All-Black squash team from Harlem makes history
NEW YORK -- For the first time in history, an all-Black team is heading to the national high school championships in the sport of squash, and they are from Harlem.
The Thurgood Marshall Academy boys hope to make a big impression.
United in black uniforms, the Panthers proudly step to the national stage. The teammates learned the game at the Harlem nonprofit StreetSquash.
"It's a very humbling experience, just to be a part of something bigger," said David Johnson.
Last semester, after playing for fun for years, they petitioned their school for squash as an official sport, allowing them to enter the national high school tournament.
Their coach, Simba Muhwati, grew up playing squash in Zimbabwe before coming to compete in college in the States, where the sport looked a lot different.
"It was super affluent here and the rest of the world, it's not," Muhwati observed. "It's actually pretty middle class and below."
These student athletes squash any notion the court sport is better suited for kids of privilege.
"Being the only all-Black team, we broke a lot of stereotypes, and it's deeper than squash," said Harlem Jones. "Squash has opened a lot of doors for me."
During league play with StreetSquash, team members traveled across the country and even to England to compete against players from all different backgrounds.
"My opponent was a 50-year-old man," Allasane Diakite recalled of one match. "I didn't really think nothing of it because he was up there in age, but he showed me some new things. He was a really good opponent."
Their eyes have been opened to a lifelong hobby, and they are opening others' eyes to new opportunities.
"Getting the chance," Overton said of the tournament, "to be a public school in Harlem, we already did so much."
"Best believe our name will be heard," Johnson added.
"History will be made," said Mohamed Diakite.
Win or lose, they are just learning to enjoy the ride.
"If I don't shed a tear, I'll be shocked," said Muhwati. "It'll be probably the most proud moment of my career in squash. To walk into that facility with these young men is going to be super special."
The TMA Boys Squash team is raising money to support their trip south to Philadelphia. To help, click here.
Update, Feb. 28, 2023: The team came in second at the national championships.
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