By now, you likely know Lusia Harris has passed. She was 66.
The original name of The Black Sportswoman was "LusiaTaughtMe."
I didn't learn her story until 2020, I think it was from a book that couldn't go back to the library because the pandemic had started. But the pivotal moment following my introduction to her was this video.
I cried when she said, “I want to be known too.”
The full quote:
“Pat Summitt, Nancy Lieberman, Ann Meyers, they are still in the media. And they are still well known. A lot of people still do not know Lusia Harris. I want to be known too.”
At the time, I wrote:
I cried watching that, and I want to make sure the names of the pioneers that have come before us don’t continue to be forgotten. It’s time to add to the landscape.
In 2020, I was working at a newspaper and independent women’s basketball site, doing my best to tell women’s basketball stories. I’d prioritized telling Black women’s stories, it’s natural because Black women are always my priority. But I never addressed the reasons Black women athletes were ignored, I just wrote about them whenever I had a chance on a platform.
I felt like at that time, Lusia taught me, or not knowing her story taught me, that it’s necessary to prioritize Black women more intentionally in my work, to document the history that I felt like was being looked over – and state why I feel that is the case. To learn history to add more context to these stories.
Lusia’s feelings about being forgotten resonated so much because I knew – know – that feeling. For me, it's not even wanting to be known, but just acknowledged for my work and contributions. I felt that at the newspaper I worked at the time, it didn’t matter how much coverage I created, how many new ideas I had, how much extra time I worked, I wasn’t going to succeed at that paper, or in the media industry. (Spoiler: I am no longer in the media industry)
But after learning Lusia Harris' story, I started this project, and decided the first interview would be Lusia Harris. I also interviewed Ann Meyers and Juliene Simpson, her former teammates, for it. What can I say, I’m ambitious. But that's also Lusia Harris' impact.
And you know my favorite part of the interview? Her kindness. Her correcting and confirming facts I read about her on the Internet. Her sharing her memories and feelings about a situation – whether it was in the 70s or in 2020. Her telling her own story.
To me, she wasn't just an interview. She was actually my biggest inspiration to do this work.
She led me to begin seriously studying history, and as I learn more about history and her career and her life, I had more questions I wanted to ask. But Lusia Harris' death at 66 shocked me for many reasons. There is no more following up.
But since our one and only interview, she was getting more and more press – she had a documentary made about her and everything. She was finally getting so much well-deserved recognition, even if people do lead with her being drafted by the NBA. There are so many more people that know about her now vs. in 2020.
Her story motivates me to keep going.
My therapist suggested I write something to say goodbye. And maybe this is goodbye.
But her legacy lives on in everything we do here.
The story of Lusia Harris will always be intertwined with the story of The Black Sportswoman.
Jubilee by Margaret Walker
Conversations Nikki Giovanni & Margaret Walker
Currently reading Segu by Maryse Condé
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