Poetry in Motion
Tonya Evans-Walls has made careers out of law, tennis and verse
Published in 2007 Pennsylvania Rising Stars magazine
on November 27, 2007
Updated on October 2, 2019
Growing up, Tonya Evans-Walls spent a lot of time alone. “I was an only child and writing was my best friend,” says Evans-Walls, founder of TME Law. “I just didn’t understand or appreciate the next level, the performance aspect, until I attended a poetry venue at the October Gallery, an African-American-owned art gallery. I connected with a group of like-minded spirits.”
So at age 26, she started performing her poems at venues around Philadelphia; she has since published them in three books: And Then One Day She Knew, SHINE! and Seasons of Her. “[Seasons of Her] is about how we go through life: winter/introspective, spring/discover, summer/hot and sultry, and fall/come into your own,” she says.
In the years before she discovered performance poetry, Evans-Walls reveled in a more physical form of expression: professional tennis. After playing for Northwestern University on a four-year scholarship, she joined the women’s pro circuit in 1991. For the next four years, she visited dozens of countries—Thailand, Indonesia, England, Jamaica—and even competed at the U.S. Open.
“I won the American Tennis Association National Championships and got the wild card into the tournament,” says Evans-Walls, who lost to Jeri Ingram 6-3, 6-1 in the first round. “You realize this is the beginning of where you really wanted to be.”
At the highest point in her career, she was ranked in the 200s in doubles and 300s in singles. “I was ecstatic,” she says. “At the time, the WTA ranked players through 1,500 or so.”
Yet Evans-Walls knew her playing career couldn’t last forever. “You can only be a pro athlete for so many years,” she says. “Plus education was paramount for us—my father is a doctor, my mother is a lawyer.” So in 1995, when the training and travel started to outweigh the benefits—and she began losing more than winning—she closed that chapter of her life. “Law school became my sport,” she says.
After graduating from Howard University School of Law, Evans-Walls practiced entertainment law for a few years at large firms, and one year with her mother, a patent attorney, before opening her own shop in 2003. Today she represents a host of authors and musicians, which suits her personality. “I’m drawn to the written and spoken word,” she says. “But I also appreciate the legal side.”
She still finds time to sharpen her own artistic talents. “I’m in creative mode right now, looking over old pieces and putting together a new book,” she says.
And she continues to play tennis a couple of times a week, sometimes with her husband, Orville R. Walls III. “It’s truly the sport of a lifetime,” she says.
“A Villager Speaks”
The ancestors have said
that it takes a village to raise you, my child
and I am only one of many who will influence you,
but I want to do my part to help shape and mold you
so you, still a child, will be stronger than I
by the time you reach your prime
— Tonya Evans-Walls
From Seasons of Her