ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Attending a historically Black college and university was a childhood dream of Rochester native Naimah Muhammad.
“I saw the Beyonce Coachella in 2018 and how she had the band and everything,” said Muhammad. “I was like I want to go to a place like that but they don’t have gymnastics so I can’t do it.”
At the time, gymnastics was not offered by any HBCU. So Muhammad went to SUNY Brockport where she competed for two seasons. Midway through her second year, Fisk University — a HBCU in Tennessee — formed a gymnastics team. She called it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“All these girls look like me,” said Muhammad. “Coach T has locks in her hair, I wear locks. It felt right.”
Fast forward to January 6, 2023, Fisk became the first HBCU to ever compete at the NCAA level and Muhammad was the leadoff gymnast for the Bulldogs.
“It kind of kicked in that moment on the floor when I was hugging everyone when I finished,” said Muhammad. “I was like, ‘oh this is for real.'”
This isn’t the first time Muhammad has been a part of something historic in the gymnastics world. Due to her religious beliefs, Muhammad wore tights while competing during her youth years.
Tights were banned by the NCAA when she got to college, but she petitioned, received a waiver, and became the first athlete to wear tights at the collegiate level.
“If I do really love what I do, I’m going to incorporate what I believe into what I do because that’s more important than anything,” said Muhammad. “If there ever came a time where they said you couldn’t wear tights, then I guess I’m not doing gymnastics. It’s one or the other.”
Muhammad said she hopes her story and her fellow teammates motivate other HBCUs to follow suit and introduce gymnastics to their campuses as well.