BROOKLYN PARK, Minn. — Work hard and get ahead. It’s the American way.
But for a group of Black professional women, the workday ends with play.
“We are ready,” Jackie Coats says. “Double Dutch!”
The 58-year-old times her leap, then, jumps between two ropes spinning opposite directions at Central Park in Brooklyn Park.
“Go, grandma!” De’Vonna Pittman, another jumper, cheers.
This small, weekly, gathering of working women is a throwback to the childhoods of the participants, when jump roping double Dutch was a key social component of their growing up years.
“When I was younger, back in Milwaukee, we lived in the projects and that was just the pastime, we did double Dutch morning, noon, and evening,” Cassandra Coats-Payne, Jackie’s sister, says.
Today, Cassandra and Jackie both work as school administrative assistants, while De’Vonna owns and runs an emerging beauty products company.
“When I was growing up in Chicago, they taught us very young,” De’Vonna says. “So, 4, 5 years old, you’re jumping double Dutch and that’s all we did all day long. We would go until the streetlights came on.”
Like Cassandra and Jackie, Babette Buckner — owner of a Twin Cities construction company — learned to jump double Dutch as a girl in Milwaukee.
After a gap of 40 years, she picked it back up again in the Twin Cities.
“This is a better workout for me than being in a gym. Treadmill. Boring,” Babette says.
The women take turns, switching off between jumping and turning the brightly colored ropes.
Conversation is constant, but rarely work related.
“You jump double Dutch with someone, you instantly develop a different kind of relationship with them,” De’Vonna says. “We really didn't know each other until we started jumping double Dutch. And now I feel like these ladies are my sisters.”
On a recent Saturday morning, the “sisters” grew their family while jumping at the invitation of the Lakeview Terrace Farmers Market in Robbinsdale.
Jessica Turner was grocery shopping at the HyVee across the street, when she spotted the women between the jump ropes.
“I saw them jumping and I grew up jumping,” Jessica, another native of Chicago, said.
After a couple false starts, Jessica quickly found her rhythm, picking up where she left off as a child.
“Memory — muscle memory,” Babette declared.
Jessica, a school secretary, promised the other women she’d be back to jump again.
Before parting, she hugged her new friends.
“It came right back to me, and I got to meet some new ladies too,” she smiled.
Watching from a few feet away, Miles Peterson, a farmer’s market shopper, had the look of a man about to leap.
“Oh, I'm thinking about it, I'm thinking about it,” he said. “I'm going to jump in.”
His first few attempts to keep up with the spinning ropes proved unsuccessful before Miles put together a few jumps in a row.
Babette cheered him on. “There you go, alright!” she shouted. “Okay, Miles, okay, Miles!”
Miles left the ropes having learned at least one thing. “Way harder than it looks,” he said.
Yet for De’Vonna and the other women, their favorite childhood game comes as naturally as skipping or riding a bike.
“I never get tired of jumping double Dutch. I can do this all night," De’Vonna says. “As long as my legs hold up, and they usually do.”
Double Dutch still reminds the working women to play.
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