The inspirational athletes of the past, from Jesse Owens to Clive Sullivan, are widely celebrated and appreciated in today’s culture so before we wait to commemorate the modern-day figures, let’s celebrate them today!
Black female athletes have failed to get the appreciation they deserve, so we need to prevent the mistakes of the past by bringing their achievements to light.
24-year-old Dina Asher Smith is the fastest recorded British woman in history, with records in the 100 metres (10.83 seconds) and 200 metres (21.88 seconds). She became world champion in 2019 at just 23 years old and has recently been named as one of the UK’s most influential people from African/ African Caribbean descent by Powerlist. In 2016, at just 19 years old, she picked up an Olympic bronze medal for the 4x100m relay, after the previous year being the first British female in 30 years to win the 60 metre sprint in the European Indoor Championships.
Likewise, GB teammate Katrina Johnson Thompson fails to receive the recognition she deserves, so Black History Month is the perfect opportunity to bring her achievements to the forefront of conversation and discussion. She is ranked number 6 in the all-time heptathlon list, breaking the British record with a score of 6,981 points. Her list of achievements is endless, from holding the British women’s pentathlon record, with gold medals at the 2015 and 2019 European Indoor Championships and the 2018 World Indoor Championships. Also, she holds two British high jump records with 1.98 metres outdoors and 1.97 metres indoors.
These two names shouldn’t just be heard in passing and need to be taught about, celebrated and given as inspiration to the children of today and tomorrow. If we start to appreciate them more today, they will have a greater lasting effect in history, giving the Black Woman more role models, icons and overall societal value.
In terms of quashing female body image standards, inspiring both gender and racial equality, and being one of the most successful athletes in history, Serena Williams must never be overlooked. She has won 23 grand slam titles, more than any woman in the Open Era and also three more than the male record holder, Roger Federer. Serena Williams is the perfect example and role model, who has used her standing as a prolific sport star to also develop her own fashion line and appear on television, a great way to ensure that a Black female athlete can remain in the public eye and place her stance in history. The tennis star has also gone onto creating a foundation to help the under privileged areas in Africa and offer educational opportunities for those in need.
It is important to be made aware of the versatility of these athletes and the vast nature of their successes, both within and outside of sport, in order for them to be recognised and remembered through history. Hence, when the future generations celebrate Black History Month, they are less inclined to zoom immediately on the male-dominated heroism, as look at these female stars who are an inspiration today, and tomorrow.