The face of tennis is changing, and it’s about time. Over the years, if you were asked to name any Black tennis player, two would come to mind: Serena and Venus Williams — and rightfully so. But as new tennis sensations like Coco Gauff and Naomi Osaka rise to fame for their athleticism and tenacity, it’s clear that there’s a new era of tennis taking shape to bring forth a fresh take on representation and reclamation on the courts.
For that reason alone, there’s no better time than now for Black Girl Tennis Club co-founders Virginia Thornton and Kimberly Selden to lead the charge of making tennis more accessible to Black women and girls so the next Serena and Coco can emerge.
What began as your everyday lunch chat between friends to discuss their mutual dream of owning a boutique hotel turned into a proposition to start a tennis club together. With Virginia being a tennis player since adolescence and Kimberly entering the sport as a hobby in her adult life, the two jumped at the idea of making a space where Black women could discover a new hobby and not feel like the “only one” on the tennis court.
“The club kind of started for selfish reasons, but not in a bad way,” Virginia tells xoNecole. “We realized that there was actually a need for this.”
Kimberly adds, “Now we're literally disrupting a whole industry. We didn't plan it, but it felt divine; like we were called to do this. Black Girls Tennis Club has been a catalyst for personal growth in all areas of life, and we would have never anticipated that.”
Since establishing the Black Girl Tennis Club in 2022, the two have made it their mission to cultivate a space for “Joy Equity and Radical Wellness.” Their platform serves as a means to inform, inspire, motivate, and reshape the narrative around Black women and girls in the tennis world while highlighting the transformative power of sports and play for liberation.
With approximately 78% of tennis players being white and only 6.8% being Black, and the average cost of a private tennis lesson being $60 per hour, racial and economic disparities within the sport are vast. To help close this gap, the two founders have banded together to develop free tennis instruction clinics for girls aged 8-18 and local tennis events that bring adult offerings through programs like the Self Love Tennis Club and Cardio Tennis Classes to HBCU campuses in Virginia.
Both Virginia and Kimberly understand the power of their mission and believe that they were brought on each other’s path to execute it together. “It’s the power of alignment,” Kimberly says. “I think when you're doing the right thing and you're obedient, and answer the call, that’s when things start to happen, and the universe conspires to make them happen.”
We caught up with the founders to discuss their mission, the importance of representation, and how they plan to disrupt the tennis industry one court at a time.
xoNecole: Could you talk a little more about your CARE pillars with change, access, representation and exposure?
Kimberly Selden: As we started to do the work, we saw that there were so many equity issues. Although we knew from our own personal experiences that there are barriers to tennis being an expensive sport, we just acknowledged it as the culture of tennis. Because it's predominantly white, that transfers over to the fashion, the dynamics on the court, the attitudes, and the mindset. And so we knew this required a culture shift for us to ever really feel comfortable.
We were exposing kids to tennis, and then after the clinics, they're like, "Okay, now what?" It's still expensive, and they still may or may not have had access to it if they're not with us. We don't want to just pop in like, "Hey, here's a clinic, bye!" So, the culture change is just a reflection of what our existence looks like. Access is about being able to access the sport through courts, programs, or a coach. Representation is that we can't believe it until we see it.
Granted, there are a lot of pro Black women tennis players taking off, and we love that. But we think about media representation as well [as] representation within the USCA, in the boardrooms, and the people that are making the rules around the game.
xoN: Why do you all think it’s important for Black women and girls to reclaim their space on the tennis court?
Virginia Thornton: It's rare, at least in my world, where you're in a space and see nothing but women who look like you. But it makes me feel great when I can be my authentic self, especially on a tennis court. Just shedding all the weight of pretending to be anything else. You feel at home when you're around nothing but Black women. Even small things like seeing a young Black girl being okay with how God made them is amazing.
KS: [In] the Atlanta clinics we did, everyone was crying. It's just clear how desperately we need it. Connection is the key to a long life. So many of us — especially from the pandemic and working from home — are isolated. With every clinic, it's just fun to be there, and it just fills you up. I think people need hobbies. I think a lot of people, especially people in big cities, feel that way and were confronted with that during the pandemic.
xoN: How did sports play a role in helping you two find your voice and confidence both on and off the court?
VT: I think what people don't realize is that tennis is such a mental sport. You could be a 4.0 player and have a bad mental day, and you will play like you've never picked up a racquet before. So, the mental piece is super important. For me, it's like ‘you against you,’ even though you are playing somebody.
If you're able to work through those mental pieces with yourself on the court, that will translate off the court. I had an issue on the court where I have a habit of saying, "Sorry," — I think a lot of Black women do, honestly. Then I realized that they wouldn't say sorry or they’d use my kindness as weakness. I've learned a lesson in that because everything translates on and off the court.
"If you're able to work through those mental pieces with yourself on the court, that will translate off the court."
KS: It's easy for me to do things that I'm good at, but it's not easy for me to do things that I'm not good at. Tennis is still challenging for me, but it pushes me. It’s a reality check for me; I know when things are aligned, and when they're not. It feels like a big metaphor for me because it's pushing me to do something that's uncomfortable and makes me work for myself more.
xoN: What do you hope the long-term impact of Black Girl Tennis Club will be?
VS: We want to have a space for people who might be workaholics or might be going through depression. It's always great to have a hobby, whether that's knitting, sewing, or what have you. For me and Kimberly, it’s about creating hobbies for Black women and girls but also knowing that it’s okay to not be amazing at it. You don't have to be amazing at tennis; you could hit around the court, and that's okay.
The next Serena or Venus might come from Black Girls Tennis Club.
Featured image by LumiNola/Getty Images
Aley Arion is a writer and digital storyteller from the South, currently living in sunny Los Angeles. Her site, yagirlaley.com, serves as a digital diary to document personal essays, cultural commentary, and her insights into the Black Millennial experience. Follow her at @yagirlaley on all platforms!
This post is in partnership with BET+.
Kingdom Business is back for its second season, with even more sermons, songs, and serpents. The series picks up where it left off, with actress Serayah as Rbel caught between the stripper pole and the pulpit. With the first lady of the church working desperately against her, Rbel must find a way to live her dreams and honor her friend while figuring out her faith in the process.
Season one served a collection plate of rivalry, deceit, and revenge –– among many other tribulations. Between the 28-year-old’s acting, conviction, and harmonious voice, here are a few reasons why season two of Kingdom Business is a must-watch.
If the Spirit Doesn’t Move You, Serayah’s Singing Voice Will
Rbel, formally known as Rebecca Belle, is a stripper whose life forcibly takes a turn after suffering a tragedy. Through her quest to find the truth, Rbel finds herself at odds with the head of a local church, First Kingdom’s Denita Jordan, played by the legendary Yolanda Adams. Rbel unknowingly emerges as what a faithful Christian embodies: a perfectly imperfect human who works every day to try their best while leaning on God. Although struggling with her faith, each ballad sung by Rbel can be felt, as the lyrics relate to personal struggles we all endure in different ways. Gospel songs hit differently when your life is in shambles, and chile, Serayah is singing new life into folks.
Serayah is a Formidable Opponent to The Yolanda Adams
As one of the best-selling gospel artists of all time, it’s no easy task to take on the role of a person on the opposing side of greatness. Serayah’s Rbel does an excellent job meeting Jordan at her level while shining through her solos. Throughout season one, Rbel emerges as a top streaming artist, an accomplishment that begets something of a holy war.
Serayah’s Acting Range is Engaging
As a former stripper trying to make a name for herself in the gospel industry, you can imagine the struggles that could come with it. Rbel goes through a range of emotions, all understandable and relatable. Despite several crises of faith, Serayah ensures Rbel delivers a humbling performance that makes the audience root for her redemption.
The Kingdom Business Soundtrack is Everything
Streaming now on Spotify, Tidal, and Apple Music, the Kingdom Business: Season 1 soundtrack is one you’d want to add to your playlist for high and low times. Aside from four soul-soothing songs from Serayah, the soundtrack also features singles from co-star/Hamilton’s Chaundre-Hall Broomfield, gospel artist Chandler Moore, and legend Yolanda Adams.
Serayah’s Rbel Makes You Root For Her
With First Kingdom beginning to crumble under the pressure of lies, infidelity, and deception, Rbel’s window to take that top spot seems wide open; however, the end of season one showed us the Spirit had other plans. Whether you believe or not, Serayah’s Rbel makes you want to see her win. Who doesn’t love a good underdog with a laid 22” bust down? Whether she seeks Him or not, God is proving to be on Rbel’s side. But is it enough to turn everything around for her? Will Rbel lean on faith or fear?
With secrets coming to light, success within reach, and the devastating conclusion of season one, you don’t want to miss season two––especially with more guest collaborations. Kingdom Business returns to BET+ on Nov 2.
BET+ Original | Kingdom Business | S2 Official Traileryoutu.be
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The eclectic combination of songs on this week's list could only capture the feelings of a year well spent. From love ("why dont we go" and "Link Up (Remix)") to vengeance ("The Sopranos") to heartbreak ("Jersey" and "That's You") and loneliness ("Cobra" and "alone"), this week's new songs will have you thinking back on the decisions you've made this year and the effects they've had.
These are the top 10 songs from the previous week; they're all worth downloading, trust me.
"Cobra" - Megan Thee Stallion
Megan Thee Stallion embodies the epitome of the mistreatment meted out to Black women in Hollywood; regrettably, the majority of this mistreatment has come from fellow Black artists. In April 2022, two years after the 2020 shooting, Megan shared her account of the events of that night publicly for the first time with CBS Mornings. During her interview with Gayle King, Megan recounted that after an altercation over "normal friend stuff," things quickly spiraled, and on that August night, Megan was shot in the foot. She would eventually allege that rapper and former fling Tory Lanez was the one who shot her. However, after disclosing the truth about what happened to her, Megan faced criticism for two years, with many labeling her a snake and a liar.
Many people didn't understand they had sided with the attacker rather than the victim until the trial in December 2022, at which point they apologized after realizing she had been speaking the truth. However, the harm had already been done, as her detractors had demonstrated that they would sooner label her a liar and laugh at her suffering than they would have believed that the awful occurrence could have happened to her.
Even yet, Megan Thee Stallion overcame adversity, friendship loss, and criticism from the music industry to achieve remarkable success. She went on to get a degree in health management, a hot sauce sponsorship, television show hosting opportunities, chart-topping features, and many other accomplishments. She describes all of this in her most recent single, "Cobra"; along with all the depression and stress it has created for her.
"That's You" - Lucky Daye
Ever since he entered the industry, Lucky Daye has proven that he genuinely deserves to be considered one of the greatest R&B male artists. Co-written and co-produced by Bruno Mars, Lucky Daye's most recent hit, "That's You," features lyrics about the "one person you cannot be without." Daye confesses to being stupid and numb, which has led to him making poor judgments in his relationship, in this retro, funky R&B song. By being honest and introspective, he hopes to be able to maintain the love of his life. However, given that she has already moved on to someone else, it does not appear that he will be able to win back his love.
This is Daye's first single of 2023, despite the fact that he has appeared on other songs this year. Nick Walker directed the official music video for the song "That's You." The film, which is set in New Orleans, follows Daye as he sets out to find sacrifices for the alluring siren who has his heart. The song is mellow and clearly draws inspiration from Bruno Mars. Nevertheless, Daye has clearly taken the lead on this song by belting and using a falsetto that only he can. This song is certainly worth the listen and will get your inevitable download.
"At the Party" - Kid Cudi ft. Pharrell and Travis Scott
The clever thing about the Kid Cudi ft. Pharrell and Travis Scott's song "At the Party" is that it gives you the impression that you've just left or are leaving the club after consuming several shots of alcohol. The song commences with a hypnotic sway from Pharrell, who sings languidly and softly about the night's happenings as though he is the listener's partner and they are both extremely inebriated. The music is instantly engrossing, and by the time Kid Cudi arrives, the effects of partying seem to be intensifying more. By the conclusion of the song, his once-clear sentences start to get slurred, and Travis Scott's insane verse seems to add to the craziness of the evening.
This song makes you feel like it's three in the morning at a Waffle House while you think back on the night's events and start to question if it was worth it to drink as much as you did or if you would regret it in the morning. It's fun. It's chill, and worth the listen. After all, it has the same vibe as a Saturday night party and that alone is quite addicting.
"CPR" - Summer Walker (Acoustic Performance)
Though Last Day of Summer isn't Summer Walker's most recent album, it's fascinating that she's been releasing acoustic versions of the songs from it. In any case, Summer Walker's acoustic concerts have demonstrated her skill when she is allowed to shine in a calm setting without the pressure of performing in front of thousands of admirers. When "CPR" was released, Walker's acoustic rendition of the song was a soulful piece that was made even more enjoyable by her fun, pajama-clad supporting vocalists.
Similar to the recorded version, the song has a reassuring atmosphere that belies its warmth thanks to her sensual, vibrating vocals and velvety, melting harmonies. The song is calming, and hearing it in an acoustic rendition just adds to the comfort of watching an artist in a setting designed to ensure her success. I'd buy this version of the song if I could, but until then, enjoy listening to it a thousand and one times on her YouTube channel.
"Jersey" - Baby Tate
"Relationship, a funny thing, always good at the start. But the truth is, it doesn't matter who you are, anyone can break your heart."
The statement above opens the Baby Tate music video for "Jersey." The singer/rapper soon starts rapping and singing about how much of a letdown her ex was and all the reasons she definitely shouldn't go back for him. Now, after two or more attempts, she comes to the conclusion that it would be preferable to end the relationship because it is unstable and just causes grief. The song begins to resemble the Jersey drill that we are accustomed to from club music by the chorus; the irony is that the lyrics lack the upbeat vibe that this genre is known for. Rather, it makes us feel like we're seeing an emotional breakdown like FKA Twigs in "tears in the club."
The song is meant to call out all of the nonsense that comes with a situationship, but with it being as self-aware as it is, you wonder who is really at fault when she returns.
"The Sopranos" - Tee Grizzley ft. MGK
I don't listen to Tee Grizzley songs nor am I a huge fan of MGK. However, since I know a good song when I hear one, as soon as I heard this one, I immediately put it on my fitness playlist. Machine Gun in "Soprano" Kelly delivers shot after shot about how much he hates other rappers, how much money he has lost in the past, and how he has been holding himself back over the year and no longer will as he goes off on the Detroit-styled beat.
Tee Grizzley makes it apparent when he enters the song what his intentions are and that others should follow suit. He makes it very evident that if you are not a friend or family member, you are an enemy, and you should act as such rather than trying to fit into any other category. The two musicians got along well with one another and demonstrated that should they ever work together again, the business may value their easy rapport.
"alone" - WILLOW
WILLOW's music is intriguing because of her ability to switch between genres without giving a reason. With a flexible voice and repertory, adjusting to the new "alone" flow is not difficult, though it is intriguing with the cadence brought to the song. In an opera-like melody, and antsy-pop punk echoed chorus in the background, "alone" is a song that explores self-reflection and existential loneliness.
WILLOW, who is assumed the main character, expresses fatigue from withholding the truth and ignoring the source of her issues, doubting her own existence while feeling alone and invisible. We learn that her endeavor to communicate and heal leaves her feeling a bit alone and with the chorus' repeated chant of "alone," the desire for connection is reinforced in the isolation she cannot escape.
"Christmas Party for Two" - Brandy
Admit it, ever since September left us eight weeks ago, we've all been yearning for Christmas music. And because we had to exercise self-control, we let October pass by and enjoyed its eerie atmosphere despite the fact that we all knew exactly what we were all really waiting for. We hurried outdoors as soon as October 31st passed to swap out our Halloween decorations for Christmas ones, blasted holiday music as if November didn't exist, and artists started releasing Christmas songs they had recorded in the summer to be ready for the inevitable.
Luckily for us, Brandy is one of those Christmas musicians. Brandy's Christmas song, "Christmas Party for Two," is more appropriate for the bedroom than for lounging underneath the tree. The song is an R&B ballad that captivates listeners with the singer's seductive, alluring voice. Brandy uses a lullaby-like and soothing voice to attract the audience's attention, demonstrating vocal control and restraint throughout the song.
The song explains why, despite being well-known for years, Brandy hasn't disappeared from the scene. Unlike much Christmas music, this song isn't blatantly commercial and doesn't attempt to be more than it has to be. It's just...nice, instead. And there's warmth in that niceness that entices any listener to delve into the holiday's more calming and seductive aspects.
"why dont we go" - UMI
One word that would best sum up UMI's music is safe. However, this does not imply that she is uninteresting or that she does not take artistic risks. Rather, the word "safe" refers to the sense of security that her music offers regardless of the artist's current stage of life due to its candor, playfulness, and openness. UMI is now going through the period of being in love, and her music flawlessly conveys this.
The R&B singer talks of not wanting to wait for a "better time" or till the following month or year in her latest tune, "why dont we go." Instead, she wants to just do what "you wanna do." It is beautiful and cozy, warm and inviting. It is pleasantly delightful, and the perfect representation of what happens when you just start experiencing life instead of simply thinking about it.
"Link Up (Remix)" - Ne-Yo ft. FABOLOUS
The incapacity of many artists to stay up to date with emerging talent and shifts in the expectations of the music industry at large is one of the main obstacles preventing them from reaching the next generation of musicians and listeners. Most older musicians try to incorporate elements of more recent music into their own and put themselves in a category where audiences tend to forget about them. When executed correctly, a skilled musician strikes the ideal mix between modern and classic music to stay current. Naturally, though, this is easier said than done.
Interestingly enough, though, Ne-Yo has struck this equilibrium in more recent times, which is not unexpected given that he was behind several of the major successes of the early 2000s. Ne-Yo demonstrates in the "Link Up" remix that it is possible to compose music utilizing the tried-and-true method of first releasing the original and then a sexier remix when done correctly.
Renowned rapper Fabolous joins the bouncy summer-esque tune for a remix, showcasing his trademark wit and languid New York flow. The revised song has the original lyrics and production, but Fabolous adds his trademark flow, clean delivery, and swag. He raps about having everything to make his boo thang comfy, including drugs and booze. In another remix between the duo, this song officially provides a reason to add it to your fall playlist.
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Featured image by Megan Thee Stallion/YouTube