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'Representation matters' | Hampton Roads natives begin Black Girls Tennis Club nonprofit

"I never saw anybody that looked like me on the court, and that’s the genesis of the club," said Kimberly Selden.

NORFOLK, Va. — You don’t need a physical house to feel at home. Feeling at home can come from any place or any person.

It’s the kind of feeling that drives someone to a tennis court, despite the early wakeup call and scorching weekend-morning sun. 

No matter what it is: feeling like you belong is easy when you feel at home. 

For Kimberly Selden and Virginia Thornton, that first began as a conversation.

“I halfway joked saying, ‘We should start a Black Girl’s Tennis Club,'" said Selden, a Virginia Beach native. She told 13News Now she wanted to pick up a new hobby after returning back to the Hampton Roads area. 

"I never saw anybody that looked like me on the court, and that’s the genesis of the club," she said. 

"As a child, I was always on the tennis court," co-founder Thornton said. “I really started to notice I was the only black girl on the team. It’s intimidating, even if no one purposefully intimidates you. Just not seeing anyone like you is an issue.”

The organization's purpose is as straightforward as the club’s title: a tennis club that aims to provide young Black women with free tennis clinics. 

The club just finished its first round of clinics, seven weeks of 90-minute lessons to a group of 10 girls between the ages of 10 and 18. 

"Historically, there is a racial divide because it’s been seen as a country club sport," Selden said. 

"A lot of that has to do with the sport being accessible," Thornton said. 

In the organization's first round of applications, they said they had more than 90 applicants, but could only accommodate 10 girls with their initial coaching limitations. 

"A lot of the girls saw the movie 'King Richard' and were inspired by Serena and Venus Williams. They didn’t realize that was a path they could take. They wanted to try tennis or bond with Black girls," Selden said. "A lot of themes around sisterhood, community, the space to be themselves, those were the common themes."

Kimberly and Virginia have since expanded the operations, which will next include clinics at Norfolk State this July, with room for more participants.

Anyone interested in becoming a part of the program can visit the organization's website.

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