UPDATE: Gabrielle Douglas has become the first African-American woman to win the all-around GOLD in gymnastics.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last few days, you have been glued to your television watching the 2012 Olympics in London. I always love when this time rolls around every four years–national pride, international scenery, and of course–amazing athleticism. My favorite events have always been swimming, track and field and gymnastics (with an honorable mention to men’s basketball.) I specifically remember watching Dominique Dawes (pictured above) performing fantastically in all of her events as a little girl, and then ambitiously attempting to prance and flip around the room just as she did.
There was something special about watching a beautiful and poised African-American woman just slaying in a sport like gymnastics. Dominique Dawes was the only woman of color in the ‘Magnificent 7’ back in 1996–the first team to bring the gold back to the USA in all of their events ever. Now, 16 years later we are seeing history uniquely repeat itself.
Gabrielle Douglas is spunky, talented and of course so adorable. When I saw that the ‘Fab 5’ had won the gold in gymnastics yesterday, I just felt this since of accomplishment– not just African-American women, but for all women everywhere. We see so many negative images in the media about women (particularly women of color) on the daily that can be so discouraging and hurtful. But seeing Gabby taste victory just immediately gave me hope for the generation of young women that are growing up in the midst of what can be a media frenzy.
This summer, I had the opportunity to work with and teach a 6-week college prep course to a group of high school students. I’ve really gotten to know my students since June, as well as the things that they face on a day to day basis. While it seems that some things haven’t changed, I did pick up on how much images in our media effect their reactions to daily life. What I’ve learned as an aspiring educator is that I have to make an impact on students not only academically, but also personally. Whether or not I know it, I am a role model for these students, and they have relied on me to provide them with sound advice about what it’s like to be a young and educated black woman in our society. In the grand scheme of things, it has also taught me that you can’t give up on your dreams no matter how distant or difficult they may seem o attain. I think Gabby is a perfect example of that. She was initially an alternate on Team USA and had to sacrifice moving away from her family in Virginia to train in Iowa, but look at her now: walking away from her first Olympic competition with TWO gold medals at the tender age of 16. Her hard work, drive, tenacity and perseverance are all encouraging, and I hope that women worldwide–specifically my sisters of color–take a smidget way from her experiences and apply it to their lives.
Never give up on your dreams ladies and gents. Congratulations again, Gabby!