While being a member of one of the top womens’ water polo teams in the NCAA, Jahmea Bent was advocating for Black athletes at UCLA. Her junior year was during 2020 and the unjust murders of Breonna Taylor, Ahmad Arbery, and George Floyd, sparked Black Lives Matter protests throughout the United States. Bent took action by founding the Black Student Athlete Organization at UCLA.
“We didn’t have an organization amongst Black student athletes that could talk about the microaggressions that were actually on campus and some of the racial biases that were happening on campus to Black student athletes,” Bent said. “We didn’t have a space where we could talk about that and to talk about how we felt with things that were happening outside of campus as well.”
Students of the Black Student Athlete Organization also hosted a townhall to inform the administration and coaches on campus the goals of the organization.
“She’s really grown into her voice and she’s extremely poised,” said UCLA senior associate athletic director, academic excellence and sport administration/ director of equity, diversity and inclusion Kenny Donaldson. “She has a quiet confidence about her and I just knew that as the years were going on and she started to feel more comfortable being in the space that she was in, she would develop into the young woman that she is now.”
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The town hall was a proud moment for Bent as she and other athletes told professor and coaches their experiences. Bent also talked to her teammates about her experiences.
“It’s a scary feeling because for athletes, it’s a lot at stake. You don’t want to overstep anyone, you just want to be careful,” Bent said. “It was very scary at the time but something that needed to be done and that needed to be said.”
In 2020 UCLA women’s water polo was ranked no. 2 in the nation. Bent, who played goalie for the team, had eight starts in the 11 games that she played, she averaged 5.58 saves per game. She reached a season-high of 15 saves per game in a win against no. 12 Fresno State.
Bent also helped keep UCLA in the national spotlight during the 2021 season. Her season-high of 18 saves against Stanford would send the Bruins to the NCAA Championship game.
Her efforts would allow her to play professionally overseas in Germany. This was the first time traveling outside of the country.
“I ended up forming a lot of long term friendships and meeting people from many different parts of Europe,” Bent said. “I witness so many different talented water polo players, men and women, and have built some really great relationships.”
Bent was recently named 2023 Queen of Kingdom Day, she was proud to earn this honor being both a Los Angeles native and being of Belizean descent.
“I’m a black person but I’m also a person who grew up from an immigrant family,” Bent said. “My main inspiration is my family … we all strive for excellence, we all strive for something bigger than ourselves.”