Black History Month: Leading the Way off the Platform

by USA Weightlifting

Black History Month allows USA Weightlifting to celebrate the amazing achievements of the United States’ Black athletes on the platform, from John Davis to Carla Garrett to Kendrick Farris to Jenny Arthur to CJ Cummings; the list is almost endless. However, it is not just on the platform that the Black community has had an impact on our sport.

Growing up as a star basketball player in St. Joseph MO, Wes Barnett was spotted early by Coach Dennis Snethen in the St. Joseph school system and quickly persuaded Barnett to try Weightlifting. It would be a decision that would change Barnett’s life.

USA Weightlifting Olympian Wes Barnett (Photo by USA Weightlifting)

Barnett enjoyed an outstanding career as a two-time Olympian and held two long standing records. He won a medal at the 1997 World Championships for Team USA and was the last man to do so until Harrison Maurus won bronze at the 2017 World Championships. Meanwhile, his records stood in the 109kg category until 2019 when his fellow Wes, Wes Kitts broke his records in clean and jerk and total at the 2019 Pan American Championships.

Off the platform, Barnett went on to become Executive Director of USA Weightlifting before being recruited by the United States Olympic Committee. There Barnett went on to oversee High Performance strategy for several sports, before leaving to join Thorne Research in 2017. Barnett is immortalized with a statue at the US Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.

While Wes Barnett made history as an administrator and as an athlete, those working beside the platform were also making history.

Cara Heads Slaughter, like Barnett, first became well known for her athletic achievements, throwing in the NCAA for the University of California Bears before becoming serious about weightlifting and appearing in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, the first Games to feature Women.
USA Weightlifting Olympian Cara Heads Slaughter (Photo by USA Weightlifting)

Later, Heads Slaughter has gone on to be known for her coaching with the CHFP Weightlifting club in the DC metro area. Heads Slaughter has been ever present at youth and junior international competitions in recent years, coaching Jessie Bradley, Avery Owens, Morgan and Cole Bramble among others.

Other Black coaches who have risen to the International Coach ranking include Tyrone Harvey, David Brown, coach of 2018 Youth Olympic Games Bronze Medalist Peyton Brown, and the youngest ever Senior International Coach, Derrick Johnson.

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