Our world has this weird way of working…certain people aren’t supposed to succeed in certain fields. They aren’t supposed to transgress the imaginary lines drawn to confine their race, religion, gender, class, or some other broad identifier to a small professional (or unprofessional) box.
The box might be the kitchen in your house, a doctor’s office, or maybe a classroom. It could be the red carpet, a courtroom, the streets, maybe the basketball floor. Your box could be any of those places, but not all of them.
Society and statistics may say a particular field is a man’s field or this profession is only cut out for people with this color of skin. Let’s make something clear here—that’s not true.
I went to visit my professor/adviser from a couple semesters ago to update him on my life. He asked me how the SLAM stuff was going, so I told him the stories I shared with you. He smiled and said:
“You’re an anomaly.”
I guess I agreed, seeing as there were only a handful of women at the Madison Square Garden unveiling a few weeks back. But he pointed out as a religious woman, I really was an anomaly. Wearing my religion on my head in a crowd of suits, high heels, and perfected hairdos…it’s safe to say I stick out.
And I’m totally cool with that.
Last Friday, I went to Jersey City to meet/interview former star of St. Anthony High School and Seton Hall University basketball, Jerry Walker, for SLAM. He and his brother founded Team Walker, a nonprofit organization working to help the inner-city youth succeed academically first, but also socially and athletically. [Link to my SLAMonline story here.]
Mr. Walker said most of the kids he works with don’t have the resources they need to learn, but when given the proper tools, he knows they can succeed. Those tools are exactly what Team Walker provides. Mr. Walker said he sees kids come to the realization they can learn, despite the negative messages they internalized their whole lives.
Societal rules and “norms” (whatever that means) said they weren’t supposed to make it out, earn academic scholarships, or excel in various fields, but they did. And they do. These kids erase the invisible lines, and Team Walker helps them along the way. In a way, they’re anomalies too.
If God so wills, a Muslim girl’s pursuit of journalism (particularly, sports; particularly, basketball) won’t be an anomaly soon enough. And the academic, athletic, and professional success of inner-city youth won’t be an anomaly either.