Gymnast Nia Dennis Shows The World That Black Women Can Be Unapologetically Black In Predominantly White Spaces

Photo: YouTube
Nia Dennis

By now, I’m sure everyone has seen that stunning video of gymnast, Nia Dennis, and her Black excellence routine.

Nia Dennis, who is a part of the UCLA Bruins’s gymnastics team, seemed to make an impression on not only the audience in attendance during her routine, but also the entire world as her clip has gone viral.

Her routine — which encompassed music from Tupac, Kendrick Lamar, and even some Soulja Boy – came with the appropriate dance moves to follow, as well as some impressive flips and different tricks.

Repping the Southern California and West Coast hip-hop scene, it was refreshing to see Nia Dennis gain recognition that was very much due.

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Though, it was also amazing to just see a Black woman being unapologetically Black, especially in spaces where Black women aren’t ever given room.

And that’s what makes her dance so synonymous with Black excellence  Dennis being able to proudly represent the community and showcase to millions of people that Black people exist outside of the media's representation.

There are too many examples of movies/TV shows that have been made where Black people are only seen as props to describe historic moments, which isn’t always a bad thing.

I think it’s important for people to understand the history of Black people, especially in this country. But, Black people can also exist outside of that rhetoric.

In the same ways that we cry, we scream, and we fight, we can also laugh, dance, smile, and be regarded as engaging in positive moments.

Seeing Nia Dennis parade around on that floor, her head held high with absolutely no qualms about being less than a Black woman, was incredibly rewarding. 

It makes me think of the last few weeks, with the inauguration of Kamala Harris as Vice President, and the poem read by Amanda Gorman. Black women, especially, are truly showcasing Black excellence in the highest places.

But more than ever, this shows Black girls that they can be this person too.

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They don’t have to hide behind trying to fit in to the white standards in America, and even the world.

Being Black doesn’t have to just happen behind closed-doors. We don’t have to erase our culture, and we don't have to hide the things that make us who we are just to please white people in spaces where we have never been truly welcomed.

We can be loud and proud about it, yelling at the top of our lungs just what being Black means to us.

And it means so much.

It’s about being repressed for so long — having to constantly worry about the “level of Black” that we’re walking around with. 

It manifests itself in code switching whenever we’re on the phone for an interview.

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It’s hoping our name isn’t “too ghetto.”

It’s having to sit in a classroom and hear a white teacher mispronounce your name, even though they have no problem reading off the name "Ryleigh" or "Kayleigh."

These moments might not seem so significant for others, but for me, it’s the beginning of something new. A new generation of Black women who are being unapologetically themselves, reveling in their Blackness and not giving a damn who sees.

I’m proud to be a part of that generation — because we are breaking barriers, and getting rid of restrictions that have been in place for far too long.

It’s time for Black girl magic to shine in every way that matters!

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Nia Tipton is a writer living in Chicago. She covers pop culture, social justice issues, and trending topics. Follow her on Instagram.