The saying, as it goes in some circles, is that “Black girls are magic.” And there is an ever more prevalent movement to celebrate The Carefree Black Girl, a new archetype and representation of the fullness of black women and girls and their interests and their happiness. Enter Mo’Nae Davis, 13, the breakout star of her Taney Youth Baseball Association of Philadelphia little league team, the Anderson Monarchs.
With long braids that dance on her back, what makes Davis a star is her talent as a pitcher — she has a 70 mph fastball — and, as described by her coach in interviews, her role as a leader on her all-boys team. What makes Davis a source of media intrigue, though, is her gender, and perhaps even her race.
Davis indicates on her roster page that Mamie “Peanut” Johnson is her favorite old-school player. Johnson was among the first women to play in the Negro Leagues when she joined the Indianapolis Clowns in 1953. At the time, the Negro Leagues were losing some of their best players to the integration of major league teams; for her two years on the team, Johnson’s record still stands as one of the best. Surely Davis, like Johnson before her, is expanding the possibilities for women, black women, in sports.
With roughly 60 years between their break-out roles in baseball, there are other parallels between Johnson and Davis. Consider Johnson’s time: In 1955 America was confronted with the death of Emmett Till, a 14-year old black boy who was gruesomely killed on August 28th while visiting relatives.
Now consider life in Davis’ prime: An unarmed 18-year-old black boy was shot and killed August 9th, also while visiting family. For sure, the month of August is a morbid coincidence, but perhaps what is not so coincidental is the assaults against black men, nor the peculiar ways we have learned to celebrate (black) women who operate outside of conventional spaces.
If you look at the copy that’s been produced about Davis in the past week, there are many turn-of-phrase quips about how she “throws like a girl.” The nod here is obvious but the sentiment still stands. We are a country that remains in awe of women who are talented, who are fearless, and who have no problem communicating as much.
“I’ll probably either be the first female in the MLB or in the NBA,” Davis said.
Though she’s young, Davis’ presence on the field makes a difference much in the same way the familiarity of the black-girl braids and beads of the Williams sisters did when the world first learned their names. Since then, they, Serena Williams, in particular, have faced an onslaught of criticism about everything, from their appearance to their conduct.
But their talent is undeniable, as is Davis’s, and though she may not know she’s in the middle of a moment, and though it may be too soon to tell what her future holds, for right now, she’s in great company in the legacy of magical black girls who thrive amidst the chaos of August.
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