As Black History Month comes to a close, we have been able to reflect on the African-American Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders who helped pave the way, while continuing to push toward creating a legacy for those who will follow. Below, Briana, Chandi, Kat and Ashlee dive into what it means to them to be a part of this important and unique legacy.
One of my favorite moments during any appearance is when I meet a young black girl who excitedly reaches up to pull her mom or dad's arm and loudly whispers, "She has the same skin as me!" Oftentimes, I am the first DCC who they have seen or met that looks like them.
I know that feeling of awe all too well. Growing up as a black dancer, I rarely saw professional dancers who looked like me. As I got older, the Baker sisters, Angel Bland and Nicole Hamilton were a few of the black DCC who encouraged me to be confident in my skin and continue pushing toward the dream of one day gracing the sidelines.
During my time as a DCC, the number of girls and women alike who have reached out to let me know they are proud of me, or to tell me that I have motivated them in some way is what inspires me to keep going. Their encouragement and faith are what I hope to instill in the women that will come after my time is long gone.
Growing up, I never thought I was different until kids in school started pointing it out. I am adopted and biracial, with a white mother and a mixed younger sister. Once it was pointed out that we were different from the other kids in school and different from our mother, it made me feel like I didn't belong.
However, I wasn't down for long. I thought, "I'm not different, I'm unique." Everyone should embrace who they are, inside and out, and be proud of who they are.
Being on the DCC and biracial, I have gotten so many messages from fans about how they love that I can talk about my unique background. So many mention how they are able to relate and feel a personal connection to me since they see a girl who looks like they do.
I find it very important that diversity is celebrated. I wish I had embraced who I was more as a child. I want to be the one who inspires people, to let them know that it doesn't matter what you look like. Go out and be who you are and you will inspire and touch someone's life.
I have always dreamed of becoming a DCC, but the moment I knew that dream could become my reality was in 2014. I saw a picture of the beautiful Jackie Bob getting announced to go to the Pro Bowl. Her smile, her skin, her eyes, her hair, her body, everything she was, gave me hope that I could accomplish what she accomplished!
Representation matters. Seeing someone who looked like me, inspired me to push for something greater than myself. It is my hope that the light inside of me shines brightly to impact young women to break down barriers and do something greater than and become something greater than they ever imagined.
Little brown girls running full speed just to hug me and my black sisters, approaching with so much excitement that I am living out a dream that they've had since they were little girls. My melanin queens so very proud and ready to show me off every chance they get.
I believe that my influence as a DCC sends a message. A message to others that look like me that says, "I'm not _ for a black girl." But that I am talented, beautiful, powerful, intelligent and courageous, period.
The message is one of confidence and capability. That by doing the work, even your deepest, wildest dreams can come true. What God has for you is for you, so I am happy that the other African-American women and girls who look up to us know that they can be comfortable in their skin. That she can wear her crown as she sees fit and embrace her style, culture and background. Knowing that she is and will always be a phenomenal woman.
Without diversity, you surrender the thoughts, ideas and conversations that challenge the status quo. You remain stagnant in a world that is increasingly multicultural and multiracial. Now, more than ever, recognizing and celebrating the uniqueness, originality and legacy that is found in the African-American culture is vital to inspiring the communities around us.