Behind every Black woman, there's a group of Black women screaming "ayyyyyeee" and real ones know that "ayyyyyeee" is a love letter in itself. When God created the woman, He knew that we would create boundless magic and that we would empower other women to do the same. Isn't that so powerful? To think, that by you simply being your fierce, feminine self, that you are igniting the fire in another woman. Women are creators in every sense of the word and thank all of the gods for choosing our chromosomes to have this blessing.
Being that we are in the middle of Women's History Month, we wanted to be extra intentional about how we honor the women in our lives who create memories for us. Life is so delicate and gives fleeting moments that we must learn to treasure. So, we asked a few women to write a thank-you note to the woman who has affected their lives the most and this is what they had to say.
Courtesy of Elizabeth Antoinette
To: Mama Shadonna
One of my favorite parts about our relationship is you telling me stories about my childhood, and the one that sticks out the most is that of a conversation with my first-grade teacher. Funny, because a lot of people that know me now wouldn't imagine that little Liz was as shy as a turtle back then, but my intellect made me shine in a different way, and apparently everyone wasn't fond of that.
Somehow this teacher didn't know what kind of parent she was dealing with and had the nerve to tell you, "She thinks she can be whatever she wants to be." And you responded to her, "And she can."
There's more to the story that I'll save for the sake of brevity, but I am so thankful for you always standing up for me and my siblings then and even now, through your example of strength and steadfast prayers. You taught us the importance of family, education, and faith, and pressed on us that it didn't matter what we lacked, we could achieve anything we set out to accomplish. You more than proved that yourself when you decided to go back to college and obtain your degree.
So, I'll always think of you to thank for your influence on me as the woman who's affected my life the most.
Courtesy of Chassidy Jade
To: Terri Meredith
I met you at a time when I was really confused about my career. Little do you know, you set me up for life. I came to your poetry events faithfully at my cousin's spot being filled with inspiration from so many creative and strong women. You were the first person to let me touch the mic without the "politics''. Once we were formally introduced, Zombii mentioned I was a filmmaker listing my resume that I was quite shy about. You looked me dead in the eyes and said, "People do a lot of things if she doesn't showcase it herself who cares..." Ha! I crawled into my 22-year-old shell and ate that because you were absolutely right! Work was slow and my writing took a back seat.
You were on me every single week asking me wtf I was doing with film. I went home every night and finished writing my first short film, Brown Ballerina, and named the main character after you. You proudly hosted my first film screening and the film went off to be selected to the Toronto Shorts Film Festival, being viewed all over the world. I also dedicated my art shows to you, which only highlights various female artists of color. You were brutally honest in a loving way.
You re-sparked my voice. You continue to motivate me and so many others. YOU DESERVE YOUR FLOWERS. I am forever grateful for your love.
Courtesy of Dianne Myles
To: Tiara Lucas (My Daughter)
My baby! Thank you for being fearless and unapologetic with your voice. You have forced me to choose what type of mom I want to be. You hold me accountable to my word, and you make me evaluate myself daily. I now understand that as a mom, you teach me as much as I teach you. You are smart, bold, courageous, passionate, and beautiful. You put family first in all you do, and I admire that about you.
Thank you for choosing me 16 years ago, today, and always!
I love you,
Courtesy of Anita Aloys
To: My Older Sister, Liberty
I know I always tell you this, but I love you very much! I don't know if you are aware of the role you played in making me the woman I am today or how important your presence is to my life but I want you to know that it is significant. When mom passed, you took me under your wing and nurtured me so lovingly that even though I felt the hurt of losing a mother, I never felt like I grew into my adult years without a mother. I've always wondered how you did it, how you could be so selfless even from thousands of miles away, also while dealing with losing a mother too! I don't know if I say thank you enough, but I am really grateful.
I am so glad to have you in my life because you are a reminder that soulmates exist. You are the best friend I prayed for, the confidant that I never knew I needed and an inspiration in every way.
I am so proud of the woman you have grown into, how happy you are, flourishing in your career choices and about to get married and start your own family! I hope you know how much I love you and that no matter how far apart we are, I'll always have your back and be in your corner.
I hope I see you again soon because nine years apart has not been easy.
Your loving sister,
Courtesy of Majesty Acheampong
To: My Mother, Pastor Brenda Timberlake
My mother was the first woman who showed me that it was OK to be bold and unapologetically fierce. Her confidence shaped my life and how I carry myself as a woman today. She never tried to hide or dim her light, Brenda was the light, OK! Her style always made a bold statement, and on any day you could catch her in sequins or a bold hue, even if it was just for an errand or trip to the grocery store. Her makeup was always flawless, and her curls always perfectly coiled.
The best part about my mom is that her interior matched the fly of her exterior. Her warmth and kindness always made an impact on others, and she showed kindness to everyone she met. My mother influenced me to show up as my authentic self at all times boldly and to make a big statement and impact on this world. My mom has been a pastor for over 30 years, so she inspires the lives of others from her pulpit. Although I am not a pastor like her, she has influenced me to use my influence as a content creator for the greater good, so I treat my platform like a pulpit of sorts to empower and uplift other women.
I celebrate my mom today and every day for inspiring me to show up bold and fierce in every way both in person and on social media!
Courtesy of Taylor Baldwin
To: My Mom
Thank you for literally everything because all this magic wouldn't be possible without you. You gave me life but have gone the extra mile to pouring into me the confidence to be the woman I am today. You made and continue to make sacrifices for your children that I cannot begin to repay you for. Thank you for giving me the room to be myself and create my own path, even when you didn't understand. I am beyond grateful to have you as my mother, bodyguard, therapist, and everything above. I know you worried about me growing up because I was so shy and such a loner but just know that I have found myself in my art.
I hope you know I am truly happy with the way my life has unfolded. A lot of my success and life choices are because of you! Thank you for giving me the room to grow and glow in my dreams.
From: Dominique Webb
Courtesy of Dominique Webb
To: My Granny, Doris Webb
Sometimes I think I can still smell you. I can smell the rubbing alcohol you used to douse your knees with, and the sweet peppermints you'd pop into your mouth right before telling me to hand you the remote. I miss those subtle moments. Where we just sat together while you rambled on about the neighbors, or whatever mundane thing you wanted to fuss about that day.
I miss you complaining about how my nails were too long or my hair was too long. I miss your teachings. You taught me not only how to be a woman but how to be a strong woman. You taught me the power of being a praying woman.
You taught me the power of being a praying Black woman. You taught me my magic. You taught me how to use my powers for good.
You taught me how to act with poise, speak with grace, but to speak even if my voice shakes. I can never repay you for the things you've taught me. But as you always used to say, "You do good and you pass it on." Thank you for teaching me to do good and pass it on. Thank you for teaching me how to be a strong Black woman.
What a blessing it is to have known you in this lifetime.
I miss you and I love you Granny. Always.
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Featured image courtesy of Dominique Webb
Joce Blake is a womanist who loves fashion, Beyonce and Hot Cheetos. The sophistiratchet enthusiast is based in Brooklyn, NY but has southern belle roots as she was born and raised in Memphis, TN. Keep up with her on Instagram @joce_blake and on Twitter @SaraJessicaBee.
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
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