When Marsha P. Johnson threw that infamous brick on June 28, 1969, instigating the Stonewall Riots, she broke through a formidable barrier for LGBTQ people that continues to have ripple effects on the fabric of American society. A black transgender woman, Marsha devoted her tragically short life to advocating for trans people of color. We remember Marsha’s bravery not just on the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots and the July 6th anniversary of her death, but throughout the entire month of June. From community parades to volunteerism to self-care, celebrations of Pride take many forms. For Olympian and national champion high jumper Inika Mcpherson, taking pride in every aspect of her identity, including her identity as a queer woman of color, is a daily practice of self-love and celebration of life.
In preparation for this month’s On the Blog, I had the honor of interviewing Inika shortly before she headed to Des Moines, Iowa to compete in the 2018 USATF Outdoor Championship. Inika’s unbridled fierceness and vigor for life empower others to shine brightly. Shine on, Inika. Eternal gratitude from one queer athlete to another.
Jules: You bring a uniqueness to the sport through your wardrobe, hairstyles, and body art. You’ve described these as displays of your “multifaceted personality.” What are some of your most memorable and favorite looks you’ve rocked at a competition? What parts of your personality inspired these looks? What Inika can we look forward to next (or is it top secret)?
Inika: I had a ball rocking the Power Ranger suit at the 2018 Drake Relays, it was the kid in me. Plus I love superheroes. I teach the kids I coach to think of their favorite superhero then be that for the day. Get out of your comfort zone and be who you were born to be. Infinite. Yes always top secret. lol
Jules: How does being a queer woman of color shape your experiences as a professional athlete?
Inika: It’s different but I’m not the only one. Being who you are shows your true beauty to the world. I do not categorize myself although I love being me.
Jules: What are thoughts on the representation (or lack of representation) of queer athletes of color in the sport of track and field? Do you notice differences in representation and/or inclusivity and tolerance when you travel internationally?
Inika: Well I believe it’s much more acceptable by society being heterosexual then being homosexual although who cares what anyone thinks. I believe your greatest joy comes in the form of your own self-worth.
Jules: How do you mentally and emotionally prepare for something like USATF Outdoor Champs? Do you have rituals/routines?
Inika: I usually isolate myself chill, watch movies, meditate, and visualize my perfect meet. All the work is done now, it’s just time to relax and win. Have faith in the work you’ve done.
Jules: What goes through your head before, during, and after a jump?
Inika: I’m usually relaxed. I picture myself completing the jump then I go for it.
Jules: USATF Outdoor Champs follow up—How’d it go? How was the experience? What’s next for you?
Inika: It was great I won*, speaking in future tense. I’ll get back to you on this one
Jules: In addition to being an exceptional athlete, you are also a coach and writer. How do these factor into your life now? What do you plan to do in the future with coaching and writing?
Inika: I plan to bring my knowledge to the sport of track and field specifically the high jump. I don’t feel there’s enough high jump coaches. I plan to change that. I’m also working on a few books my life story and other topics that interest me like writing scripts.
Jules: Would you please share a poem you wrote? Did you perform this as spoken word? What inspired it?
Why do I have to define what is inclined
by the infamous gender geared nation, one nation,
no one seems to win,
into a world of hypocrites
hypothesizing on hypnosis,
transgender transnation transmitting transmissions
into the ether thought universe,
with no depth,
death to the determined
defusing dictators deciding who's next, dogma dictation
deodorize this funk,
lower the volume,
listen from within,
crying to be heard in silence.
This poem was inspired by recent events in politics and societies views on the lgbt community. I believe the words speak for themselves. And for all I speak for. Thank you God and thank you Julia for such a wonderful opportunity to be a part of your movement.
To learn more about Inika Mcpherson, visit her on the socials and via the following links:
*Inika finished 2nd in the high jump at the USATF Outdoor National Championships