You may have seen Darcy Bourne before, and it’s not because she’s already a star on Duke’s field hockey team.
Bourne is the subject of a now-viral photo, reposted by the likes of British Vogue editor Edward Enninful, as well as Martin Luther King III.
“When Martin Luther King III posted [the photo], it made me realize how far it had reached,” Bourne said. “No one in the world could have meant more to me to post it than him because of what he and his father did.”
Bourne is actually British, born and raised, and that photo was taken near the U.S. Embassy in London. But Bourne is far more than just the masked face of the Black Lives Matter movement abroad. As a Black field hockey player, she is also a rarity in a sport known for its lack of diversity.
Bourne This Way
Bourne grew up in South London, playing "literally any sport" to keep up with a competitive older brother.
Eventually, she enrolled in Wellington College, a school with a history and alumni list that rival Duke’s.
Wellington College has taught pupils such as Christopher Lee (who played Count Dooku in “Star Wars”), George Orwell, the Getty family and several European princes. Queen Victoria, who remains the school’s official Visitor, laid the foundation stone herself in 1856. Students are divided into 17 houses (Hogwarts vibes, anyone?), each named after an associate of the Duke of Wellington, who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo.
In other words, it’s more British—and four years older—than fish and chips. Despite that, Bourne is adapting to American life rather smoothly.
“Because of COVID-19, I had to fly over on my own, which is less than ideal,” Bourne said with a pained chuckle. “Now that I’m settled in, I’m loving it.”
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“Things I miss? I don’t have a kettle. I had never made tea out of a microwave, but I’m making do.”
Bourne is also Black, a piece of her identity that doesn’t often show up in her sport. England’s national field hockey team has only seen four nonwhite players at the senior level. At Duke, the school’s first Black field hockey player, Vestina Polk, took the field in 1986. That’s nearly 20 years after the first Black basketball player took the court for the Blue Devils.
“When you’re younger, without realizing it, you look up to people who look similar to you,” Bourne said. “In recent years, it’s inspired me to succeed so that I could be that role model for younger players coming in.”
The Bourne Supremacy
As a child, Bourne did not specialize in field hockey. Instead, she played soccer with the boys’ team at primary school, since there was no girls’ team. She also played club soccer with the Chelsea FC girls’ team.
Then, around the age of eight or nine, her school told her she couldn’t play soccer anymore.
“When they told me I couldn’t play with the boys anymore, I was annoyed, and it was a shame I didn’t have the opportunity,” Bourne said. “When I did start [field] hockey, I was behind everyone.”
Bourne made the jump to field hockey quite gracefully. She captained both the England U-16 and U-18 teams and played for the U-21 team at just 17 years old. At one of her games for the English national team, a representative from the company Aspire USA approached Bourne and proposed going to school in the U.S. Aspire USA matched her with several schools, but Bourne felt Duke was the best fit, and so did Duke.
“She had all the attributes that we were looking for in the midfield,” Duke head coach Pam Bustin said. “We lost Haley Schleicher and Margaux Paolino in the midfield, so someone with a little more developed midfield experience was going to be key. She brought exactly what we were expecting her to bring.”
Those skills have already started to pay off at the college level. Bourne was one of only three freshmen to earn a starting spot, and she leads the team in shots so far.
“She’s someone that I love being on the field with, because she makes it easy to play with her,” fellow freshman starter Alayna Burns said.
However much Bourne has contributed to the Blue Devils’ efforts on the pitch this season, she has made an even bigger mark in a different area.
The Bourne Ultimatum
Initially, Bourne’s parents refused to let their daughter attend the Black Lives Matter protests in Central London in the week following George Floyd’s death. They had a change of heart on the last day of protests, however, and Bourne went to work.
“I got some friends together and made the sign up very last minute—the night before,” Bourne said. “Actually, I woke up in the middle of the night and decided that I didn’t like my sign. I wrote over it in white, and it was still drying on the train on the way up.”
Bourne’s sign, reading ‘Why Is Ending Racism A Debate?’ and still dripping wet, caught the eye of photographer Misan Harriman. Soon after taking the photo, he posted it to Instagram June 8.
The image blew up almost immediately. Enninful, King III, Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton and more celebrities shared the photo, turning the masked Bourne into an icon of the Black Lives Matter movement, even though most viewers probably had no idea who she was.
The print of that photo will auction at Sotheby’s in London next week. Its estimated price will range from £3,000–£5,000, according to The Guardian.
The Bourne Legacy
Not even two months into her time in Durham, Duke is already feeling the Darcy Bourne Effect. The events of this summer and Bourne’s involvement sparked tough conversations among the field hockey team. Following these conversations, the Blue Devils chose to wear Black Lives Matter shirts before every game.
“I was inspired with her involvement,” Burns said. “Darcy has shown us that it is so much more realistic to make an impact than you may think.”
“Darcy brought this great experience and a different perspective to the movement,” Bustin added. “It has been so enlightening for so many of our team members. This will be an ongoing exercise.”
Darcy Bourne has broken barriers her whole life. So now, there’s only one question to ask: What’s next?