The Power Of Black Women As Gymnastics Tastemakers

An interview with Dr. Kyra Gaunt about viral floor routines in the NCAA.

Since 2014, five or six gymnasts, depending on who include in the tally, have had floor routines go viral on social media, and all of them have been women of color. And of those 5-6, all but one have been Black women. While the media coverage of the gymnasts and their viral floor routines have noted the race of the gymnasts and has often made it central to the discussion of their achievements as individuals, there hasn’t been, at least to my knowledge, an analysis of the overall trend clearly taking shape here—that it is women of color, and primarily Black women at that, who are driving this particular phenomenon. 

There’s an obvious question here: Why are the gymnasts who are powering this sudden explosion in the visibility women’s college gymnastics all women of color?

(In case my intent isn’t obvious, I don’t mean this question in a pejorative sense, as though there is something wrong with this trend. It’s most definitely a very good thing! I am simply trying to understand it better.)

While I’m able to ask the question, I’m in no way equipped to answer it. I don’t have the knowledge and experience to even hazard a decent guess as to perhaps why this is happening. But fortunately, I have interviewed someone who is able to offer insight into this phenomenon. 

Meet Dr. Kyra Gaunt, a professor at the University at Albany (SUNY) and ethnomusicologist whose scholarship has focused on the intersection of Black girlhood, music, and digital media. She’s the author of the award winning book The Games Black Girls Play: Learning the Ropes from Double-Dutch to Hip Hop.

(A quick shout out to Joe Schloss, also an ethnomusicologist of some renown and good friend of mine, who suggested I reach out to Gaunt when I told him my idea for this newsletter. If you’re at all interested in learning about the history of breaking, check out his book Foundation: B-boys, B-girls, and Hip Hop Culture in New York. )

I reached out to Gaunt, who agreed to speak with me for this piece. To prepare for our conversation, I sent Gaunt all of the floor routines that had gone viral and also some other examples of floor routines that, while competently performed, were not as engaging or well-choreographed as the viral ones so that she could have an idea of what the majority of college gymnastics floor routines actually look like. Let’s just say that most are not as choreographically complex and well performed as Nia Dennis’ or Katelyn Ohashi’s floor routines. 

“We’ve always had Black culture as kind of a tastemaker,” Gaunt told me. All of the routines that have gone viral have not only featured Black gymnasts or POC but have also featured music from Black artists and have taken moves from Black social dances. 

The centrality of Black music and art to American pop culture is oft remarked upon but that doesn’t make it any less of an important point to bring up when discussing the virality of these videos. But in that history of Black art of being foundational to American pop culture is also the story of appropriation of that art by white people, who then go on to profit off of it far more than the people who created it. The classic example is Elvis Presley being called the “King of Rock and Roll” when really Chuck Berry, an African American singer/songwriter and guitarist, should’ve been hailed as such. Berry should’ve been at least as popular and successful as Presley if not more so. (Presley did, at times, acknowledge his debt to Berry, Fats Domino, and other Black artists.)

But in the case of the viral floor routines, we don’t have white gymnasts performing to hip hop music and using moves from Black social dances and skyrocketing to social media stardom though many white gymnasts do use hip hop tracks in their routines. It’s the gymnasts of color, and mainly Black gymnasts at that, who have been the beneficiaries, which is a nice change of pace. 

(It should be noted that, for the most, the gymnasts haven’t profited much or at all off of their newfound popularity due to NCAA amateurism rules around eligibility. Katelyn Ohashi, the viral megastar of 2019, talked about how people and institutions profited off of her viral moment yet she couldn’t take a dime in this New York Times video op-ed. The rules are now being changed to allow college athletes to earn money off their name and likeness.) 

“I think there are a number of factors that play into why it probably is a thing. One is the Black Lives Matter movement that overlaps with this period from 2014 to now, and the ‘black girl magic” hashtag,’” Gaunt said. 

The timing of LSU athlete Llomincia Hall’s viral floor routine is significant for another reason, Gaunt noted: 2013 is the year that YouTube made a contract with the Billboard charts for its views to be part of the streaming for gold and platinum records. “So it’s a pivotal year...the Harlem Shake was able to go viral as a result of that,” she said. “It’s also the year of twerking.”

“That was when this trend of learning dances and having songs go viral because of the gesture of the dances associated with the music began in that summer of 2013.” While a viral floor routine set to music and a pop song that comes replete with its own particular dance move is not perfectly analogous, it’s hard not to see how the machinations of YouTube and the record industry wouldn’t have some spillover effect on floor routines set to popular music and uploaded to social media. 

But this is not just about corporate behemoths and algorithms. It’s also about who is doing the sharing. “Women are dominant in a lot of the social sharing spaces,” Gaunt said, noting that Black women, in particular, are often tastemakers on those platforms. The things that Black women choose to share stand a good chance of taking off on social media and being appreciated outside the Black community.  

Then Gaunt posited a theory of hers that might help explain the viral floor routine phenomenon. “Black women are the interface that drives the profit and the attention economy on every platform and it began with YouTube,” she started. 

Specifically with Janet Jackson and the “wardrobe malfunction.” During the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show, Justin Timberlake infamously exposed Jackson’s nipple during their performance and the FCC, the Bush Administration, and people who say they’re worried about children but also support slashing social welfare programs, all got a case of the vapors. Jackson’s career was irreparably damaged by the incident but Timberlake just went “la di da” and went on with his career. 

This all happened before YouTube so if you missed seeing the incident live, you simply missed seeing it. The clips that appeared on the evening news were edited for the sake of the children. 

Around that time, three PayPal bros, who were working on a dating site called “Tune In, Hook Up” that wasn’t really taking off. “What they did find was that people wanted to see Janet Jackson's nipples from the NFL Super Bowl the year before, and that they could provide that by putting it on their website and that's how they went. That's how they made YouTube a profitable venture.”

It’s the classic Top 40 hit: “Capitalism profiting off of Black people while offering them little in return.”

(Given this unfair history, it’s all the more satisfying that UCLA’s Margzetta Frazier blew up online after performing to a medley of Janet Jackson songs. Jackson actually FaceTimed with Frazier. Happy tears were shed by all.)

“All Black bodies, but particularly Black female bodies, are kind of an interface through which we think that things are cool,” Gaunt explained. “Black girls had to suppress this expressive tradition in their bodies to be a part of gymnastics,” she continued. “Before, you needed to fit into what white girls were like or whatever ideal Nadia Comaneci [represented]. 

“If you’ve been watching gymnastics for a little bit as a consumer of the Olympics, it’s pretty close to ballet...For that very thing, you expect a kind of disciplining of the body, disciplining personality.” 

While disciplining of the body is something of a prerequisite for doing gymnastics well at a high level, the disciplining of the personality that Gaunt referenced is by no means required to do complex skills. Rather, the disciplining of personality is often imposed on the gymnasts by coaches and other powerful figures as a means of controlling them, a phenomenon that has been well documented in gymnastics over the last four years. 

In these viral floor routines, Gaunt sees a different approach being modeled for gymnasts  

“Watching these videos, there's something special about being able to see people live in their kind of full expressive truth. Not that that kind of dancing is, quote, unquote, natural; it’s that it is expressive of being a part of a larger community of women who are really not wanting to limit their identity to a standard of how women should be in public,” she continued.

And this is not the kind of thing one tends to think about when watching women’s gymnastics. The viral floor routines, as I and others have noted, subverted many of the expectations that many have of women’s gymnastics if they only watch the sport once every four years at the Olympics. (As I pointed out to Britni de la Cretaz in her piece about viral floor routines at Refinery 29, the fact that many college gymnasts perform “fun” routines to pop music is hardly a new phenomenon. It’s been something of a norm in NCAA gymnastics for decades.)

When the expectation—that all gymnasts are white and perform only with a balletic bearing and style—clashed with the reality that many high level gymnasts are Black and some gymnasts perform African American social dances to popular music, it resulted, in some instances, in viral popularity online. People were sharing the routines, not just because they were incredibly well-done but also because they were surprising in a good way. 

“Black women open up spaces for people to consider there's a different way to be free,” Gaunt said.

I want to apologize for not sending a newsletter out last week. There are a lot of reasons for it but chief among them was a paralysis brought on by the recent controversies swirling around Substack, which is the platform that this newsletter exists on. I’ve spent the last couple of weeks reading all of the takes, most of which were published on Substack, reading Twitter threads on the topic, and talking to other writers to try to work out what to do. 

For those of you who do not live on Twitter—good for you!—here’s a quick rundown of what has happened: Substack allows anyone to sign up and send out a newsletter to followers for free. It’s a really easy to use platform and I think the result is clean and aesthetically pleasing. If/when a writer decides to turn on paid subscriptions, Substack takes a 10% cut of the revenue. That’s its basic business model.

By this description, Substack would appear to be only a tech company that provides a platform to writers and nothing more, and that it doesn’t have an obligation to moderate the content that it appears on its platform. But Substack has also been in the business of content curation and making editorial decisions. Via its Substack Pro program, it has been luring well-established writers with large followings with advances—sometimes as large as $250,000 as Vox co-founder Matt Yglesias received—to start up newsletters on the platform. If the writer decides to accept the grant, Substack will take 85-90 percent of their subscription revenues in the first year. After that, the writer’s arrangement is the same as it is for the rest of us—you keep 90 percent of the subscription revenue while Substack’s cut is at 10 percent. 

(Disclosure: I received a $2,500 no strings attached grant last year from Substack shortly after the COVID-19 lockdowns began.)

Now here’s the main issue: Substack won’t publicize that list and so far, many of the writers who have chosen to make this information public have been, by and large, cisgender white men, many of whom seem to use their newsletters to mostly rail against “cancel culture,” which is, as David Klion writes in last week’s Jewish Currents newsletter, “the derogatory term for what a previous generation called ‘political correctness’ and what many of us on the left would describe as basic sensitivity to the dignity of marginalized communities.”  

And the existence of the Pro program belies Substack’s claim that it is merely a platform then it’s fair to demand that it step in and deal with noted transphobe Graham Lineham, who has already been booted off Twitter yet has a Substack newsletter where he, among other things, posts pre-transition photos of trans people, which is a horrible violation of their dignity.

There have been several smart pieces written about the situation. Some have pointed out that the Pro program is similar to how book publishers award advances to authors, and I tend to mostly agree with this point—except that we know who the authors are if not the particulars of their deals so there’s at least a little bit of transparency there. And if you’ve published a book, as I have, with any of the major publishing houses, you’ve worked with a company who has published some of the worst people in the world, too. This is not an excuse for Substack’s behavior; more like a sad commentary on the state of media in general. 

Some writers have chosen to leave the platform and others are mulling an exit. Some have decided to stay while being vocal against Substack. I’m not yet sure what I am going to do. While I’m not making a ton of money on this newsletter—nowhere near enough to live off of—it helps with a couple bills and that’s really not nothing, especially right now given *gestures dramatically to the world.*  

I welcome feedback from subscribers about this matter. And I realize that some of you might wish to continue supporting me but don’t want to pour any more money into Substack’s coffers as I work through this matter. If that’s the case, please feel free to email me at

One last bit of business: Yesterday my interview with Simone Biles was published over at Texas Monthly. You can read it here.

Stella Umeh Would've Gone Viral

A Q&A with the former Canadian Olympian and Bruin gymnastics star.

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Back in 2019, when I was working on “A Brief History of Viral Floor Routines” in response to Katelyn Ohashi’s floor routine exploding online, I joked to a friend that the only reason I was writing the piece was so that I could embed video of Stella Umeh’s routine somewhere in it. Which I did. First, I ran through the history of NCAA gymnastics floor routines that had gone viral, starting with Lloimincia Hall’s 2014 routine and ending with Ohashi’s. Then I included some of my favorite routines from the past that had been done before the internet had arrived in a significant way and before social media had existed at all.

And one of the routines I highlighted was Umeh’s routine from the 1998 NCAA championships, which was the last competition of her career. 

Her movements were fluid. She created unique shapes with her body. Her transitions were seamless. And she was so fucking soulful. If all of that wasn’t enough, she performed some of the most difficult tumbling being performed in NCAA gymnastics, both then and now. She really was the total package on floor.

Every time another gymnast goes viral, I find myself thinking, If only Twitter had been around when Stella Umeh was competing.

I supposed we’ll never know if Umeh’s routines would’ve taken off online, and that’s probably beside the point. Umeh’s career and contributions are noteworthy even without mass social media acclaim. 

Umeh is a former elite gymnast who represented Canada in international competition from the late 80s until the mid-90s. The 1990 Commonwealth Games was her breakout competition. Originally not even slated to compete, she was added to the Canadian team at the last minute after other gymnasts were injured and helped the team win the gold. At the 1992 world championships, she made both the beam and vault finals, and at the Olympics later that year, she placed 16th in the all-around as the only Canadian gymnast to qualify to the 36-person field. She finaled in floor at the 1993 world championships, and finished her elite career with the all-around title at the 1994 Commonwealth Games.

With a resume like that, it should come as no surprise that Umeh continued to excel gymnastically in college. She won two floor titles and helped the Bruins to their first-ever NCAA team title in 1997. After finishing her competitive career, Umeh joined Cirque du Soleil where she performed in the shows Varekai and Mystere.

I must admit that I wasn’t much of a consumer of college gymnastics at that point in time, so I didn’t become aware of Umeh’s Bruin career until several years later with the advent of YouTube. That’s when gymnastics fans started digitizing their VHS tape collections, and that’s when I came across Umeh’s elite and college routines. I was truly blown away when I watched her perform. And since then, I have never missed an opportunity to bring her and her incredible floor routines up in conversation or in writing. (See: the lede to this piece.)

Currently, Umeh lives in Newcastle, Australia, with her husband and her 5-year-old daughter. She teaches yoga and acro, mentors/coaches in gymnastics, and, along with her sister Anastasia, choreographs floor routines. 

I reached out to Umeh and asked her if she’d be open to speaking with me for the newsletter and she graciously agreed. Given the time difference between New York and Australia, I emailed her questions and she sent me her answers via voice memos. 

This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.

Dvora Meyers: Can you talk a bit about your background in the sport? How did you get started? How old were you? What motivated you to do gymnastics when you were young?

Stella Umeh: I actually started dance at the age of four. At the age of six, I had quite a bit of energy. And my mum had a pretty loud prayer in the hopes that I would find somewhere to place all my passion. We were driving along one day. Mum got lost. We went into a gym to ask for directions. And as soon as the doors opened, I saw what was in there, I went tearing across the floor, jumping into the pit, climbing on the beam, running down the vault runway, pushing off the springboard or the beat board. I was literally in heaven. Mum took one look and said, ‘We were never really lost. We've always been found.’ And I started gymnastics a week later at the same gym, Gymnastics Mississauga in Canada, for all 17 years of my career under the tutelage of the then-head coach, Alex Bard, and all of his coaches that learned from him. 

I just loved it. I loved the ability, or the opportunity it gave me to put everything I had into something. It was filled with bumps and bruises and twists and turns and power and flexibility. And it was like everything mixed together to create such a wonderful experience. I was so happy that there were four events, warm-up, conditioning, [and] cool down; there was so much to do in the gym. It never got old. It never got boring. So going to the gym was literally my favorite place on earth...I was extremely flexible as a little girl. So I excelled in acrobatics, and I had power and then when I was able to put the two of them together, I literally found like the greatest combination in marriage.

DM: You came onto the elite scene just as the Canadian women were just starting to make their mark in the world of gymnastics. You had Larissa Lowing becoming the first Canadian woman to make a world apparatus final in 1989. She also got her beam mount into the Code of Points. And then you made a couple of apparatus finals yourself at the world championships.

What was it like coming up as a young elite gymnast at that time, both in Canada and abroad? Can you talk about your own contributions to the progress of gymnastics in Canada? 

[Ed. note: I’m not certain but I *think* Lowing is also the first Black female gymnast to make a world apparatus final. If I’m mistaken, please let me know in the comments. Lowing, now Lowing-Libby, is the current head coach of the University of Iowa women’s gymnastics team.]

SU: Canadian gymnastics at the time was very club-oriented. Back then, we didn't come together on a regular basis in training as a national team. It was really rare when we did that. It was usually before a competition, or it was just for testing. And it wasn't until I was well into things that that started happening. 

I didn't actually start competing with or against Lori [Strong] and Larissa until they were kind of moving on their way out. So yes, 1990 was the first meet I had gone to on a team with them. I believe that I competed at 1989 Stuttgart in Germany, the DTB Cup with Larissa, but I've never actually traveled with Lori anywhere. So my only interaction with them was from meet to meet. 

I actually never really felt like I was coming up at the same time as them. I didn't actually connect any of the dots. I just did what I knew I could do. And it just happened that I was an up and comer [as a] junior behind this powerhouse era of Canada really starting to make waves internationally. 

I myself had such momentum in my own competition, in my own standing, that I often traveled alone to international meets. And I think in terms of my contribution in the progress of gymnastics internationally, I think I left a decent mark. I did very well internationally; I often did better leaving the country than I did within Canada. I was more fairly judged, to be honest. So with regards to the progression of gymnastics in Canada, Canada [does] not have the greatest track record for standing in support of their entire group of gymnasts. I think Larissa was a highly underrated gymnast. I seem to have fallen into that as well. There was a huge push for Lori Strong and the publicity of her... I'd like to think that I brought a little grace and power in the marriage of the two into the sport, especially in Canada cause I was a trained dancer, and I danced from the age of 4-12. And I incorporated that and never left it behind. 

I think I lent a different kind of feel to the way that people saw or thought of gymnastics in Canada. I definitely left a great name for Canada internationally. Within Canada, I have no idea. I went back to my old [gym], Gymnastics Mississauga, and they didn't even know who I was. I was annoyed by that, to say the least.

DM: In addition to showcasing difficult tumbling, you also demonstrated highly complex choreography in your elite floor routine, dare I say some of the most difficult and interesting dance being done at the time. How did those performances come together? What did you hope to convey to the audience in your performance?

SU: My sister choreographed a couple of my routines; she actually didn't do all of my elite routines. She didn't do as many as I had hoped she would have done. She didn't do my Olympic floor routine, which I was really bummed [about]. She did the 93 and the 94. But Alex [Umeh’s coach] wouldn't let her choreograph my Olympic routine. 

I had a particular style and I worked with dancers, who were choreographers, in all of the routines that I did...I was blessed to work with choreographers that just let me be me, let me do me. So music would come on—and this is really indicative of floor routines that I did with my sister—we would literally just put some music on, we might be facing away from each other, back to back, and start dancing and moving, [and] turn around and realize that we're doing the same thing. The choreography was then born.

 The main thing I was hoping to convey in a floor routine was fucking land on your feet. [laughter] The second most important thing was just ease...I enjoyed floor, I actually enjoyed every event, but bars. Bars was my least favorite. But it's the one that I made the most improvement on and I learned the most from. They always say that your toughest experience will be your biggest learning experience.

What I was trying to put out there was just like, you can you can move, you can flow, you can dance and you can be powerful all at the same time. It was artistic gymnastics, and I was happy that I did that.  

One thing I do appreciate in my experiences is compulsories. I love my cycle's compulsories, the 88 to 92 compulsories. Compulsories really separated the good athletes from the best athletes.

[Ed. note: I couldn’t find a video of Umeh doing compulsories during that period so here’s a link to Romania’s Vanda Hadarean doing the 1992 compulsory floor routine, in case you wanted to see what that cycle’s compulsory floor exercise looked like.]

I believe that going out there and performing and using everything that you have is a huge thing. So compulsories for me made me a better gymnast, because it really helped me focus in, zero in on the competitiveness of basic skills, which are so highly required in gymnastics. [Now] compulsories don't exist; they cut them. I don't like the fact that they cut them because now everybody's optionals look exactly the same. So it also removes a bit of the creativity and the artistry by removing compulsories. I don't know why I went off on that segue, but I know that compulsories played a huge role, and it should be shared and talked about.

[Ed. note: Compulsories were eliminated after the 1996 Olympics. And yes, I agree with Umeh that we should talk more about them and revel in basic skills performed incredibly well.]

DM: Now let's talk about your UCLA floor routines. I think your freshman year routine was your 1994 elite right—correct if I'm wrong there—but how did you go about putting together the other three? 

SU: Yes, you are correct. My freshman floor routine was a carryover from my elite [career], my last 94 floor routine. That's the one I finished up at the Commonwealth Games with; my sister did that. And then my second year was actually a floor routine that I  love. It was [to music] by Roy Buchanan, this like real sultry, electric guitar piece, like straight from the 70s. And the title of the song was “The Messiah Will Come Again.” It was actually an elite routine. My sister and I had created it while I was competing internationally, and my coach didn't like it so he wouldn't let me compete it. So I never competed it internationally. It was always my dream to compete that floor routine so I just resurrected it.

This is just sort of a side note, when I was being recruited, I kind of made it very clear to Valorie Kondos Field, the head coach of UCLA Gymnastics, that I had two stipulations: A. I don't lift weights. Or swim. 

[Ed. note: Later when I asked her to clarify, Umeh said, “I couldn’t get out of swimming. I tried, oh god, I tried. But I did have a floatie.”] 

And B. My sister will always do my floor routines. I was like, if you want to keep recruiting me knowing how big of a hotshot you are on floor, but just to let you know, floors are not on you for me. And I stuck to it. So my sister, [I used] her routine my freshman year, which pulled over from my elite career, my sophomore year, which again was an elite routine that was never used. My third year, my sister and I just couldn't get our shit together and so Valorie did choreograph that one. And to be honest, she had me run around the floor like a chicken with my head cut off. That was like some high movement, high energy [routine]. I needed to really work on my endurance for that. Thankfully, I had an endurance program that usually got me quickly in the shape for floor routines. But working with Valorie was a lot like working with my sister; Valorie, again, was a dancer. So it was sort of like, put on the music and like, lets organically see how these moves evolved from the person.

And then my last routine, it was kind of done in a pinch. My sister was living in Australia, and I was in California. I was really like, kind of coming down to the crunch. Stace [Umeh’s sister] sent me some stuff. We kind of did it over the phone. This is a time when we didn't have FaceTime and we didn't have mobile phones. She gave me the music. I loved it. And then I was like, ‘Oh, I could do this, this and we kind of talked it out.’ Then I put it together on my end. So it has always been an interesting journey, but one that has always been really well presented in the marriage of dance in gymnastics, and I've always worked with a choreographer who was a dancer.

DM: Most of the routines that have gone viral have come from your alma mater, UCLA. What do you think people are being drawn to the performances of gymnasts like Sophina DeJesus, Katelyn Ohashi, and Nia Dennis? And what does this mainstream popularity and attention mean for women's college gymnastics?

SU: Yes, most of the routines that have gone viral have, in fact, come from UCLA. In my opinion, I think what it means is that more people are getting plugged into college gymnastics. And the unfortunate thing about international gymnastics, it's something slightly boring because the code doesn't lend to a whole lot of creativity. A lot of the artistry in the new code points as of late and really goes towards the more power gymnastics. Which, I mean, I would have thrived. I would have done really well. But I think with that a lot of the artistry, the real delicacies of the sport have been lost. Because there's not a huge push for beautiful lines. And there's not a huge push for the artistic elements, which is really sad because it is artistic gymnastics. So I think why people are really enjoying college cause it's like girls having a lot of fun, showing their stars and really catering to an audience to fire them up. This whole viral floor routine is a very strange concept to me to be quite honest. 

DM: You competed before social media was a thing and before gymnasts started to go viral for their floor routines. I know virality is basically impossible to predict but do you think any of your or your teammate's floor routines would've exploded online the way that Dennis's and Ohashi's have over the last few years?

SU: I mean, I think probably yes. Because UCLA has a track record of just having really creative and interesting and off-the-beaten-path choreography and interpretation of dance and movement. I do think someone would have gone viral had it happened earlier. I have no idea who would've. But yes, someone would have. 

DM: If you were doing a college floor routine today, what music would you choose for yourself? Would it be the same/similar compositions as what you used in college or would you choose from the pop music repertoire, which seems to have become something of a norm in NCAA gym?

SU: I would stick to what I've always done. I like interesting and unique music. I'm not huge into mainstream pop, unless it was an icon, like I just choreographed, and this goes to your next question, but I just choreographed the floor for one of the girls from the University of Georgia, and it was a Prince routine. I wouldn't have gotten away with it [a Prince routine as a Bruin], because one of my very good friends on my team was in love with Prince, and she begged to do a Prince floor routine, and Valorie wouldn't let her. It would have been very mean and cruel had I asked for one and then gotten one, being on the team with her, but I would love to have done a really cool Prince mash up with “When Doves Cry,” and throw in “Kiss,” like I did for Soraya Hawthorne. There was also another piece that I choreographed this season for Alyssa Perez-Lugones, it was just so much fun to create the routine. I would have loved to do a routine using her music. And there is HBO series called The Flight Attendant. And it [has] this chase music, sort of like secret agent espionage chase. Oh, I would have loved it. I would have died. I would love to do that. So yeah, there are a few out there that I would love to do, but they would not be the same. They would all be different and unique and all different styles.

DM: After you graduated, you spent time performing with Cirque du Soleil, which is not an uncommon move amongst former gymnasts. I wrote a story a few years ago about Cirque and gymnasts and the transformation that many gymnasts go through, from being an athlete to a performer. Now, you were already a skilled performer when you arrived at Cirque headquarters in Montreal. Can you talk a bit about your experience at Cirque and what that transition from competitor to full-time performer was like for you? What did you learn from your time with Cirque? 

SU:  So yes, I ran away and joined the circus once I graduated from university because like everybody else, I needed a job. So that was in 2000. I graduated in 1999. I had done my own one-on-one audition, which was the creation of this video that Cirque needs for every artist, where we come in, and we do a series of things: strength, flexibility. they tested you in your dramatic interpretation of various things. And climbing the rope, which was 65 feet in the air, which was not fun. 

I had been out of gymnastics. I hadn't done anything for a year, because I finished competition in 98, and didn't audition until September of 99. That was horrendous. I couldn't walk for three days after that. My dad actually had to physically pick me up and put me in the car because I thought I got hit by a car. And then it came back and ran me over. [laughter]

Cirque was an interesting ride because I had never worked professionally, so to speak, in the entertainment industry, though I wasn't a complete stranger to it. Making that switch from competitive gymnastics to circus was not hard. It wasn't a difficult thing for me to do. What was difficult was moving to Vegas. Vegas was an interesting spot and coming into a show that had been there and established for seven years prior to me getting there. So just finding my footing in a strange place and not knowing a lot of people, though I had a couple friends, I had one very good friend; she probably played a huge part in me getting hired. Natasha Hallett, who was on the Olympic team with me as the alternate. We were friends all the way through international competition. She put my name forward and suggested that they look at me for that show specifically. It was lovely to just have her there as a buffer and [she was] someone that just helped guide me. But still, it was a tough contract for me. Mystere was very hard on my body. Starting to teeterboard at the age of 25 after an elite career. It was not necessarily on my bucket list of things to do and it scared me. So I have to get on board with, ‘Okay, now, I'm a professional now.’ Me showing up for work had a different meaning entirely than what it used to... So yeah, I struggled. 

I finished up my contract and then in the July of the following year, I was cast in Varekai, triple trapeze. And actually at the time, it was just an aerial act with six girls. That was exactly where I needed to be and was probably the best thing for me. So I wrote a letter to the then director of creation, Lyn Heward, who I actually never knew in international gymnastics though she was a judge...I just put together an email, wrote her, and I was like, ‘I think you should hire me.’ And she did. And then came my journey with Varekai.

Varekai was a lovely, lovely show. I mean, my life came from Varekai. I met some of my dearest friends on Varekai . And I ended up eventually, many years later, meeting my husband on Varekai. Billie [Umeh’s daughter] was born just after we moved over to his next show, which was Kurious. Cirque plays a huge part of my life. 

What did I learn from my time with Cirque? Never take life on stage for granted. It is a gift. It's an opportunity. It's a privilege and it's a humbling honor. I'm so happy that that played such a huge part of my journey.

DM: For the past couple of seasons, you've done the floor choreography for the University of Georgia. What was that experience like working with the athletes there? And how did you approach music and movement selection with the gymnasts? 

SU: We've done it for the last three years. The first year, my sister and I split the difference. She did six routines, and I did six. And then the following year, my sister did all of the music, and I created all 12 routines. And then this year, during COVID, it was a whole other experience. My sister still did all of the music, and then I created the routines with zero interaction with the girl. I had to do all 12, full out, videotape it, cut it up in pieces, send it in.

It was insane. It was just me, and all this crazy music out there on the floor, creating things and thinking everything looks exactly the same. And then it turns out that none of them were even remotely like each other. 

The first year that we started working with them [at Georgia], there were seven or nine freshmen. There were only two seniors and like one junior; there were barely any upperclassmen. So it's been a fairly consistent group for the last three years. And so this year, if we should get lucky enough to be hired again, it would be our final year with a lot of the girls that we've worked with for the last three, which will be sad. What an amazing opportunity it's been to have gone through this journey with them from their days as freshmen to their final days as seniors. 

How did we approach the music and the movement selections? Everything's a collaborative effort. So the girls would tend to send us choices; only [for] some of them did we pick flat out for them. Then we’d send it and see whether they liked it. My sister would arrange it in particular ways. 

Then I just take over with anything physical. I just created the routines the way that I've always created routines: I put on the music and just start moving and make sure there's a video camera very close to catch what I do, because I really can never remember how it is that I moved to a particular piece. And then once I see it, I just try and stylize it, make it pop in particular places. Music is what drives me. I'll hear things in music that'll inspire me to move in a particular way. By me just throwing on the music and moving, and just letting it organically evolve, then the movement is much more organic and real.

Every year previous [except this one], we've done the same with the girls: throw the music on and we'll just start moving with them. And then we'll just let the serpent roll through their body and then all of a sudden they created something and then we'll videotape it and stylize it. That's how the choreography is generally created.

A small note: I’ve publicly proclaimed my love for Umeh often enough that Papa Liukin on Twitter included a link to her floor routines in a tweet to me in January for my birthday.

Lizzie, of course, did steal my thunder, but she’s cute so I’m okay with it.

Meet Sid Oglesby, The First African American NCAA Gymnastics Champion

A Q&A with the 1964 NCAA long horse champion

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In late 2019, when I interviewed Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi, a New York-born South African painter and artist, she talked about her Heroes series and mentioned the portraits she had painted of important figures in Black gymnastics history. Some of the names she mentioned were familiar to me, gymnasts such as Luci Collins, the first Black woman named to a U.S. Olympic gymnastics team, and Betty Okino, a world and Olympic medalist who competed in the early 90s. But Nkosi also mentioned names of gymnasts that I wasn’t familiar with, like James Kanati Allen and Sid Oglesby, two Black male gymnasts who competed in the 60s. 

(This is now the third newsletter this month in which I’ve brought up Nkosi and her work. If you’re starting to think that I may be a Nkosi stan, well, you’re not wrong. Check out the two newsletters I published about her amazing work earlier this month.)

Speaking with Nkosi made me realize that I hadn’t dug deep enough into the history of Black achievement in gymnastics. I only ever went back as far as the late 70s and early 80s to gymnasts like Collins, Dianne Durham, the first African American gymnast to win the U.S. all-around title, and Ron Galimore, a member of the 1980 Olympic team. But of course, that’s not where the history of Black excellence in the sport of gymnastics started. Black gymnasts have been ascendant in the sport well before 1980.

Twelve years before Galimore and Collins were named to the 1980 Olympic team that didn’t compete in Moscow due to the U.S.-led boycott of the Games, James Kanati Allen, who is of African and Native American descent, was named to the 1968 Olympic team. At the time, the gymnast was on the UCLA gymnastics team and working with the legendary coach Art Shurlock. Kanati Allen also placed third in the all-around at the 1967 NCAA championships. After his gymnastics career ended, he went onto the University of Washington where he earned a PhD in physics. (He died in 2011.)

Four years before Kanati Allen’s historic achievement, Sid Oglesby was pulling off a first of his own. In 1964, the senior at Syracuse University took top honors on the long horse at the NCAA Championships in Los Angeles, making him the first Black gymnast to win an NCAA title. Oglesby also distinguished himself through activism, both during his athletic career and after. In 1964, he joined a cohort of Black athletes at SU to demand that the school stop competing with other universities where the students were still racially segregated.

After graduating, Oglesby eventually embarked on a career in politics and brought his activism with him. In 1995, while he was a member of the Onondaga County Legislature in New York State, Oglesby was arrested while protesting the diversion of traffic—and pollutants—to a low income, predominantly Black housing project in order to avoid a federal pollution monitor. “I’m being arrested because of the public plan to distribute pollution in the Black community,” Oglesby said when he was arrested. Oglesby was also the first African American named to the Commissioner of Jurors. He retired in 2015.

I reached out to Oglesby, who still resides in Syracuse, and asked if he’d be open to speaking with me about his life and career, both on and off the mat, and he graciously agreed. 

The conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

Dvora Meyers: How did you get started in gymnastics?

Sid Oglesby: It was really quite accidental. My brother, who was in gymnastics at the time in Jersey City, bet me that I couldn't climb the rope, which he could. And I failed at it after going about halfway up...In any case, I was annoyed so I decided to succeed in it. I got into gymnastics.

When I look back, I was thinking, ‘Well, did I ever compete against a Black person in college?’ and I couldn't recall. And I thought about it. I said, ‘Well, that's not possible. There were a lot of Black gymnasts.’...And I began to think more and more about that question. I looked back on one of my high school teams, and I would say 60% of the gymnasts in high school were Black. And then I thought about it further, as it were, why is that? And it crossed my mind that that's because there was equipment, and a number of teams available at the time, such as the YMCA, AAU, and again, in my high school. 

I started with a guy named Martin, who had a German turnverein club, and I used to go there and practice gymnastics. And, frankly, I don't know what I would have done had that German turnverein club not existed. There's one here in Syracuse as well, and I am always kind of amused at that, because that was a site of gymnastic sports for Blacks. 

DM: Your college gymnastics career took place in the 60s, which is a time of transition for the sport in the U.S. I remember reading in some history of American gymnastics that in the early 60s, the ratio of male to female gymnasts was something like 6:1 but a decade later, it had completely flipped, and the ratio was 6:1 for female to male gymnasts. Several things had happened in those years, most notably the rise of Olga Korbut and then Nadia Comaneci as the two first global superstars of the sport, but you also had Cathy Rigby who won the first world championships for the Americans in 1970.   

SO:  It was a club sport [for the women], as opposed to an NCAA scholastic sport. And interestingly enough, if you follow the timeline, many, many [men’s] scholastic gymnastic teams have collapsed. There are fewer and fewer scholastic teams now. 

DM: At the end of this season, they're [men’s NCAA gymnastics] going to have 12 Division I teams left, but when you competed, there were over 100 programs and now we’re getting really close to single digits. 

[Ed. note: Earlier this week, my longform feature about the decline of men’s NCAA gymnastics was published at Defector if you’re interested in learning more about this topic.]

SO: Many of my friends were football players. I competed against 42 teams at one point in time, At the same time, when they went, they competed against one. I used to tease them about that all the time.

DM: When we talk about Black athletes in college sports, the sports we mainly discuss are basketball and football. But it was a different situation when you were competing; all this TV money hadn't really come into those sports yet. Nowadays those sports can be really profitable for schools and the NCAA, and so the discussion of Black athletes about being exploited has really centered on the fact that they’re not getting paid while college football and basketball coaches are the highest-paid public employees in the country, which is crazy. And in the past year, the conversation around the exploitation of Black athletes has been about they’re unpaid and they’re being pressured into playing in the middle of a pandemic so that the schools and all of the other financial stakeholders don’t lose money. 

Back in your day, the exploitation of Black athletes looked a little different. I know that in 1964, you signed a petition with other athletes at Syracuse to get the school to stop competing against universities that were still segregated. I wonder if you see any parallels in your situation back then to what Black athletes are now experiencing.

SO:  We had protested against this in 1964, against playing schools that discriminated against Black people...There were 17 athletes of all sorts. Obviously, I was the only one from gymnastics, but a lot of basketball players and football players [participated]. And we all signed a letter and we promoted the university to do this.

Syracuse was put on the map by Black athletes and I've always been annoyed that not enough credit was given to them. The fact of the matter is, you look at Jim Brown and Ernie Davis, Floyd Little, myself, gymnasts and wrestling, this is across the board. People came to know Syracuse University nationally as a result of that. It promoted the school and people came. It became a school nationally known because of Black athletes.

DM: You see that happen quite a bit when you're watching March Madness, and you see this school you had never heard of in your life and then they're in the Sweet 16. The sports, whether or not they bring revenue, can help universities really gain a national profile. You weren't making money for the school because, at the time, the lucrative TV contracts didn't exist yet, but you were clearly performing another service for the university.  

You were a student during the 60s, which was a period of highly visible Black athlete activism: Harry Edwards and his Olympic Project for Human Rights; John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s Black Power salute at the 68 Olympic Games; the push to have more Black college coaches. I know you've already told me a little bit about the letter that you signed but can you speak a bit more about the athlete activism of that period and becoming more politically conscious around that time?  

SO:  In the context of Syracuse University, that's the one I speak to, the human rights issues and the civil rights issues were all beginning to bubble to the surface. And we had a lot of civil rights issues going on nationally, as well. I think what happened is that Blacks found a platform. And they found that platform because I think their experiences—their personal, everyday experience, both on and off campus—distinguished them as Black persons. Whereas on a Saturday when you were performing athletics, everybody loved you but [then after] you couldn't go to certain parties.  We hit on a little social network, which was largely connected to the Black community, etc. When you combine that with the civil rights movement, Blacks felt, I think, an inherent obligation to say something about what was going on in their own lives. 

And that was expressed through, as I said, the 17 athletes who saw this in the schools they were participating against. Don’t forget but right after that, Ernie Davis, who this university celebrated, couldn't even sleep in the same hotel when they [the team] would travel to certain sporting events, and the team finally stood up. I can remember when we all met with the coach of the football team in his office, and we were discussing what we wanted to do. And he said to me, ‘What are you doing here?’ Because he misunderstood or didn't understand that a particular athlete, what team you were on, had nothing to do with human rights and civil rights. He thought it was just football people he should be speaking to, but we [the Black athletes] saw it quite differently.

Jim Nance was a Black football player. He was an All-American football player. And he was also a two-time NCAA wrestling champion. He never got the credit that [he deserved]. And I always resented that. I resent it, because he, in fact, brought a lot of credit to the university. He also went on to become a professional football player for the New England Patriots. [Ed. note: At the time, the team was called the Boston Patriots.] So it was the context that we were in, both in terms of human rights, as well as civil rights and Blacks' participation on that stage at the time; that was a platform that was available. 

DM: I think you commented in one of the stories I read that you didn't feel like you were treated well, by all the members of your gymnastics team, even though you were doing so well for them.

SO: It was one person in particular whose name I won't mention, but my birthday is February 20. The reason that's important, the gymnasts who are still around and including my old assistant coach, take me to lunch on my birthday. Each time we do this, they bring up this person's name, because I got into a physical altercation with them. And the physical altercation was that I was doing a handstand on the parallel bars. And he thought it was okay to tell me to get the hell down from the apparatus. I did get down and I commenced to kick his ass. There was a big brouhaha on the team, and my coach didn't know what to do with it. And I felt a little offended by it because I was scoring first place. Best he ever scored was fifth place. He was always acting like he was better [than me]. The rest of the team I did well with. I became the captain of the team.

But I have forgiven my coach, he just didn't know how to handle it. In fact, if anybody should have been kicked off the team, it should've been him. But he wasn't and I wasn't. I went on to continue to score first places then he went on to continue to score fifth.

DM: In terms of some of the conversations with teammates and rivals, is it fair to say that you had to really prove yourself to your team more than a white athlete would?

SO: I think I had to prove myself in everything.

I never thought in racial terms in a serious way until I got to college. I grew up in Jersey City, New Jersey; [it was] very diverse. When I got to college, I felt the distinction of who I was versus other people, all the time, everywhere. And there were issues here that were profound. And so I began to see and think more racially, and it's been with me most of my life.

DM: What was different about the environment in Syracuse vs. Jersey City? 

SO: It was very explicit. The architecture of the community, and I don't mean physically, but psychologically, was such that it was segmented with Blacks on one side of the town, Italians lived on another side of the town, Jews lived on the east side of the town. I always lived on the west side of the town, the University was in the middle of the town. And you know, the twain shall never meet. That's how it was.

[Ed. note: Now we’re discussing his championship in 1964 and his near winor near miss, depending on how you view itin 63.]

SO:  In 63. I lost that in a very small way. 63 had more impact on me than the 64 win.

DM: Can you talk about what happened in 1963 that you're referring to?

SO: Well, 63. First of all, I had already won the [eastern] conference championship in both parallel bars and long horse. When I got to Pittsburgh [where the national championships were that year] I slipped on the parallel bars mostly because when I thought I was almost finished. I took my mind off what I was doing and I had a break. And I never forgave myself for that. Never get ahead of yourself.

[Ed. note: We’re now talking about the long horse in 1963 when he almost won the title]

What happened was that they had already announced that I won the championship. And I was glad about that. And then they said, ‘Oops, we forgot someone else who must have been running around, didn't compete and didn't have a chance to go yet.’ So they gave them a chance to go. And as they threw up some scores, when you pulled the total over the days together, he beat me I think by 12 hundredths of a point or something like that. That always affected me more. 

Because of that in 64, in California, Los Angeles, when I won the championship, it never really had such an impact on me. For many years, it never did, really.... I don't know, maybe I was so engaged in the struggles for life. I knew I had won, but I never felt great about it. I never celebrated, like you would think most people would. In fact, I've been thinking about this in the latter part of my life. Why not? And I don't really have an explanation for it. But as time went on, I have other friends and we talk about these things. And that's how we got to the, what they call the reconciliation, that's what I call it when the university honored me at a football game. [Ed. note: This happened in 2007.] But I often wondered about that. It made me think about being the first Black gymnast [to win an NCAA title] because I never thought about it for a long time [about what it meant] to win a national championship.

When you told me about this lady [Nkosi] who you learned [about me] from...The fact that she was in Johannesburg, South Africa and was aware of me. And yet there are people who are right here in this country [who don’t know]. 

DM: Speaking of Africa, can you talk about your trip there as a gymnast?

SO: It was with the AAU, which is the American Athletic Union. They approached me, as I recall. They wanted to send a team through the State Department, a goodwill tour to Africa. To put it in historical-political terms, I think they did it because China was doing the same thing. From a political point of view, they were competing with China as a country to get some exposure in Africa. So half the team was Black, I think; it was four Blacks and four whites, I believe. 

It was a beautiful experience. 

But I learned that my colleagues, my teammates, transported their view of the world to Africa, which didn't fit, because [there] they were in a minority. So [they were] constantly getting in trouble, or having problems adjusting. 

My white teammates’ American values and attitudes were transported to Africa where they expected a similar structure of racialism. The racism in Africa was structured around classism because everyone was Black. In America, racism is based on color, which determines everything: how you behave and how others behave towards you. Africans did not seem to have internalized inferiority. One example that still stands out to me is that when we had servants provided at the residence where we stayed, I would tip them but some teammates would not because they were behaving like they expected it. 

Now, one of the things I remember, particularly in Malawi, I remember we had these private buses, like a Volkswagen bus and they would take us to various little villages to compete to do an exhibition. And there would be all these people walking along the road. And finally, we asked ‘What are these people doing?’ They were walking the next day to see us. And I was always impressed by that and some of the songs they would sing of appreciation. I actually looked through some articles that I had about it. There's a picture of me doing a trick in gymnastics in Malawi. 

The trip to Africa really changed my mind and orientation…I no longer had to think as a minority because of the color of my skin and have that psychologically define me. I could define myself and behave accordingly. Dual thinking is due to the psychological fissure one develops because of racism--how you think of yourself and behave and how others think of you and behave. I got rid of the mental fissure by being one person in all racial circumstances and demanded the same from others. 

DM:  Can you talk about getting into politics in Syracuse and running for the legislature?

SO: First, before I ran for the legislature, I ran for city council. I ran and lost in the fourth district. And then I was appointed to the council at large for the whole city. And that was an interesting experience, because I eventually didn't wait on the reappointment. I did some things there, but I wasn't there long enough to really have an impact. But then subsequent to that, I ran for the county legislature and I won every time since then. And I became the Democratic floor leader.

I was initially in the minority and then we became even and I didn't like the notion of being called Minority Leader. So I got them to change it. It's still called the floor leader.  I was always proud of that, because what's “minority” got to do with it? You're leading your side of the aisle, and it was 12-12.

I was there for at least five years or six years in the legislature before I became Commissioner [of Jurors]. 

DM: Can you talk about the time you were arrested protesting car pollution around the Pioneer Homes?

SO: The highway cuts through the middle of the Black community and the exit ramp gets right off at the Black community. [You] make a left-hand turn and it goes right up to the university. The dome handles 35,000 people during football games and basketball games, etc. big events and cars are all trying to get as close to the university as possible. That meant they had to go through what we call Pioneer Home, which is a low-income, Black neighborhood. The traffic should have gone into the parking garage, but instead of going to the parking garage, they were getting off there, and then parking on the streets near the Pioneer Homes, because it was closest to the [Carrier] Dome.

The federal government had found that the pollution of carbon dioxide was very, very high there and so what they did was they penalized the county. They penalized the county by increasing the price of gasoline [by]10 cents, I don't remember exactly. And they also, in addition to that, they put up [CO2] monitors right at that exit so they could determine from the monitor whether it was increasing or decreasing. 

The county executive decided he wanted to get his transportation people to move the monitors, two blocks down from the exit and I protested that. ‘…The pollution is still there whether the monitor has moved two blocks or not’. And I did it with another legislative friend of mine, Carmen Harlow. He organized it. They decided to arrest me, I didn't plan to get arrested. It was interesting, because the jailhouse is one building away from my office. So when they brought me there, they were gonna charge me  And they decided they couldn't do this because I was a floor leader; it would make this a bigger issue than what it was. So they decided to drop all charges.

DM: This tracks since a lot of pollution has been diverted into low-income and minority communities. They put an off-ramp, which no one wants to live next to, in the Black community. 

SO: So the suburbanites can come in and earn a living.

DM: And go to a football game.

SO: Or a basketball game and get immediately back onto the highway.

DM: And leave their exhaust fumes behind.

DM: Do you follow gymnastics anymore? What is your attachment—if any—to the sport? 

SO:  When I'm scrolling, I usually read titles both on the cell and the internet and if [gymnastics] it appears I become interested. And really that's about it. Men's gymnastics has gone here [in Syracuse]. The only connection I have is with my old gymnastic friends and teammates. 

You provoked my thinking about this in my own life and things of that nature. I've done a lot of first things, which always surprises me. I didn't do things to be the first, but it turns out that I was the first. Even in the legislature, when they made me floor leader, the first elected Black floor leader...Then I became the first black Commissioner of Jurors. I never thought about it before. Then I became the first Black president of the Jury Association for the whole state in New York. 

I have a computer room which is loaded with all my plaques. My wife says to me, ‘Are you going  to take a trip down nostalgia [lane]’. Well, you know, the honest to god truth. I never had them up until this year. I had them in boxes in the basement.

DM: What made you want to put them up now? 

SO:  We did it maybe a month or so ago...Maybe cause I don’t have to work or what have you. I don’t have to look forward. I can now look back….I didn’t talk about it early on. As I said, I didn’t really deal with it very much. 

I told my children in NYC that I put them up and they were glad. Also I sent pictures of them to my nephew in Singapore who has boys in gymnastics, and they were thrilled. Also my nieces in Skaneateles, NY are into gymnastics and I sent pictures to them and they were thrilled. Their dad showed them how to download my exploits and now they send me pictures of them practicing gymnastics with a reminder that I now have competition. 

Here’s what Sheena Oglesby, Sid’s daughter, had to say about her father and his accomplishments:

My sister and I always grew up celebrating our Dad's gymnastics career, but the way I frame his successes in my mind has definitely become less one-dimensional as I've gotten older. 

As kids we were proud and impressed enough to use it as constant "Show and Tell" material, and begged him to do flips well past the age where one would probably medically advise [doing them]. 

But I didn't begin to appreciate the nuances of his contribution and experience until I was older (probably in college at Syracuse myself). I realized the impact he'd had on the sport, and the truly impressive feat he'd been able to achieve from a physical & mental place, but also socio-politically and culturally. 

I'm so proud of his achievements, and I've appreciated the recognition he's received for it (albeit later in life), but when he and I discuss it now, it's through more of a psychological lens than anything. 

I have a photo of him at my desk - on the winner's podium, plaque in hand, the only Black person in sight. To me, now, I look at it and see an image of an historic event, and an image of the pride, the pain, and the isolation he experienced. It's all there in his face, and in his story. It really captures both the beauty and the burden of "going first.”

The isolation that Sheena described seeing in the photo of her father on the winner’s podium, surrounded by white gymnasts is something that Sid said that he keenly felt during his gymnastics career. He emailed this to me late last night and I’m sharing it here with his permission:

“Gymnastics and race was the most lonely experience in my life. It formed me both for better or worse. I never shared any of my feelings with my children because I didn't want  to skew their perceptions about life as a Black person but arrive at their own conclusions.”

During the course of our conversation, Oglesby spoke about being disappointed that the Black male gymnasts of his era were largely forgotten or overlooked. The blame for this lack of recognition belongs to people like me in the media who have consistently failed to shine a light on earlier generations of Black gymnasts.

While this email newsletter will hardly right this wrong, I do hope it helps, in a small way, to bring Oglesby some of the recognition he deserves for his contributions to gymnastics and to life outside of the sport. 

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