“You are not powerful despite being black, you are powerful because you are black and beautiful.”
“Black Girl Magic” has become a staple in society. It’s the phrase used when an African-American girl pushes past stereotypes and showcases the true beauty, brains, and brawns that black girls possess. After meeting Taylore Graham, a 17- year old high school student, I have an eloquent example of what black girl magic truly is!
Since she was a little girl, Taylore’s personality has always been bright and unpredictable. Her family calls her an “alien” because you never know what you’re going to get next with her. Since the days when she would volunteer to help in the kitchen at the age of 2 and turn the pots and pans into her own one-man percussion, she has continued to be full of life and promise.
She fell in love with sports early while attending Parker Intermediate Elementary. Basketball was her first love because it allowed her to release aggression in a safe way on the court. She has always been super competitive, and it shows with her younger brother, Bernard, who she competes with on EVERYTHING. A little healthy competition never hurts!
She channeled her increasing competitiveness into other sports. By the 7th grade, Taylore was involved in volleyball, soccer, track, and basketball. Impressive right? When I was in 7th grade, I was still adjusting to the fact that they really turned recess into P.E. (It is NOT the same thing.)
She didn’t just stop there! Taylore was also 5th chair clarinet in the band. By the 8th grade, she wasn’t satisfied with just being involved. She wanted to perfect all her crafts! She elevated her way up to 1st chair bass clarinet after the original one was broken, she improved on her defense in basketball and perfected her spike in volleyball. It was true black girl magic in action! She even added tennis to the roster!
It was a struggle at first managing sports and band practice. Sometimes it would be leaving practice just to rush to another all night then back up the next day to do it again. It made it all worth it when she would win games against rivals or the UIL trips she was able to take. She learned the difficult task of multitasking at a young age. Her parents, Shawn and Mya, made sure that their children knew the importance of staying busy because there’s less time to get in trouble or lose motivation. By the 9th grade, Taylore was accustomed to her lifestyle.
Unfortunately, circumstances caused her family to downsize in housing and capabilities. Instead of allowing defeat to wash over their household, Taylore stepped up and began to take charge to relieve her parents of added stress. Whether it was cleaning, chores, making dinner on a hectic night, or helping with her youngest brother Shawn Michael, she understood that just because life happens, it’s not a pass to give up and stop pushing.
She had to make sacrifices and among those sacrifices were cutting all of her extracurricular activities down to only two. Even in losing a few obligations, she managed to join Student Council, HOSA, and she even met a new coach by the named of Charles Brown. He would change her trajectory and take her to new heights.
For the first half of her freshman year, while most teenagers are finding themselves and abolishing adolescence, Taylore had already matured and was adjusting to her surroundings. She would spend 8 hours in class, then go straight to tutorials so she could maintain her GPA, then it was off to basketball and track practice which she chose as her two sports, which finally led to working out 3 times a week with Coach Brown to end her day.
Taylore would say “You wouldn’t know tired until you fell UP the stairs. Your body wouldn’t even let you make it to the next step.” This was the routine until tragedy struck and Taylore suffered a severe calf strain. She was devastated. Everything that she had worked for and cherished was instantly halted. She had to sit out for the rest of the season but her resilience and hard-wired aversion to being stagnant pushed her to train harder than ever to be ready for the next season with Coach Brown.
Taylore began to live in the gym. Coach Brown introduced her to powerlifting. Initially, it was a way to increase intensity and speed up recovery without risking the calf, but Taylore immediately fell in love with it. She loved the adrenaline rush of leaving it all on the weights. The excitement of not knowing her number and still lifting and trusting her inner strength was therapeutic. Coach Brown was strengthening her body but also simultaneously strengthening her mind.
Now, there are not many girl honor students who also powerlift, run track, play ball, and participate in StuCo so Taylore knew that what she was embarking on was something major and uncharted. She wore her struggles and responsibilities with pride.
She is referred to as “mother goose” by her friends because she takes every opportunity to do the right thing and will walk up to you with no fear and call you out if she sees you doing the wrong thing. She refers to her group of friends as the “Goof Troop”. They consist of childhood friends who are also athletes that support her love and dedication to sports. Because they understand her plight, it further increases their bond and makes the time that they do get to let loose that much more fun.
While Taylore does work extremely hard, she still makes time for play. In her free time, Taylore loves to spend time with her friends and time perfecting her hidden love for art. She loves to draw and create things. Her passion for creativity flows into everything she does. Whether it’s the homemade chocolate chip and Oreo brownies that she sold to pay for homecoming, or the way she rocks her natural fro at school without a care in the world, to her even modeling for her teacher’s clothing line, Good English.
Though she has more on her plate than the average 17- year old, she says her boyfriend and her family aid in alleviating some of the stress. Her parents are her driving force and they mold her to be her best self. Her dad Shawn takes the time to sit with her and discuss everything under the stars. He enlightens her about things she questions and educates her on the many lessons there are to learn in life from one’s father. Her mother Mya says she is the best daughter anyone could ever ask for. She is so caring, loving, and her drive to never quit even inspired Mya to go back to school and continue her newfound passion for writing.
Both Shawn and Mya reinforce the importance of Taylore not being ashamed of her blackness but instead treat it as your greatest attribute. You are not powerful despite being black, you are powerful because you are black and beautiful.
Her boyfriend is an echo of the powerful message and uses every opportunity to uplift and motivate her. He also has an athletic background with being a D1 shooting guard for the Hornets. Taylore states he is, “A mirror image of her, like two puzzle pieces that were meant to combine.” He pushes her to achieve more and grow all with an understanding that her time is precious. Sometimes they want to hang out and relax but instead, Taylore chooses to volunteer or do community service. He gives her accolades and even tags along.
Last year she hosted a breast walk and backpack giveaway, giving away over 2,500 backpacks to underprivileged children. She says that making others happy, makes her happy. She has always had a helping spirit and she found ways to utilize that in her sports. By pursuing athletic training, she can nurture her passion for helping others and play a part in her love for the game.
Although she still has another year, Taylore is already preparing for college and her promising future ahead. She has her eye on a few colleges such as Miami, LSU, and UT Arlington but she wants to wait and make sure that the college she picks will set her up for the best opportunities.
She has already started training in her career field by athletic training for a semi-pro basketball team. She claims every day is something new and she loves the experience she is gaining. With college waiting in the wings and the cusp of adulthood approaching, Taylore says the important thing she has learned throughout her journey is to not let life get the best of you. No matter what age, size, height, there is always a way to accomplish what you want to do.
Even after she was turned down for an opportunity to be in another magazine, she didn’t give up and she was blessed with a better option. When she lost her uncle Robert “Bassman” Washington, she felt that even all the strength she had developed over the years would get lost under the weight of her hurt and pain. She mustered up every ounce of courage and wisdom and she began to say despite her brokenness, “Now I have to make it because he’s watching me and rooting for me. I won’t let all that he was and all that he did for me go in vain.” Strength like that takes most people decades to develop. We never truly know the strength of ourselves until we are placed in front of the door to our greatest fears and still must push and move forward. Only then can you know the magnitude of your worth. Taylore comprehends that all that she’s been through is not by accident but it is just a journey to the discovery of her immense value to the world.
The motivation from her support system causes her to achieve 150% in everything that she does. She maintains impeccable academic integrity and even smashed a world record in her latest powerlifting match!
At the tender age of 17, Taylore has overcome hardships, felt the weight and importance of sacrifices, and learned to enjoy the journey that life chose to take her on. She is a true testament that black girl magic is universal and can come in any package!