Commentary by Black Kos editor JoanMar
The winners of this year’s US Open Tennis Championships will be decided this weekend, but for those of us who love Serena, her three matches last week were the highlights of the tournament. And yes, she lost in the third round. But what a tremendous (maybe) final gift that match was to her fans! Those who were privileged to get into Arthur Ashe Stadium, the thousands gathered outside, and the record-setting 4.8 million who watched on ESPN were treated to a vintage Serena performance and were left giddy with overflowing love and appreciation for their tennis queen:
She saved one match point with a swinging backhand volley. She saved a second with a cocksure forehand approach that Tomljanovic could not handle. She saved a third with a clean forehand return winner that had fans in the sold-out Arthur Ashe Stadium shouting: “Not yet! Not yet!”
She saved a fourth match point. She saved a fifth, and by now it was clear, as the winners and bellows and clenched fists kept coming, that Williams would get a fitting finish.
The commentators/analysts were on their best behavior...well, almost. As usual, Chris Evert could not help her-damn-self.
Yep, I've been on the Williams Sisters’ bandwagon from the first time I saw Venus play. Before the Sisters, I supported Zina Garrison, Steffi Graff, and even Martina Navratilova...because she was often the underdog. Nobody liked her much. I appreciated the play of Martina Hingis and Justine Henin, especially Henin. They were fun to watch. But the Sisters exploded on the national stage and I became a fan, a follower, and a fierce defender. Tennis became personal, and I have a long memory. I remember the journey.
The demographic make-up of the crowds at last week’s games was much different from that of 25 years ago. The crowds back then were overwhelmingly white, and they made it abundantly clear that they did not much like the Sisters. At best, they had only polite applause to offer Venus & Serena. I remember the crowd's boisterous support for (the plodding) Davenport, for Capriati, and for Seles when they played against the Sisters. “But those were more established American players,” I can hear you saying. Yes, that’s true. Now explain why they went crazy for Hingis, Henin (even booing Serena when she played her), Clijsters, and Sharapova. In fact, Serena was playing Clijsters at Indian Wells when the crowd — egged on by the commentators with their talk of match-fixing — turned on her and her family in one of the ugliest displays of overt racism in sports in the latter half of the twentieth century. Michael Jordan had Chicago, Kobe Bryant had Los Angeles, and Tiger Woods had/has whichever course he plays. Up until a few years ago, the phenomenal Williams Sisters were walloping their opponents without ever having the luxury of homecourt advantage.
As bad as the crowds were, the commentators/analysts were even worse. Mary Carillo, Chris Evert, John McEnroe, Pam Shriver, and Martina Navratilova were blatantly and repeatedly racist towards the Sisters. Oh, they never did use the “N” word — even back then they wouldn’t dare, but the dog whistles were deafening. They openly sneered when speaking about Venus, Serena, and their dad. While they could grit their teeth and tolerate the presence of the Sisters, the sight of Richard Williams was just too much for them. How dared he? They accused the family of fixing games, questioned the Sisters’ injuries, and insinuated that they were using performance-enhancing drugs. They criticized them for having outside interests, questioned their clothing, and often used the word “lazy.” And oh my goodness! let’s never forget that the words “athleticism,” “physicality,” “aggressive,” and “power” were ALWAYS in heavy rotation when the girls played. White players “knew the game and played intelligently.” They were “very smart,” unlike the Williams Sisters who relied on power and athleticism to win games.
For the most part, the stereotype exists that black athletes are gifted athletically but not intellectually. Blacks and whites are compared, with the former excelling in athletics while the latter excels in intellect, both in societal thought and sports journalism. Research suggests that sports broadcasters make comments focusing on one or the other, depending on race, on a regular basis. Even during the 2000 Men’s and Women’sNCAA Final Four basketball tournaments, sportscasters characterized blacks and whites differently. Racial discrimination still exists and is even perpetuated by broadcast media.
In fact, I once called out Chris Evert for her overuse of the word “power” and didn’t know until yesterday that I had gotten ratioed on that tweet. Little ol’ me getting ratioed?! And primarily because the hater herself responded to the tweet. oh well.
Serena accused of glamorizing gang culture:
The officials themselves were no friends of the Sisters. I had been watching tennis for years before I ever heard the term “foot fault.” I heard it called 5 times (if I remember correctly) on Serena in one set and haven’t heard it since. She lost that match. In addition to questionable calls, she also had to deal with this:
Many agree she's probably the best women's player on the tour, arguably the best women's player ever. Well, according to Deadspin, she's also one of the most drug tested. Laura Wagner writes that Serena Williams has been tested for performance-enhancing drugs five times this year by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. That is more than twice as often as other top American women players. (my bold)
And yet they prevailed. Were it not for the career-interrupting autoimmune disease that sidelined Venus, she too would be in the discussion for GOAT. As it is, despite suffering from life-threatening blood clots, a near-death experience during childbirth, sinus issues, and migraines, Serena is the Greatest Tennis Player Of All Time. The Queen of Tennis.
(Sorry, not you, Margaret Court, with your “lil wooden racket.”)
Introduce me to the man who played and won a championship while pregnant and who then came back to play at the highest level as Serena did after giving birth. Then I may consider amending the designation.
Long live Queen Serena!
News round up by dopper0189, Black Kos Managing Editor
Portraits of former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will now be hung in the White House “forever” as President Joe Biden noted during Wednesday’s historic unveiling.
It was a day of homecoming and nostalgia as the Obamas reflected on their eight years inside the White House. Mr. Obama’s portrait – which looks more like a photograph of America’s first Black president – was painted by Robert McCurdy; while Mrs. Obama’s was painted by artist Sharon Sprung.
Obama comically thanked Sprung for capturing Mrs. Obama’s “grace,” “intelligence” and “the fact that she’s fine.” Mrs. Obama, in turn, thanked her husband for his “spicy remarks.” But the Obamas’ homecoming was also one filled with sentimental feelings of gratitude expressed by America’s historic first Black “first couple.”
Both the former president and first lady thanked the room filled with former Obama White House staffers and officials – some of whom now work for the Biden-Harris administration – reflecting on the policy and legislative work of their historic administration. Mrs. Obama was especially emotional as she talked about the improbable societal outcome that she, once a Black girl raised on the southside of Chicago, would have a portrait of her hanging on the hallowed walls of the White House.
The fight for women’s equality is an ongoing battle. From challenging laws that limit bodily autonomy to demanding representation in the boardroom, it is a new day for those who have been marginalized for so long.
But while the nation has come a long way in providing women with the same rights and liberties afforded to men, society still has a ways to go. That point is illustrated in the Equal Rights Advocates' (ERA) recent national survey of more than 600 women that found nearly half of respondents left or reduced hours at their job due to shifts in childcare since March of 2020. Furthermore, fifty percent of Black and Latinx women disclosed that they are struggling to make ends meet.
Commitments to family and caretaking responsibilities has brought on debt and consequently knocked Black and Latinx women down the ladder of financial stability. As employment opportunities decline, ERA found Black and Latinx family breadwinners are also experiencing discrimination at work.
The reality helps explain why a new analysis from the Center for Economic and Policy Research found an increase in self-employment, specifically among Black and Latinx women. “This is being credited to the childcare worker shortage, and that this lack of childcare is forcing women—particularly Black and Latinx women—out of their payroll jobs into self-employment,” says a statement from the ERA. “This research echoes Equal Rights Advocates’ recent national survey showing that women are falling behind because of increased childcare responsibilities and debt, exacerbated by the pandemic.”
Instead of looking away like all the others have, “Queen Sugar” found the biggest and most beautiful mirror it could and just invited us to marvel unapologetically at all we are. Ebony: 'QUEEN SUGAR' IS AN ODE TO BLACK FOLKS IN NEW ORLEANS
Queen Sugar's characters Ralph Angel and Darla, Hollywood and Vi are not the only love getting us high. When it comes to the hit OWN series, Louisiana is a whole vibe. While much of the drama unfolds about an hour out from the city in Vacherie, where the fictional St. Josephine Parish or simply St. Joe’s comes alive, with Blackberry Farms and St. Joseph Plantation serving as the incredible 800-acre Bordelon homestead and legacy, New Orleans is also central. The series' character Nova wouldn’t have it any other way. For the activist and journalist, the 9th Ward is as much home as St. Joe’s.
Through Nova, Queen Sugar—Ava DuVernay's acclaimed small-screen adaptation of the Natalie Baszile’s 2014 book—very intentionally tied the land Black people were forced to till during slavery and Jim Crow to the institutional racism and unjust criminal justice system that persists today.
Seeing New Orleans beyond the country’s premiere party spot—without devaluing the importance of Black joy and the deep cultural legacy to which it's bound—is a gift Queen Sugar has given us all. What we witnessed in real time with the treatment of our people during Hurricane Katrina nearly 20 years ago didn’t come out of a vacuum. Instead, it's from the layers and layers of unresolved and ongoing injustices that Queen Sugar always keeps in the foreground. This is not done with “message moments.” Because these injustices are a consistent and omnipresent part of our daily lives in New Orleans and beyond, Queen Sugar shows us living our lives through them. That means such cataclysmic events as Hurricane Katrina are a constant presence. Nova has made sure of it. In season two, she was quick to roll her eyes and shake her head at the disrespectful tour buses rolling through the 9th Ward, where far too many New Orleanians remain displaced to this day with money to rebuild nowhere in sight.
Joy and pain live in the same spaces for us, Queen Sugar regularly reminds us. When Micah is pulled over at the top of season two for the audaciousness of being a sixteen-year-old Black teen driving a luxury sports car, the relatively new Jag F-Type soft top convertible at that, as a perk of being a rich kid, his Driving While Black trauma takes place with the Welcome To New Orleans sign and the city’s all-too familiar bridge in the background. Jag or not, if you live in NOLA or visit it semi-regularly, you know exactly where this is and understand that Micah could be any of us. Having an old white policeman pull a gun on him, then later handcuff him, and throw him in the city jail with grown men reverberates so greatly for Micah that, when he loses his cousin Blue in New Orleans City Park in season four, that incident ricochets his mind and spirit back to the trauma he does not wish on his cousin but fears he cannot stop. In a split second, a joyful moment becomes a trauma-filled one because we carry all these things in us often at the same damn time.
It was a wave of water,” says Oulimata Sambe. She points out the still-sodden armchairs, muddy wardrobe and the water stain a metre and a half up the wall in her small house in Ngor, a fishing village within Dakar, the capital of Senegal. “I had two grandkids on my bed, I had to evacuate them out of the window,” she adds. Not far away, underpasses on Dakar’s scenic corniche became car-swallowing lakes. Just weeks earlier another downpour had turned quiet streets in Dakar into raging rivers and collapsed a section of motorway.
Similar events regularly occur across the region. Recent flooding and landslides also killed eight people in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. In June flooding killed 12 people in Abidjan, the commercial capital of Ivory Coast. Floods in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, claimed another seven lives. Even when they are not deadly, city floods ruin lives and livelihoods. Storm water recently inundated the biggest textile market in Kano, a city in northern Nigeria, destroying hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of fabrics.
Unusually heavy rains have become significantly more common over the past 30 years, leaving huge numbers of people at risk (see map). In places this is partly because of deforestation. A recent study by Christopher Taylor of the uk Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, a research institute, and his co-authors found that afternoon rainstorms in deforested parts of coastal west Africa happen twice as often compared with 30 years ago. Their frequency went up by only about a third in places that kept their forests.
Some of the most denuded—and thus drenched—places are coastal cities such as Freetown and Monrovia, the capital of Liberia. Yet areas deep inland are also at risk. Some 340,000 people have been hit by recent flooding in Chad. Worryingly, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (ipcc) predicts there will be heavier downfalls more often across most of Africa as the planet warms up.
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