I grew up in the streets of Dakar, Senegal, a country located in West Africa. We spoke French because it was our primary language from elementary school to high school. Throughout our teenage years, my friends and I went to College Sacré-Coeur and had a plan which was to get our high school diploma and then go to France to pursue our university degree. However, some of us were not only gifted in school but also in sports. As the best junior tennis player in my country, I was practicing as usual on the courts of Olympique Tennis Club when an American lady, Amy Johnson, came up to the court and presented me with the idea of coming to the United States. I didn’t know what to expect but I was excited. She believed in me even though I thought there was no hope to ever go as my family wasn’t thrilled about that idea. Still, I took a trip to the USA to look for colleges. My family members were not happy but I had to do it in order to accomplish something that I really wanted which was to be a student-athlete.
While walking on Providence Rhode Island Street, Mass., a man stopped me. He was the Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University tennis coach. He was interested in me coming to his school. He talked to me about the opportunities and advantages of FAMU. I was interested but I couldn’t make it to the school because of NCAA regulations. Since it was impossible to make it there for my first two years in college, I signed a 2-year contract with Georgia Perimeter College which is a junior college located in Atlanta, Ga. I played there and during my sophomore year I won the Junior College National Championships which was held in Dallas, TX. I finished the season as the number one ranked in the country in Junior College. As a result of my accomplishments, many schools were interested in recruiting me and it was time for me to transfer to another school. Some of the schools interested were Georgia, Mississippi State, USF, VCU, and Georgia Tech. However, my heart was still at FAMU; not because of the school but because of the coach whom I had known for a long time.
After I earned my associate degree in Communications, I had to choose a major because Communications was too broad of a degree. I was undecided until I attended my first Public Relations class. While in that class, I realized about my goals and my future. I realized that my newly-picked major, Public Relations, was vast but that so much could be done in the field. As an athlete and a sports fan, it made sense to me to integrate Public Relations with sports.
I had several dreams that I wanted to achieve. One of them was to play college tennis in a Division 1 school. I am doing that now. I also want to try the pro tour which I am going to do after college. I also dream of becoming a Public relations practitioner for a sport team in Atlanta.
However, my biggest dream is to be able to be successful and support my family back in Senegal. I believe success is an achievement of goals that we set up while growing up. I try to embody it as much as I can. Frederick Douglas’s quote “If there is struggle, there is progress” really gives me the will to achieve my goals.
My family definitely inspired me to be successful. They have been supporting me since I was young and if it was not because of them, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Amy Johnson, the lady who made my dream come true is also a great inspiration to me. She worked hard and believed in me even when I thought there was no hope.
My thoughts on physical and inner beauty:
As far as looks go, physical beauty in a man is all about his face, posture and how he handles himself. For a female, it is all about her body and her smile. A nice smile is a must.
Inner beauty is the way one behaves towards people. It is about gestures, behaviors and being nice, helpful and generous.
Everybody keeps saying that inner beauty is more important but do they really mean it? In my case, I really don’t care. I talk to every woman regardless of her shape, size or color, and I am friends with everybody. I don’t discriminate.
My advice to the African Diaspora and my thoughts on my community:
If I was in front of the African Diaspora, my advice to them would be to work hard, to not take anything for granted when moving to another country. Only tough work will help you succeed and give you the opportunity to help your family.
In Senegal, we need to reexamine the educational system. So many people after the baccalaureate can’t pursue a higher education. For example, a middle-class student who really doesn’t have the funds to study abroad after his high school diploma or doesn’t have enough money to apply in the formation centers will not have a lot of choices for there are only two big universities in Senegal. Let’s say he is not even oriented to apply to those universities, what is he going to do? We need to change our system because we spend too much energy in the classrooms for our futures to be terminated like that.
Something exemplary in our community would be our generosity. You can go and eat in every house in Senegal even if you don’t know the family. I love the fact that we Senegalese are like that.
If I were to leave the world today, I would want all the kids in Senegal to look up to me and see what I achieved. So many kids have the talent to be good tennis players but since they don’t go to school, they cannot make it to the USA as student-athletes. So many of them want to come but they have to excel first in school and stay in it until they have the chance to come to the U.S.
50 Shades of Black is proud to partner with Tamaji Magazine. ”50 Shades of Black | Africa” is a weekly column curated by Tamaji’s founder Aminata Diop. The column features personal interviews with African-born men and women living throughout the Diaspora whose voices reflect a unique African perspective. This week’s feature is Salif Kante of Senegal. Be sure to tune in next week!