Black-led community spotlight: Tika Hemingway of Pittsburgh Girls Box | Community Profile | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Black-led community spotlight: Tika Hemingway of Pittsburgh Girls Box

click to enlarge TIka Hemingway - CP PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM
CP Photo: Jared Wickerham
TIka Hemingway
Editor’s note: This story mentions sexual assault.
Chatiqua “Tika” Hemingway, a North Side native and champion boxer, traveled a long and difficult road to get where she is today. Key pieces of her boxing career — which includes two medals and a championship belt — are on display at the Heinz History Museum, part of its Golden Gloves exhibit. But Hemingway’s story — one of faith and determination— was largely shaped by her experiences outside the boxing ring.

She didn’t start out wanting to box; Hemingway was a promising basketball player recruited to play for Perry Traditional Academy. After scoring 30 points in a basketball game one night, she got off the bus two stops earlier than usual. As she was walking home, Hemingway says a man grabbed her on the corner close to her house and beat her, then dragged her into an abandoned house and raped her for hours. She was 14 years old.
click to enlarge CP PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM
CP Photo: Jared Wickerham
Hemingway soon learned she was pregnant as a result of the rape, but she had not shared what happened to her with anyone. She says that things at home weren’t easy, and she thought it would be better to keep the assault to herself. She was bullied at school, and eventually dropped out, putting an end to her dreams of playing pro ball.

“I wanted to go to the WNBA. My name is Tika which starts with a T. I wanted to go to Tennessee State. Because it starts with a T,” she says.

After dropping out, and with little hope for her future, Hemingway turned to criminal activity. Not because she was lacking, she says, but because she figured her life was over.

One night, after snatching a purse, Hemingway says she felt overwhelmed, and started to pray. “I'm praying to God all night,” she says. “My face is on the basement floor, the cold basement floor, and I was crying all night asking God ‘please change my life.’ This is when my life changes.”

She says the next morning she met a man in Army fatigues who her friend told her was a local boxing trainer. She approached him and jokingly asked him to train her. He was skeptical at first because, as he said, people always approached him about training but “no one ever showed up.” Hemingway decided she wanted to prove him wrong. They ended up going to the gym that day, and a year later she won her first national championship.
click to enlarge TIka Hemingway - CP PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM
CP Photo: Jared Wickerham
TIka Hemingway
Hemingway is now a four-time national champion, with an impressive amateur record of 100-13. She divides her time between Pittsburgh and Pensacola, Fla., where she trains with boxing legend Roy Jones Jr. And in fall 2021, Hemingway founded Pittsburgh Girls Box, a mentoring program for women and girls that teaches self-defense.

“We talk about life, we talk about goals, we talk about maintaining meaningful relationships. We talk about self-discipline, we talk about respect,” she says. “I just really want to mold another generation.”

At the Heinz History Center, visitors can see Hemingway’s gold medal from the Pan-American games, silver medal from the World Games, and her 2009 USA Boxing Heavyweight Championship belt. She’s featured along with some well-known male fighters.

She didn’t tell anyone how her daughter — now 18 — was conceived for a very long time. Hemingway says that she’s sharing her story now to let people know two things: that all of her success is due to God, and that they can overcome anything.

“I want people to know that they can achieve anything they want,” she says. “You really can. You really can achieve anything you want. The world is right there in front of you. You just have to have the courage to go and get it.”
Chatiqua Hemingway. and
“Tika-mania” at the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum. Heinz History Center. 1212 Smallman St., Strip District.

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