Because Of Them We Can
By BOTWC Staff
Dr. Kiki Baker Barnes is a Louisiana native who made a name for herself as a star athlete at the University of New Orleans. While she never saw herself in basketball, initially wanting to be a cheerleader, she credits her former coach Elliot Gilbert with helping her develop a passion for the sport.
“He was just an amazing man – and he worked us to death, let me tell you that. I learned the game of basketball – and I learned I wanted to be really, really good. I wound up being a halfway decent player. I got a scholarship!,” Baker Barnes recalled.
As the years went by, she found herself staying connected to athletics, eventually taking a position as athletic director at Dillard University in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Baker Barnes worked hard to rebuild player participation, growing the HBCU athletic department over the last decade and a half by establishing scholarship endowments, a Hall of Fame, and the highly anticipated Bleu Devil Classic basketball game she hosts annually against Xavier University.
“I’m most proud of the efforts of the Dillard community. Though I am the person who received awards for the leadership part, people had to buy into what you’re selling. The Bleu Devil Classic became a cultural phenomenon, our highest money generator, and a family affair that everybody looks forward to. It became our highest money generator, helping us raise funds to honor and connect our past to our present and secure our future,” said Baker Barnes.
Now 16 years later, Baker Barnes has announced her departure from the beloved HBCU, set to take over in a new historic position as the first Black woman commissioner of the GCAC, a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics conferences dedicated solely to historically Black colleges and universities. Over the last two years, Baker Barnes has been working as interim commissioner while also serving as AD at Dillard.
“It’s been tough. But on the other hand, I was made to do that. I’ve been juggling 20 million different things all my life,” said Baker Barnes.
She is now one of only four Black women in the nation to hold such a position, already formerly making history as the first woman and first Black commissioner of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and the only woman athletic director in the state of Louisiana. Baker Barnes hopes to continue empowering Black women in sports through her new position and the mentorship program she started in 2017 called “So You Want A Career in Athletics?”
“Athletics is the front porch of the university. We are going to elevate our institutions and our student-athlete experience. And we are going to have a good time doing it…It is my hard work. It is my passion. Now I am helping young girls get connected. It’s about them knowing that it’s possible. And I feel like because of my path, I have an obligation to ensure they are aware of what those opportunities look like, and how they can successfully navigate and achieve their goal in leadership,” she explained.
She’s set to step down from her current role on June 1. In her new role, she’s focused on helping more people and really empowering the community.
“It won’t be just helping one HBCU but a conference of HBCUs…It means I’ve got a lot of work to do. My goal was never to be a trailblazer. I didn’t wake up one day and say I’m going to trail blaze. I wake up every day and say I want to make a difference. I want to make an impact, so I always ask myself how can I do that with the gifts and skills that I have in the place that God has planted me,” she said.
Congratulations, Dr. Baker Barnes!