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Where Biles and Osaka are Concerned, Author Jennifer R. Farmer Documents the Strain of Being the First and Only When One is Black and Female


Author Jennifer R. Farmer today released a statement on the trauma of being the first and only as a Black woman:

“When I wrote “First and Only: A Black Woman’s Guide to Thriving at Work and in Life,” I did so to document the hurdles Black women face as the first or only. I realized that Black women who reach epic levels of success are often celebrated in their victory, but isolated in their pain.

“It is time for the nation to not only celebrate the accomplishments of Black women but make space to bear witness to our pain, and to do so without judgement or scorn. Black women who accomplish tremendous goals forge a path that is ultimately smoother for successors, because the first and only absorbed the body blows, humiliation, mental health challenges, etc. No where is this more noticeable than in the recent experiences of Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka, who have both taken public stances to protect their mental health.

“Biles is the first Black woman and the first woman to win seven national women’s all-around titles. Osaka is the first Haitian and Japanese woman to win a grand slam title, the highest paid female athlete ever and the first Black woman to be featured on Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition.

“They are courageous since many Black women have been socialized to put on a brave face, to have the strength of the Gods, to never show weakness, and to forge ahead even when what is truly needed is rest or a sacred pause.

“While it may have been uncommon for some to witness, the courageous stance of Biles and Osaka means that future Black female athletes will have the latitude to stand with and for themselves, in a way that prior Black women leaders did not. As a nation, I hope more people see Black women in all our humanity, while creating space for our vulnerability and rest. I hope more people are mindful of the strain of being the first and the only, especially when one is Black and female.”


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