Ever since I was 14 years old, I would visit my dad and my paternal side of the family in Los Angeles, California. To be specific, Compton and South Central.
I would stay with my dad and other family members for any time from a few weeks to a month and a half — going to amusement parks, line dancing in our humongous backyard on Tamarind Ave. before everyone watched the fight on the big screen (that’s a layman’s term for watching a boxing match between Mayweather and most likely Pac-man), arguing with my cousins, and so much more.
All of these things were great. However, my top favorite thing to do when I visited sunny Cali was hanging out with my dad. One year, when I was about 15 or 16 years old, my dad decided to take me the park to get a tennis practice lesson. I had already expressed interest in tennis as I had played tennis on my school’s team as an 8th grader in Indianapolis. I also played at a USTA summer camp.
By then, I thought I was the bomb.com.
Basically, I could trick my dad into thinking that I was.
Since I owned lousy, cheap racket that cost me $10 at Walmart and since I was about to get some real practice lessons, my dad made the executive decision (I think he was smoothly persuaded by the trainer though) to buy me a nice, fancy, firm gripped tennis racket. It was a huge upgrade.
It’s been over 10 years and my dad still won’t tell me about much that tennis racket cost him.
As I practiced on the court with my trainer, I did everything I knew how to do: I twisted and turned, backhanded and front-handed the tennis ball. I grunted like I was one of my favorite players. I was getting 15, 30, 40 points. It was magnificent. At least, I felt like I was.
In reality, I was getting a lot of love.
“Love” is zero points in the Tennis World.
Leave it up to my dad, and he’ll tell you it was a waste of his money. As much as I would like to tell you I was destined to be the next Venus and Serena Williams, the truth is, I can’t play tennis to save my life.
However, this doesn’t negate the fact that I look just like Venus. Nor does it discount the influence that both sisters had on my impressionable black girl life throughout the 90’s, 2000’s and whatever we call this new generation.
They were MY golden standard of powerful, black womanhood that I inspired to be. You couldn’t convince me otherwise.
Earlier this week, Serena bared her beautiful pregnant body for the cover of Vanity Fair. You could see all her ebony, glorious curves. When I saw Serena, I saw the very definition of BEAUTY.
However, the world does not see what I see. Every since they stepped in the tennis game in the mid-90s, Venus and Serena have been called every single derogatory name in the nasty book of names — especially when they were winning.
After her win at the French Open in June 2015, Serena was compared to a gorilla and a man.
After an Australian Open win, Twitter users made remarks about her “manliness.”
Venus and Serena have both been called “niggers.”
It seemed like the whole world was against them, and not just white men and women. Some black men jumped on the bandwagon of insecurity as well — bashing her relationship with her white fiance Reddit co-founder Alex Ohanian.
To this black girl, Venus and Serena were my kin. I understood them.
And folks, when people say representation matters, representation really matters.
After reading this article on Very Smart Brothas about Serena, I was inspired to create this appreciation post. It made me think about little dark-skinned Aaricka growing up.
Growing up, my peers used to say that I looked like a man. Yes, as a kid.
Growing up, my Cross Country teammates used to say that I had "manly arms" - I've always had very toned, defined arms.
Growing up, I aspired to be like Venus and Serena. Especially since my family members personally nicknamed me Venus because I look just like her.
Growing up, as I used to watch my Venus and Serena hit it on the court, I picked up the great game of tennis and grunted my way through...well, playing the best I could in #1 Doubles.
My point is, Venus and Serena have been such integral figures in this Black girl's life.
So, anything and everything insecure naysayers say about them is null, void.