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Creating space: Amiah Mims leading efforts to create inclusion in racing community

Former Kent State gymnast speaks on her motivation to make a difference in the racing world.

Amiah Mims never intended to work for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In fact, when she finished her time as a gymnast at Kent State in 2015, she was ready to just relax.

“I had just finished school, just finished gymnastics, so I took some time to myself, a couple months, to just be,” said Mims, reflecting on her path to where she is now.

A native of Indianapolis, Mims studied visual communication design and photo illustration. She always had her sights set on being a graphic designer but had no real idea of where she would try to start her career.

Then a unique internship opportunity presented itself at Indiana Black Expo.

IBE provides a voice for social and economic advancement and inclusiveness across all races, ethnicities, nationalities and socioeconomic levels in Indiana and beyond. IBE puts on events throughout the year and uses its interns to help them run successfully. IBE didn’t have a graphic design position but created one so she could use her skillset to support promotion, content and branding.

“It’s pretty much a large hub for Black businesses, Black culture, and a way to bring the community and the culture together,” Mims said of the work that she did with IBE. This work allowed her to gain the necessary skills and experience of managing multiple large-scale projects on her own.

So, a couple of months later, when Mims heard of the opportunity to work for the Racing Capital of the World, she jumped at it and landed the job.

When Mims started her job at the Speedway, she realized she was walking into a very different world.

“The racing community is very close-knit, and you don’t see a lot of diversity in it,” Mims said.

After working for a Black-owned company, contributing to the Black Lives Matter mural in downtown Indianapolis, and experiencing a summer full of racial and social unrest, Mims felt the need to do something. Specifically, she wanted to address the lack of diversity she was seeing and create real change in the racing industry. That feeling manifested into her creating an umbrella campaign for diversity and inclusion initiatives called Race for Equality and Change.

“It started when all of the racial tension exploded in 2020. It was born out of a place of need, truly. I felt that I could no longer work on my normal projects as if everything going on around me was normal. I needed to put that energy and effort into this cause and bring my company, and the power it has, into the fight with me — or should I say race,” Mims said.

Creating a diversity and inclusion campaign in an industry where the surface has barely been scratched is no easy task, and Mims knew she would need help and resources to bring her ideas to fruition.

“I wanted to create a platform for these types of issues and their solutions to stand on and be spoken about — a vehicle that could carry real impact specific to the racing community and more specifically to IndyCar. It’s all about opening doors, and I knew I couldn’t be the only one trying to open them,” Mims said.

Mims presented her idea to her leaders at the Speedway, and she was able to get the stamp of approval to move forward with the campaign. Mims, with the help of her leaders, assembled a group, and they promptly got to work, trying to figure out ways to create the change they wanted to see.

The campaign is still in its early stages, but it has already created momentum within the racing community. One success of the campaign has been an increased investment in the Speedway’s partnership with NXG Youth Motorsports, a program that uses motorsports as a way to help children, particularly African Americans and other minorities, get exposure to the racing world and become conscientious young adults.

Another success for the Race for Equality and Change initiative has been the role that it has played in supporting the creation of Force Indy, a new racing team set to begin competing in 2021 that targets Black men and women for its drivers, crew and staff.

Mims knows that there is a lot of work to do but thinks the steps she has seen so far are promising for the racing industry.

“We are finally starting to create these little pockets of action, and it has been exciting and interesting to see them grow. The overall goal of this is to open doors and bring different groups of people into a space where they have never been before, so I am pleased with the progress we have made so far. We just want to create an inclusive environment for minorities to feel welcome at the track. I simply want to see more Black and brown faces in this amazing venue, and I want to see them embraced by the racing community as a whole, no matter if they’re fans, vendors or drivers,” Mims said.

Mims is attempting to move mountains in the racing industry by using her talents and skills to contribute to something bigger than herself. However, she still remembers what it’s like to be a student-athlete finishing up college, trying to figure out what the next steps are and trying to find your purpose.

“My advice is to nurture any sort of interests that you have. If you didn’t have the chance to pursue other interests because of your sport, make sure to do that as soon as you get the chance. Exploration is good. Be patient with yourself. You don’t have to have it figured out right away.”