Choose Your Self: Lessons From Simone Biles, Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation. And that is an act of political warfare.”- Audre Lorde

Black women in high places are choosing themselves, and daring to chart new paths in the face of seemingly insurmountable pressures.

America has failed Black women, from the slave era to now, with lives like Henrietta Lacks and Breonna Taylor destroyed and distorted to pay homage to injustice. Black women have always chose others before themselves, literally and metaphorically nursing other babies before their own for centuries. Now, the tables are turning for the better, and at a crucial time, Black female athletes stand the forefront of this change.

On March 26th, trailblazing Japanese-Haitian tennis player Naomi Osaka, who won 4 Grand Slams, decided not to attend press events for the French Open due to mental health concerns, and as a result, after receiving backlash and a fine, withdrew from the French Open.

On June 25th, the legendary tennis player Serena Williams announced she would not be competing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Williams, who has won 23 Grand Slam titles, has faced terrible racist abuse at the hands of media, tennis supporters and disgruntled bystanders. She continues to exhibit her strength and resistance through standing up for herself on and off the court.

On July 28th, USA Gymnastics announced that the Olympic G.O.A.T. Simone Biles would not compete in the final rounds of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to focus on her mental health. She faced international backlash for withdrawal, but many, including Asiedua’s Imprint, stand in solidarity with her, and all of the other Black athletes who are prioritizing their self-preservation.

Mental health is an immense issue in Black communities. Dr. Erica Richards, the chair and medical director of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at Sibley Memorial Hospital, reports that mental health disabilities are more common than ailments such as heart disease and cancer.

In addition, Dr. Richards writes that women are twice as likely to experience major depressive episodes as men, and that African American women are half as likely to seek help than White women.

Mental wellness has the power to help people make positive impacts in all areas of their lives, and it is time for Black women to get back in the drivers seat of our mental health.

Global anti-Blackness has affected every facet of Black lives, and the personal is political. Whether it is toxic relationships in corporate spaces, platonic or intimate relationships, or more, Biles and Osaka are teaching Black women that it is okay, and at times necessary, to choose yourself. Self-preservation is the first law of nature, and now, more Black women are discovering different ways to find freedom.

Choosing ones self may mean different things in people’s lives, including creating and executing an exit strategy for an uncomfortable circumstance, starting your own business or seeking out therapy resources.

How will you choose yourself today?

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