Misty Copeland

I believe it’s important to give credit where credit is due. So today, I’m giving credit to Misty Copeland for using dance to advocate for African-American rights, healthy eating, and inclusion.

Misty Copeland was the first African-American female principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre. She grew up in an unstructured home, consumed with poverty, and listening to music that doesn’t necessarily coincide with classically ballet – such as Anita Baker and Aretha Franklin. She didn’t even start dancing until she was 13 years old.

Copeland recently released her book “Ballerina Body: Dancing and Eating Your Way to a Leaner, Stronger, and More Graceful You.” She hopes that her readers feel that they have “an opportunity to start fresh no matter what age they are.” In her life as a public speaker, author, and dancer, she advocates for better food in grocery stores in low-income neighborhoods, more diversity in big name dance companies, and going passed just having the conversation about different shapes and sizes being allowed to dance classically.

Along with her many other awards and accomplishments, Misty became the first classical dancer with a sports brand endorsement. She recently spoke against the CEO of said brand, Under Armor, who made comments endorsing Donald Trump. She wanted her fans to know her views and what she as a person stands for.

I for one am so proud of everything Misty Copeland has and will accomplish through her various platforms. She has paved the way for little black girls who want to be ballerinas and people everywhere who want to live healthier lives. Copland is spreading black girl magic all over the world.

Becca Longo

Women make history every single day for so many different reasons, and we create a lot of “firsts” in this country. This is no different for Becca Longo, a senior at Basha High School. Becca has been a star player on her school’s football team since her sophomore year. Longo is headed to Adams State University in Alamosa, Colorado to play football on scholarship. Becca Longo is believed to be the first female to ever sign a letter of intent to play college football at a Division 2 school in the country. Only about a dozen women have played college football before Becca but none with an NCAA scholarship.

Of course she has received support from all over the world having women and men alike encourage her to follow her dreams, but Longo receives negative reactions all the time. Men tell her that football is a boy’s spot,t and she should find something else to occupy her time.

In spite of those who don’t believe in her talent, Longo is truly breaking barriers and paving the way for young girls who will one day aspire to play a “boy’s sport”. Becca says she would tell little girl who aspire to pay football to do what they want to do despite what anyone else says.

I’m motivated and moved by Becca’s courage and her will to keep pushing despite the opposition that comes her way. She is showing the world that women can and will play any sport we want and that we are capable of keeping up with men in the world of sports. I wish her well in her endeavors.

Laxmi Priya Sahoo and Rugby!

When I think of privilege, I never consider the fact that women in America have privilege. We are privileged in regards to our ability to be able to play whatever sport we would like to play. I often forget that women in other countries are faced with so many rules and regulations in regards to appearance, career, sports, and other things women in America don’t deal with. Their participation in sports is frowned upon much more than ours is. SO today I honor Laxmi Priya Sahoo, an Indian woman who started breaking barriers in the world of rugby years ago.

Laxmi was expelled from two schools as a child because of the frequent fights she would get into with her peers. Her parents enrolled her into boxing classes as punishment without knowing how much she’d actually enjoy the sport. Her boxing coach unknowingly sparked Laxmi’s interest in rugby by telling her “girls aren’t cut out for it”.

Laxmi has competed internationally in rugby winning all sorts of medals and awards and is now helping to facilitate rugby in India. She plays for the Rugby India team. She says that her parents, neighbors, and country as a whole are no longer indifferent to rugby and the women who play it, but they now appreciate it.

“Rugby awareness has grown considerably in Orissa over the past few years following successes of its players in the international arena. In the “Get Into Rugby” program – an initiative started by Rugby India four years ago in which the sport is taught in schools – almost half the participants are girls,” which was stated in the ESPNW article written about Laxmi.

White House or No White House?

Athletes all over the country have been turning down White House visits being that Donald Trump is now the President of the U.S. His campaign evoked hate and fear in the hearts of many Americans and notable athletes have boycotted the prestigious invitations for the past few months because of it.

NCAA women’s basketball champion Dawn Staley, coach of South Carolina, says she would accept an invitation to the White House if offered. Dawn Staley is an American basketball hall of fame player and a coach. She is a three-time Olympian and was elected to carry the U.S. flag at the opening ceremony of the 2004 Summer Olympics. Staley has been to the White House before, and I’m sure she would love for her team to have that opportunity. She and her team believe the invite would be a once in lifetime chance and would go with no regards of Trump.

Many will probably say that Staley being a woman of color should follow suit of other athletes and make her team dismiss the opportunity, but thankfully it’s not up to them. I have my personal opinion of our new president, but despite those, I would have to agree that a White House Visit is a true honor.

I hope that the opportunity is presented to these women, because they deserve all the recognition and rewards any other athletic team would receive! Congrats to the women of the South Carolina basketball team!

 

Jackie Joyner-Kersee

Last mont, I honored women in sports by honoring the those who paved the way for us through writing. To close out Women’s History Month, I would like to do the same by writing about Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

Jackie Joyner-Kersee was born in 1962 in East St. Louis, Illinois. At 14, she won the first of four straight national junior pentathlon championships.

In 1984, Jackie Joyner won the Olympic silver medal in the heptathlon. In 1985, she set an American record in the long jump, at 23 ft. 9 in. She went on to set a new world record in the heptathlon at the Goodwill Games in Moscow, with 7,148 points. She was the first woman to surpass 7,000 points. Three weeks later, she beat her own record scoring 7,158 points in the U.S. Olympic Festival in Houston, Texas. Jackie received both the James E. Sullivan Award and the Jesse Owens Award for her many accomplishments and achievements.

Jackie is the founder of the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation, created to provide youth, adults, and families with the resources to improve their quality of life and to enhance communities worldwide. She created the Jackie Joyner-Kersey Center in her hometown, travels as a motivational speaker, and has even coach a bit. She is certainly versatile and has spread a little black girl magic all over the world! I’m grateful that little black girls everywhere get to live in her legacy.

Anastasia Hayes

While women don’t get nearly as much recognition in the sports world as we deserve, I’ve found that one of the sports we actually get credit in is basketball. The awards and recognition most of the time is centered around black women. In my search for my next honoree, I stumbled across an article on Anastasia Hayes.

Anastasia is from Murfreesboro, Tennessee and is a part of the Riverdale High School basketball team. On Monday, she was named the 2016-17 Gatorade player of the year for Tennessee. Next year, she’ll be heading to Rocky Top as part of the best recruiting class in the country.

She has played in 97 games during her varsity career, averaging about 20 points per game with 1,993 points in total. Along with the Gatorade Player of the Year award, Hayes was named Riverdale Miss Basketball and is a McDonald’s All-American!

Women like Hayes make me want to work so much harder in perfecting my craft. Not in sports, but in life in general. I appreciate her contribution to the sports world and wish her nothing but the best as she pursues a college career in basketball!

 

Yuwa

Typically in India, being born in Jharkhand, an Indian state, subjects you to a life of poverty, hard work, and not much to show for it. One of the only things saving young girls in this state is Yuwa. Yuwa, which started out as just an academic program, is an Indian school for girls. They participate in classes teaching them to read and write, they learn about health and self-esteem, and all of the girls are apart of a soccer team.

In a society where being born a woman is seen as a curse or a burden, this school is giving hope to young girls all over the state of Jharkhand. Soccer, which began as an all male sport just like every other sport, is definitely not a typical feminine activity in India. This sport, however, was used to catapult Yuwa into the amazing program it is today. Girls who would otherwise be subjected to hard labor, not learning at all, and arranged marriages, are being taught to be independent, strong, intelligent, and healthy.

Yuwa is now the biggest girls’ soccer program in India, with 300 girls participating in soccer and about 80 attending classes regularly. This program was a God-send for these girls, and they love it! Kudos to Franz Gastler and Rose Thompsen for creating this school and creating a system of accountability that pushes these girls to stay in school. This just shows how valuable women participating in sports can really be and how for some, it is way more than just a game.