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Dr. Alona Alexander, Sarah Fleming make history as members of Mississippi’s first all-Black female officiating crew

While the Cleveland Central Wolves and the Murrah High Mustangs played their season opener under the Friday night lights, an unprecedented crew of all-female referees was making history. Two of the 12 officials were Alcornites.

Dr. Alona Alexander and Sarah Fleming were part of Mississippi’s first all-Black female crew to officiate a high school football game Friday, Aug. 26, in Jackson. Alexander is the director of Choral Activities and coordinator of Music Education at Alcorn State University. Fleming is a former student-athlete for the Lady Braves basketball team.

The opportunity shed light on the crew’s officiating talent. Alexander feels proud of the team’s abilities and is motivated to grow as an official.

“Being an official in a male-dominated field is exciting to me,” said Alexander. “Breaking barriers in sports officiating is an honor and a blessing. It did not hit me until the game ended that the 12 of us made history. My goal is to continue officiating and work my way up one game at a time. I love being around the game.”

Fleming echoed Alexander’s sentiments. Her goal is to climb as high as possible on the sports officiating ladder.

“I would love to go as high as the NFL,” said Fleming. “I love refereeing, from basketball to football. When I knew that I couldn’t play basketball anymore, I wanted a career that was close to sports. So, I chose to be a referee.”

The athleticism that both women possess inspired them to test the waters as game officials. Besides sharing her love of music with Alcorn students, Alexander has played flag and tackle football. Playing the sport sparked her interest in officiating.

“I started playing flag football in 2009, leading to me playing women’s tackle football for a team in Arkansas in 2017, in which we won the Division 3 National Championship," said Alexander.

The historic Mississippi sports moment creates a path for girls passionate about sports and considering a career in officiating.

“Our crew shows anyone, regardless of gender, that they can achieve any dream or goal that others feel is impossible,” said Alexander.