The 2021 U.S. Olympics Teams Are Dripped In Melanin, Here’s Who's Headed To Japan

From Simone Biles, to Foluke Akinradewo: we'll be cheering for our ladies as loud as frickin possible.

Culture & Entertainment

After a cancellation and surviving a global pandemic in the process, the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 are finally back on track (in 2021) and gearing up for highly anticipated athletic battles all taking place in Japan. Set to open on July 23, 2021 with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and organizers insisting that measures will be put in place to ensure the safety of athletes and other visitors, as well as a nervous Japanese public, the momentum is full steam ahead, with NBC curating over 7,000 hours of programming and 17 days of the best of the best competing for ultimate bragging rights.

And you know we wouldn't be who we are if we didn't show all the love to the ladies who will be showing up as their full selves, doing the damn thing, and representing for Black women, all up in the place. So, here's a list of some of our favorite women who are headed to Tokyo to bring home the gold:

Disclaimer: Lots of amazing Black women are continually qualifying for the Olympic events, and there are adjustments, drop outs, or additions announced every day. This article reflects who will be present at the time of publishing.


Simone Biles (of course)

Simone Biles has been killing all exercises in gymnastics, and basically kicking all ass and taking names. She has gladly accepted the role of being the face and mentor of USA gymnastics.

Jordan Chiles

Jordan Chiles and Biles are teammates on the US gymnastics team and will compete together in Tokyo. Upon qualifying, Biles captioned a celebration photo of the two:

"Proud is an understatement."

Go kill it, ladies!


Jordan Thompson

The 6'4'' Jordan Thompson, while at Cincinnati, was the 2019 Player of the Year, a first-team All-American and broke NCAA records in kills per set, tallying a school-record 827 kills during the 2018 season. She helped the U.S. win gold at the Tokyo Qualification Tournament in 2019. Her father Tyrone played for the Harlem Globetrotters.

Foluke Akinradewo

Foluke Akinradewo is a Middle Blocker, born in Ontario, and a two-time Olympic medalist. Her son was born in 2019 and she, in addition to the U.S.ho, lds tri-citizenship in Canada and Nigeria.

Haleigh Washington

Haleigh Washington is a 6'3'' three-time first-team All-American. She was named best blocker at the 2019 Volleyball Nations League, helping the U.S. win gold.

Chiaka Ogbogu

Chiaka Ogbogu has a 10-foot, 5-inch spike touch and led the U.S. in hitting efficiency and kill percent during the 2019 Volleyball Nations League, helping the gold medal-winning effort. Shehas played professionally since 2017 in Italy, Poland, and Turkey.


Allyson Felix

Allyson Felix famously kept her pregnancy a secret for several months, continuing to compete when she was four months pregnant. She lost endorsement deals but eventually returned on top. The rest, well, the rest goes down in track and field flex history. She wrote on Twitter:

"It's amazing how quickly your priorities change in moments like this. At that point, the only thing I cared about was that my daughter, Camryn, was OK. I didn't care if I ever ran track again." my greatest love."

Felix also made headlines for paying the childcare for moms competing in Tokyo.

Deja Young

The 25-year-old Texas native, born with a brachial plexus injury that limits mobility in her right shoulder, will compete in the track and field portion of the Paralympics.


Simone Manuel

One of the most anticipated athletes to compete this year is definitely Simone Manuel, who has shown up for the sport with something to prove. She is part beast, part fish and welcomes the competition in the most humble way. After missing the final in the 100 freestyle, and detailing her struggles, Manuel used a late reach to get to the wall first at the U.S. Olympic Trials and punch her ticket to Tokyo.


The U.S. Women's Basketball team consists of Ariel Atkins, Tina Charles, Napheesa Collier, Skylar Diggins-Smith, Sylvia Fowles, Chelsea Gray, Brittney Griner, Jewell Loyd, and A'ja Wilson. The U.S. team are the reigning champions and is looking for a historic seventh straight gold medal this summer


Rashida Ellis

Rashida Ellis was one of the first six boxers to qualify for the Olympics so far. The 25-year-old hails from Lynn, Massachusetts, and will be making her Olympic debut.

Oshae Jones

Another one to qualify for the Olympics, is 23-year-old Oshae Jones. She will represent USA Boxing in one of two new weight divisions on the women's side. Fun fact: Jones is coached by her dad, Otha, and one of her two brothers, Roshown. Both of her brothers have been professional boxers.

Naomi Graham

Naomi Graham ranks No. 1 among America's middleweights and eighth in the world. Additionally, Graham will be the first active female member of the military to compete for USA Boxing in the Olympics (she's a staff sergeant in the Army).


Crystal Dunn

The beloved roster of mainly veteran players who have won World Cups and Olympic gold medals while fighting for equal pay (among other things), are back for their closeup. Their first game representing the United States in the Olympic Games is on July 21, two days before opening ceremonies.

Crystal Dunn spoke on the moment, saying:

"Black women, especially, us existing in spaces that were not necessarily created for them" is not easy. I do think women as a whole, we are a little bit reserved in regards to boasting and sharing our accolades and talking about it in the media. But I think Black women have a whole other level of cautiousness regarding that, because we often do feel like we are just happy to be here. And I'm like, no, no, no, no, I'm not here to survive. I'm here to thrive in this environment."


Michelle Moultrie

Michelle Moultrie's road to the Olympics is finally here! The 31-year old has played on the U.S. National Team since departing Florida in 2012 and with softball not part of the London Olympics (2012) or Rio de Janeiro Games (2016), she has been anticipating her Olympic debut.


Paige McPherson

Paige "McFierce" McPherson, is a 30-year-old Afro-Filipino taekwondo competitor has been training six days a week for her third Olympics. She won the bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics and is the first American woman to make three Olympics in taekwondo.


Coco Gauff (has since withdrew due to COVID)

The 17-year-old Coco Gauff, currently ranked 23, earned her place as American No. 3. She will play for the U.S. in women's singles and will be the youngest Olympic tennis player in 20 years (year 2000). Although Naomi Osaka will be competing for her birthplace of Japan, you can be sure that both of them ladies will be there to support each other's BGM from the sidelines.


Jacarra Winchester

The 28-year old Oakland native earned a title in 2019 as the U.S. women had their best showing ever at the world championships with a total of three gold medalists. Now Jacarra Winchester will be favored to reach the podium, if not win it all, in her Olympic debut.

Back in July, she wrote on Twitter:

"In 1 month I will be going for gold, in Tokyo, along side these wonderful ladies. I have never met a group of women more persistent, hardworking & talented. TeamUSA is ready"

Tamyra Mensah-Stock

After barely missing the mark to qualify for the 2016 Rio Games, Tamyra Mensah-Stock is now on her way to Tokyo to compete on Team USA's wrestling team. Originally a track star, Mensah-Stock serves as the current women's world champion in the 68kg category. Black women are taking over everywhere!

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Featured image by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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