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Black History Month Spotlight: Carmyn Taylor-Jones( Fri, Feb 26 00:02:AM)

 

Carmyn Taylor-Jones is a past USTA state and national champion who won more than 1,500 awards during her competitive twirling career. She is orginally from Ohio and now lives in Pennsylvania.

Twirling Background

When I started twirling in 1966, it was the height of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. I started taking lessons in the summer of 1966 and my first twirling teacher was Pam Hale. I went to my first and second contests at West Jr. High School in Xenia, Ohio in February and March 1967 and was in awe of everything I saw. I placed fifth and third, respectively. I won my beginner first place trophy on April 1 in Miamisburg, Ohio. I competed in my first USTA Nationals that same year in Washington, D.C .and placed second. I was thrilled, but knew I had to practice more to get better if I ever wanted to win. I remember that Nationals like it was yesterday.
 
The weekend that I won my first Twirl-off in 1968, in Gallatin, Tenn., was just a few days after Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn. I remember that along the drive to Tennessee, my family was not allowed to eat in some of the restaurants nor use the public restrooms. It seemed to pain my parents to have to explain to us why we weren’t allowed and had to look for the “Colored Only” signs.

I started taking lessons from Fred J. Miller early in the summer of 1968 and my twirling life changed because of the degree of difficulty in my routine.

Most of the twirlers and families I encountered during my competitive years were friendly and accepting of me and my family. But there were a couple of parents and family members of competitors who were very antagonistic. One sister of a competitor used to throw her baton over my head to frighten me while I would practice at contests. One father of a competitor threatened to bomb our house if I did a repeat of winning against his daughter after I won my first USTA National age group and Juvenile Division titles at age 10 in Houston, Tex. And this same father wrote a letter to NBC to not let me twirl in the 1969 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade because people would think “Negroes were better than Whites” in twirling, but Fred stood up for me and I twirled a solo performance in the parade. It was one of the highlights of my twirling career.

I attribute a lot of the lessons I learned during my twirling career to life lessons. My mother taught me at a very young age that I had to work harder to be better than my competitors to be recognized as being better. I learned to never give up.

Twirling Successes

During my years in Ohio, I won the USTA state age group championship every year from 1968-1974, Ohio State Primary (1968), Juvenile (1970 and 71) and Junior (1973) Divisional Championships and Ohio Grand State Solo Champion in 1973. I remember Fred giving me a champagne toast to celebrate!

On the national level, I won three age group and two division titles. In 1976 at Miami Nationals, I won First Runner-up in the 17-20 Miss USTA competition, winning the twirling portion of the contest. In 1976 and 1977, at the USTA State Competition in Pennsylvania, I was fortunate to take home 13 first place trophies each year age group, division, and Grand State Champion in Solo, Strut, 2-Baton,  and won all categories in the Pennsylvania Miss USTA competition. My last year of competing, 1979, I was in the top three in Solo, Strut and 2-Baton at the USTA Nationals in Norfolk, Vir., a feat I had never accomplished before that year.

Closing Thoughts

The over 1500 trophies, state and national championships were wonderful to achieve. However, through all the blood, sweat and tears, the fact that I always tried to put my best foot forward, be a gracious loser and a humble winner, made many true friends that I still respect today, are what I cherish most.