To celebrate women in our community we’ve initiated an interview series that explores femxle empowerment. We believe it is absolutely necessary to make women’s lived experiences visible. Through The Femxle Side of Things, we intend to highlight how women are a fundamental pillar of our community. We’ll share both tales of femxle empowerment as well as the challenges women face in our male-dominated society. The goal is to paint a broader picture of a group of people that is often not listened to in the way they deserve. In our fourth round, we would like to give the platform to the amazing Mira and Nyara. Two of our day-ones who started playing Basketball together 16 years ago in Berlin-Schöneberg and are now both fulfilling their dreams playing college ball in the United States of America.
Hey, my name is Mira Khan and I was born and raised in Schöneberg, Berlin. I’m 21 years old. I started playing for a Juco in Texas but transferred soon to a school in Kansas and I’m absolutely happy with the decisions I have made.
Where do you play basketball? And what position?
Nyara: I am a Forward at the University of Oregon (Oregon Ducks)
Mira: I’m currently playing at an NJCAA D1 school Independence Community College aka Last Chance U. Might be familiar with the Netflix show. I’m a forward/post.
How did you get into basketball and what does the sport still mean to you?
Mira: My basketball journey and my friendship with Nyara are actually closely related. As soon as she and Satou got into basketball I shortly joined after.
Basketball will always be a part of my life. I have thought about quitting many times but I feel like the journey isn’t over yet. If the time will come, I will be thankful for everything it has given me.
Nyara: I started playing basketball when I was around 8 years old. My sister Satou and I were approached on the playground because we were very tall. At first, I did not enjoy going to practice but because my older sister went, I kept going until I eventually started loving it. Basketball means a lot to me because of all the opportunities it has given me.
When did you meet each other?
Mira: We met each other around 16 years ago at the playground at the Winterfeldplatz in Schöneberg and have been close ever since.
Nyara: Yes, That is a true story!
Who wins one oN one?
Mira: Me of course. You always gotta believe in yourself. 😊
Nyara: No, MEEE! haha Mira, let’s settle that in Berlin next summer!
3 things you Love and hate about Berlin?
Mira: Hands down, to me Berlin is the best city in the world. The diversity and the community create a feeling you’ll probably get nowhere else in the world. Besides that, the food is unbeatable. Of course, as a proper Berliner, I would always find some things to rant about so don’t get me started. LOL.
Nyara: I love this city because of the diversity, the food, all my friends, and obviously my family. Sometimes it feels too crowded but I guess I am not used to the big city life anymore lol. Here in Eugene, Oregon it is truly a completely different life.
What was your dream when you were a little girl? And what is your dream right now?
Mira: I’ve always been a dreamer so I always had and have many dreams. Basically, my dream is to be extremely successful in everything I do.
Nyara: My dream ever since I was a little girl was to play in the best league in the World (WNBA) and it still is.
What is your definition of womxnhood?
Nyara: To me, womxnhood means be to be aware of how powerful and strong you are. It means to be proud of being a womxn and embracing everything it means to be a womxn.
Mira: Womxnhood to me is something that I embrace because it comes with a continuum of highs and lows. Womxnhood helps us overlook what society portrays us to be and this in itself is a very powerful gift to be given. The strength encourages us to keep striving for greatness.
What DOES femxle empowermenT MEAN TO YOU?
Mira: To look back at what womxn have already achieved and to see how much power we actually hold. It also is standing up for myself, and what is right and having confidence in all that I do.
Nyara: What empowers me as a womxn are other womxn. Seeing others succeed and doing their thing is inspiring to me. All types of mothers are inspiring to me, whether they are stay-at-home moms, successful businesswomxn, or athletes.
What strategies have you developed over the years being in this male-dominated branch of sports?
Nyara: I would say just knowing that there are a lot of people that will hate on womxn basketball players for no reason and that I just have to ignore all the little boys that think hating on womxn is fun or trendy. I have always tried to surround myself with people that support me and who are mature enough to see that femxle athletes work as hard as male athletes.
Mira: What I basically tell myself every day is the following: You are where you are for a reason. Haters will always be haters and use them as motivation.
In order to succeed you have to know who you are and can’t let anything get to you. What can be challenging at times is to raise your voice while you try to not get things too close to you.
Who are your femXle role models and why?
Mira: My mother for sure. She simply has all the qualities I relate to womxnhood. Growing up it was definitely Candace Parker but many have made the list. Serena Williams, Beyonce, Allyson Felix, Simone Biles, etc.
Nyara: Serena Williams is definitely one of my biggest role models because for me she was one of the first black femxles that I saw being advertised. She is an amazing athlete and carries herself extremely well. She exemplifies femxle empowerment
If there is one thing you could change by raising your voice, what would that be?
Nyara: I would love to change the minds of little boys thinking it is cool to degrade womxn. Oftentimes they just don’t know better and think it is acceptable to comment “go back into the kitchen” on female athletes’ posts.
Mira: There are so many different things that it is hard to pick one. The role of womxn in society would definitely be one, womxn can do so much more than what is expected of them.
As womxn tend to be excluded from public narratives, which stories of womxn would you like to hear or share more?
Mira: Stories like the one of Allyson Felix and Nike are some that need to be shared more and I think in general every story of womxn needs to be shared and heard.
Nyara: It would be great if the media would just start focusing on womxn in general, their backstories, and how they grew up. I think that it is important for female athletes to be given a platform where they can tell the public about themselves and that includes everything.
Can you name a moment that made you realize what the power of a womxn is?
Mira: After my graduation when I looked at all my girlfriends and realized how much they, we, achieved. At that moment I realized womxn can do everything they want to.
Nyara: I don’t really have a particular moment, but I think over the past few years I have noticed a change in the way female athletes are looked at. There is still a lot of work that has to be done, but just seeing that people are willing to at least listen when womxn in power speak up is a good start.
On a critical note: Where are we with WBB IN 2021? AND How is it going with WBB in Germany?
Nyara: I will definitely say that there is still so much work that has to be done, I haven’t witnessed WBB in Germany for a while, but I know that it is not nearly as supported as it should be. That is one reason I had to leave Germany, I just thought that I couldn’t reach my full potential in Germany.
Mira: It isn’t where it should be but there is definitely a lot of progress. WBB is getting a lot more attention than it used to get and more and more people realize its importance and potential. There is still a lot more to do though.
Do you feel things have developed for the better within the last two decades?
Mira: Yes, for sure but not yet enough. We all know that!
Nyara: There has been a lot of positive change. Especially this year with the incidents at the women’s NCAA Tournament. There are a lot more people now that are willing to accept that things have to change. The support of women’s basketball has been overwhelming this year.
What changes have you witnessed over the years within the realm of professional sports as female athletes?
Mira: Women’s sport is getting more and more attention all over the world. Nowadays you also see womxn on billboards and other advertisements, not only men.
Nyara: The growing support for women’s basketball. In Oregon the support for women’s basketball is insane, they love it and they are extremely supportive. And you are starting to see more people support women’s basketball around the whole globe.
What are the main challenges that you face as a womxn in our society?
Nyara: Just the fact that you have to constantly prove yourself to others.
Mira: The biggest one is definitely that there is a cultural script about femininity in our society. Acting out of the script isn’t accepted. So how can we be who we really are?
Mira: Discrimination, to be looked down on and always have to hear that female sports can never be what men’s sports are. Comments like “you should be in the kitchen are still more common than you think.”
Is there a womxn initiative or organization that you would like to shine a light on?
Mira: I love TTG DAMEN BASKETBALL and their podcast, that just started last October. Their goal is to create a community and platform for women’s basketball in the German-speaking regions. Their foundational thoughts are that female athletes deserve more attention because they will be role models for future generations. Check them out!
Nyara: I really like WOMEN BALL TOO because they bring attention to women’s sports. They use their platform and gear to inform people and also raise awareness of issues in Women’s sports. GIRLS FOR A CHANGE gives young black girls a voice and it gives them opportunities that they normally wouldn’t have.
What’s your message and advice to all the women and young girls reading this?
Mira: Keep doing the things you love and let no one tell you otherwise. Always keep your head up, stay locked in, and raise your voice for things you believe in.
What songs you currently listen to before a game?
Nyara: ROD WAVE only!!! His new SoulFly album is 🔥🔥
S/O to who?
Mira & Nyara: The whole Berlin (Braves) fam and everybody who reads our interview. Hope you enjoyed it.
INTERVIEW: Joey Elgersma
THANK YOU: Nyara Sabally AND MIRA KHAN
Other interviews from The Femxle Side of Things: