Usta News

Black History Month Spotlight: Emery Harriston ( Thu, Feb 18 00:02:AM)


Emery Harriston is a long-time twirler and many-time member of Team USA who hails from Alexandria, Virginia.

Twirling Background

I was about 13 when I got started in twirling in the summer of 1975 in Charleston, West Virginia.  I was in the 7th grade and when the majorettes practiced I would play around with their batons and they would say that I
seemed to be a natural at twirling.  When I was going into the 8th grade in junior high school, I wanted to try out for Drum Major, but by band vote I was picked to be the boy twirler.  I started taking baton lessons from a high school majorette and then when I went to high school I took from an NBTA coach from Ohio named Judy Riggs.  I placed second in the 1976 and 1977 Jr. High School Marching Band Festival competitions.  During high school, I placed first two times in the high school festival.

Twirling Successes

These are among my favorite memories and proudest accomplishments in twirling.
•    Making my first World Team back in 1991. I was so thrilled and happy.  I felt like being on the world Team gave so much more importance to the sport.  When I would tell people about this accomplishment, they really became very interested in the sport.
•    Doing a one-drop freestyle routine at the 1994 Worlds in Toronto Canada.  I finally would catch my big trick at the end of my routine which was a cartwheel into a front flip.  As I was performing my freestyle, I looked up at the Judges and could see John Chamberlain and Amby Darr smiling at me.
•    For three consecutive Worlds - 1994, 1995 and 1996 - I did one-drop performances and caught my big trick at the end of my freestyle routine.
•    Making the 2015 International Cup Team and performing a one-drop Men’s Solo.
•    Performing a no-drop Artistic Twirl in Finals of the Division A Adult Men’s Artistic Twirl at the 2017 International Cup in Porec, Croatia and placing second, despite having a torn meniscus in my right knee.
•    Performing 2-Baton in the parade scene of the opera “Porgy and Bess” with the Washington National Opera as a supernumerary in April 2010.

Twirling Role Models

In terms of baton skill, my role models were Glen Bittenbender, Mark Nash, Seshi Inagaki, Stacy Singer, Annetta Lucero, Bridgette Barley, Leisha Strachan, Melissa Marcus, Tina Escamia and Angie Kolter. In terms of performance skills, I admired Mark Nash, Stacy Singer, Annetta Lucero, Leisha Strachan and Melissa Marcus. My coaching role models are Dale White, Ginnette Groome, Darlene King and John Chamberlain.

Did you feel valued and appreciated for the gifts you brought (bring) to the twirling world?

Yes, very much so. It would make so happy to see the younger baton athletes performing baton twirling tricks, dance moves or gymnastic moves with the baton, that I had performed in my routines.

Black History Month

Black History Month is important because it’s a time when Black and African-Americans can see what the people before them fought for; the contributions they made to this country; a way of educating us all of the contributions that will make way for the next generation. Actually, Black History is made every day. History of all races is made every day and no one race really can be contained to one month.
As an athlete/former athlete, Black History Month gives me inspiration through remembering the contributions of Black athletes before me and the sacrifices they put into their sports.  

How did twirling shape who you are today?

Twirling helped me in focusing on the task at hand – catch that baton!  Seriously though, It helped me with focusing, shaping my personality, having confidence to be in front of a group of people to give a demonstration, i.e., giving a report at work.

Barriers to Black Twirlers

I think some of the biggest barriers are having access or exposure to the sport of baton twirling, as well as the financial means to participate.

Inclusion and equality in our sport and in our world

We can foster inclusion and equality by continuing to reach out and include all races in our sport and working with communities of color to introduce the sport of baton twirling to young people within those communities.

Closing Thoughts

Education is key to moving forward and growing.  Also, I think it’s key to ending racism. It’s very important that we as human beings learn about other cultures, which will make for better communication and understanding of one another.  

I believe in myself.
I trust my intuition.
I live by a kind heart.
I always, no matter what, try to treat others with respect.
I am grateful.
I forgive and try not to hold grudges; life is too short for that type of negativity.