be highlighted there as well, showing the inclusiveness of West Virginia.

“We are inclusive. We allow diversity, and just all in all is good for everybody,” he said.

Biondo said last year iBelong hosted 35 groups. He also said there was a great crowd Saturday, and he said he was looking forward to see the women’s basketball team play.

“We are hoping for a win today, yes we are. Hopefully the girls play well. Have a good crowd, a great event and hoping for a big win,” he said.

He said iBelong is a team effort between the basketball team and the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. He’s hopeful that the event can branch out into other sports in the future.

“Obviously, our demographic of kids in our team are visibly diverse, and so is other teams on our campus,” he said. “So let’s kind of spread it around. Maybe next year other sports get involved in this.”

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