I am getting old, fam.
I freely admit this, as a face forty! But with that vantage point, I know that I am of the age where I remember when there were no Black girls that looked like me playing tennis, bruh. I remember hearing about Venus and Serena Williams when I was in like middles school and high school. So, my mom was a fan of tennis (namely, Pete Samfras!) and I watched with her.
I knew who Althea Gibson was. I knew who Arthur Ashe was. But the girl that looked like me, cornrowed, beaded, bold and Black? And she was in my Sassy and JANE magazines! With Nikes! I mean, it was everything! I even remember that Venus was ranked higher than Serena at the beginning of their careers! But, mane! When they played? It was phenomenal.
And it still is.
But here comes Cori ‘CoCo’ Graff, at 15–whuppin up on em in this year’s Wimbeldon. When I saw her fist pump for the first time? It reminded me of the Williams’ sisters. And I was so happy. Among that happiness, I came to the realization that what I do–someone is watching. When she beat Venus? When she gave her the honor of telling she ‘grew up watching her?’ I cried inside.
Do you know the power of having a hero? Do you know how powerful it is to see someone doing what you desire to do? And then, believe that you can do it?!
The way she feels about Venus and Serena is the way I feel about Shonda Rimes.
Is the way that I feel about Toni Morrison.
Is the way I feel about Susan Taylor.
Is the way I first felt when I picked up a pen.
CoCo found her hero–and beat her. But, the little girl in me imagines her ‘playing’ the Williams sisters in her imagination often. How she pretended to be either of them when she played other girls–or dudes, for that matter.
It reminded me of the power of vision, and the sustaining nature of any vision.
At 15, I wanted to be a famous writer. And only had a handful of heroes to look up to. And 16 years later (which feels like a lifetime ago), I began to be serious about becoming one! Yes, that means I’ve been on this hustle for about 5-6 years now. Am I where I want to be? Nope. But yet, have another goal in mind. If Shonda and Tyler can, why can’t I?
But, the thing is…I think CoCo did the same.
Why can’t I?
If I had anything to say to CoCo, it would be–“Who told you that you couldn’t?”
The best thing you can do for an ambitious child is to give them space and voice–and in her case, a tennis racket.
Eff em up, sis! Eff em up!