Girls Like Me: A Fly in the Buttermilk
Posted on November 20 2018
A Fly in the Buttermilk
When I applied to colleges many years ago, I focused the theme of my application essay on a phrase I’d heard from my mom my entire life: “A fly in the buttermilk.” I didn’t understand what that meant when I was a kid, but it was always said with an eyeroll and a dramatic sigh, so I knew it that whatever it was, it wasn’t good. As I got older, I finally began to understand: to be a fly in buttermilk is to be the only black person in a predominantly white space.
For a good part of my life, I’ve been one of few or “the only.” In my undergrad classes. In law school. In the law firms where I worked and the courtrooms in which I tried cases early in my career. The places I’ve lived. Although I never allowed it to stop me from pursuing my goals, it has been exhausting rarely seeing anyone that looked like me.
This theme has carried over into my relationship with training and competing as well. First, as a bodybuilder- I often recall early in my days as a physique competitor, being the only black woman on stage among a sea of women that all looked alike, but were all the polar opposite of me: short, thick, muscular, and brown. Even when I placed well and eventually won a pro card in women’s physique, I felt isolated and alone.
Once I decided that I was more interested in seeing what my body could do versus what it looked like, I walked away from that stage and fell into CrossFit. After visiting numerous boxes in my quest to find a CrossFit box to call home, I noticed a recurring theme- I was yet again, the only fly in the buttermilk. For a while, I just dealt with the feelings of isolation and otherness. No one was outright negative or rude to me, but it was if people didn’t see me at all. I wasn’t ready to give up CrossFit, but I knew there had to be a better space for me. Finally I found it at a local box, which was owned by black folk, had black coaches and a lot of members that looked like me. I’d found my home!
Lifting heavy in CrossFit peaked my interest in powerlifting and I dove in headfirst. At first, in researching various aspects of the sport, that nagging fly in the buttermilk feeling started creeping up again, and I said to myself, “here we go.” However, this time has been different. Instead of just throwing up my hands in defeat, I realized that *I* have power. That I can be intentional about finding or creating an environment where I feel seen and supported. That social media can be a useful tool to seek out other women that look like me that are doing the things that I love to do. From that knowledge, The Chocolate Bar Podcast was born. I became intentional about supporting others trying to make the sport of powerlifting more inclusive. I am more intentional about only financially supporting companies and organizations that are proactive in demonstrating their commitment to inclusion through their marketing and practices, and not just as a weak reactive response to being called out for only having thin, white young models, speakers or leadership. I spend a great deal of time researching resources and curating images so that other black women and girls know that they have a tribe to support, encourage and cheer them on, both on and off the platform. I am not naïve enough to believe that any of these efforts by themselves are enough to increase the representation of black women in the sport of powerlifting or other strength sports. I do think, however, that collectively, they can make a difference. If just one little girl or woman that looks like me goes online and because of the growing community of us in the sport, sees a Kim Walford, or a Sheri Miles and decides to try powerlifting, then all of this is worth it.