We could be talking about the elements that go into a standout performance in the USL Championship, or anywhere else in the soccer world.
Or we could be talking about the elements that go into a remarkable piece of art or design that captures the imagination of those who see it and expresses the moment for the artist.
For Sacramento Republic FC defender Duke Lacroix, there are certainly similarities.
“I think in a way, as athletes we’re artists in the way we create on the field,” Lacroix said recently. “I have an appreciation for that, and art as well, where there’s something tangible and permanent that is there. In the same way you can have a good performance on the field, it’s different because it’s competition, but when you’re creating something artistically, there’s a lot of technique, a lot of practice and a lot of thought that goes into everything you do. I have a great appreciation for that as well.”
Lacroix’s interest in design and art – which became a useful sideline to keep his mind occupied when the USL Championship went on hiatus at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 – has now produced the limited-edition Dream in Color scarf, released this month as part of the collaboration between the United Soccer League and the USL Black Players Alliance to raise funds for charity during Black History Month.
A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, where he first studied Engineering as a freshman before changing his major to Sociology in his sophomore year, Lacroix has embraced design as a means to better understand himself and others, creating an extension of his own personality through art that express his journey, and those of others around him.
For me it’s trying to understand myself. Who am I as a person, and how can this be reflected in what I’m creating?
“Since we are our own beings, we know ourselves best, but if you ask people, they would have a hard time describing themselves or feel uncomfortable,” said Lacroix. “It’s an awkward thing, if you say, ‘can you describe yourself to me?’ because it’s hard to put into words these feelings, these sensations that make you, you. At any given point, you can be changing, so to take snapshots of those moments in art, or in video, or in these creative outlets is really enjoyable for me.
“That being said, what’s even more difficult is trying to understand other people, and I find cultures and different things very fascinating. But, primarily for me it’s trying to understand myself. Who am I as a person, and how can this be reflected in what I’m creating?”
For the Dream in Color scarf, pulling from the influence of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech given on August 28, 1963, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial was a key element. More closely, however, the idea of breaking down the idea that the Black population across the United States is a monolith was also central to Lacroix’s inspiration for the piece.
“Dreaming in color I think encompasses the idea of the multitude and fluidity of life,” said Lacroix. “There are a lot of things in life that we can’t see in black and white, kind of reminiscent of the struggle of being African American in this country. You want to encompass everyone’s unique perspective and to honor that history that we’re not this binary system of things, we’re each individual people. That was the primary inspiration behind the words there.”
So too was his own experience. As the son of Haitian parents who emigrated to the United States, Lacroix’s secondary themes of “Honor the Past” and “Inspire the Future” found on the opposite side of the scarf embody what Black History Month means to him and others.
“I think you have to honor your history,” said Lacroix. “To honor the past of being Black in this country is I think where you have to draw a line. You can’t get away from that, and that’s not to say these things still aren’t ongoing, or as bad as they were in the past, but they happened.
“We need to honor that and be thankful and grateful as I’m thankful for the people that laid the foundations for the life I’m currently living – I’ve been blessed for that – while at the same time pushing for the future and looking to leave a mark like Dr. King preached all the time, inspiring the future, being someone the younger generation can look up to, to leave the world, the community, better than you found it.”
Lacroix worked alongside USL Graphic Artist T.J. Grier on the concept, with Grier’s years of experience proving invaluable to Lacroix, who almost two years into his journey as a designer is still learning and developing his own technique and execution.
“T.J. has done an amazing job,” said Lacroix. “He kind of did all of the legwork for the creative process and actually putting the technical expertise of the design together, making it look clean and crisp and something that can be presented and sold as a scarf for these good projects that the BPA and USL are supporting.”
At the end of the day, we’re athletes, we’re entertainers, but we’re people first, and a lot of our goal as the BPA is to understand who we are as people in society at large rather than just sportsmen, even though that’s where we’re coming from,
As the work of the USL Black Players Alliance continues to build alongside the initiatives put in place by the United Soccer League at the advisement of its USL Impact Committee, the Dream in Color scarf is the newest embodiment of the direction the league, clubs and players are taking to personalize the individuals that make the USL what it is today.
“At the end of the day, we’re athletes, we’re entertainers, but we’re people first, and a lot of our goal as the BPA is to understand who we are as people in society at large rather than just sportsmen, even though that’s where we’re coming from,” said Lacroix. “It’ll be an honor to see fans and teammates and colleagues wearing the scarf, because that’s just a sign of support for the mission of the BPA.”