It is a good time to be named “Simone.” Yesterday, Simone Biles and Simone Manuel won gold medals in their respective competitions at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. They both made history while doing it too and I was ready to lose my voice as I hollered last night.
First Simone B. won the gold medal in all-around gymnastics, which basically means she’s the real MVP of those mats. She’s the chief executive officer of tumbling and the chair of the board of bars. This made her the first woman in 20 years to win back-to-back world and Olympic all around titles.
All I know is that Simone Biles went to the Olympics and annihilated her opponents with grace. The girl did some gravity-defying moves with her body that made me think gravity was just like “I’m on break” whenever she was performing. My goodness! I tried to do two cartwheels in a row and fell into my closet. Meanwhile, Simone was in Rio catching air and I wondered if she was wearing an invisible jet pack. Wonders shall never cease. There are superheroes who live amongst us.
Physics is fresh outta excuses for how Simone moves. I got dizzy watching that GIF of her.
According to NBC, Simone Biles’ margin of victory at the Olympics was 2.1, which is larger than thee margins of victory of winners from 1980 – 2012 combined. I don’t really even know what that means but I am hella impressed! That just sounds amazing. Like when someone tells you their golf swing is really smooth and you pat them on the back even though you have no clue how substantial it is.
And when they tried to compare her to others, she stood in her own power and said “I’m not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps, I’m the first Simone Biles.”
TELL THEM, BOO!!!
And just when we thought the name “Simone” couldn’t get any more shine, here comes Simone Manuel, from the American swimming team. Unlike Biles, she had been really slept on. She was not the one who has been getting attention as one to watch.
Simone Manuel decided she wanted to blow folks outta the water on the stage that mattered the most. And the stone that was rejected became the chief cornerstone when the girl from Sugar Land, Texas, tied to win the gold medal in the 100-meter freestyle. She also broke an Olympics record while doing it, getting a time of 52.70 with Canadian swimmer Penny Oleksiak.
When she touched the wall and looked back, and saw the number 1 next to her name, the look on her face is THE BEST.
That is the face of a winner who has been underestimated and responded by swimming the best race of her life. And with that, Simone Manuel made history as the first Black woman to win an individual swimming medal, let alone GOLD.
I cried. Because wow. This 20-year old defied stereotypes. Y’all love saying Black folks don’t and can’ t swim, right? Well, one of us just fished herself the top prize on the most grand of stages. We’ve come far from the times when we weren’t deem fit to touch waters that white folks did. In 1953, the Frontier hotel in Las Vegas drained their damb pool because Dorothy Dandridge dipped her toe in. In 1963, a motel manager poured acid into the pool when he saw Black people swimming in it. Just last year, Black kids were beaten while at a pool in Texas by cops who didn’t think they belonged there. There’s a really good piece on Fusion on this significance. Read: Here’s why Simone Manuel’s historic gold medal is so emotional for black Americans
And Simone Manuel won the gold medal at the Olympics. I cried watching her cry during the medal ceremony. I cannot imagine how overwhelmed she must have felt. But she got the significance.
“This medal is not just for me. It is for some of the African-Americans who have come before me, like Maritza Correia and Cullen Jones. This medal is for the people who come behind me and get into the sport and hopefully find love and drive to get to this point.”
LOOK AT ALL THIS GRACE.
I am so here for this melanin magnificence. I am heartened by our ability to constantly step into places where we are overlooked to end up dominating. I am always full of pride about how Black women and girls prevail against all odds.
Predictable enough, I’ve been seeing folks refer to both Simones as simply “American” women, as we celebrate them. I get it, they are Americans. BUT when we do exceptional things, folks love to emphasize the AMERICAN in “African American.” Oftentimes, they will take out the first word. And “Black” comes up missing in our descriptors. On the other hand, when we are known for negative behavior, they are QUICK to throw both African and Black in the mix.
America’s love is conditional AF for Black people. When we win at the Olympics, we’re your pride and joy. Meanwhile, back at home, we’re your shooting targets. Simone Biles and Simone Manuel are BLACK. They are African American. They are melanin goddesses. Don’t you forget it.
I told y’all it’s the BLACKEST YEAR EVER. It is hella onyx. It is peak noir. The Simones went to Rio to the Olympics to sprinkle Black Girl pixie dust all over the place in Ancestral August and I’M HERE FOR IT. I’m about to start telling people that my 4th middle name is Simone.
P.S. Don’t get us Black girls playing Hockey. We gon come for your medals in that too. BLOOP.