Commentary by Black Kos editor JoanMar
Tennis crowned a new queen at the US Open this past weekend. Nineteen-year-old Coco Gauff fought her way into winning her first grand slam title. She became the youngest American woman to reach the final since her idol, Serena Williams, did in 2001.
As I watched the games, I couldn’t help but reflect on the huge difference between Coco’s champion journey and that of Serena 22 years ago. For every match that she played, Coco was the undisputable crowd favorite. The spectators loudly and enthusiastically rooted for her. They lifted her up when she was down, and in danger of staying down, and even had one (white) player in tears at what she described as the fans “making her out to be a bad person.” It was beautiful to see this young Black player actually having and enjoying homecourt advantage. That was not the case for Serena or Venus 20 years ago. In Serena’s 2011 run, she had to go up against the reigning tennis darling at the time, Switzerland’s Martina Hingis, and there was absolutely no doubt for whom the American crowd rooted. Ahem… it was not for the American. Back then, analysts spoke glowingly about the Swiss Miss’s intelligence and her superior tennis intellect. They openly contrasted her play with that of the “physical,” “athletic,” “powerful” Sisters. Venus and Serena would make history when they faced each other in the Final that year. But the crowds and the analysts/commentators were less concerned about that historic fact and more exercised about allegations that Richard Williams had fixed the match. For the actual game, the crowd was polite.
After Coco’s win on Saturday, Chris Evert said, “It’s hard to play an American in this arena.” CNN’s tennis reporter repeated the very same words on her report of the game. I laughed out loud the first time and snickered the second. Really? What short memories.
If Chrissy Evert talks long enough, the racism/bigotry is gonna seep out. Trust me. “She’s so humble,” Evert said of Coco after the match. As innocuous as the words may sound, they weren’t issued in a vacuum. To Evert, Navratilova, and their fellow commentators/analysts, the Williams sisters were not humble enough. They were not grateful enough. The nerve of them! We allowed you into our sport and you have the nerve to have outside interests. Arrogantly not playing in every tournament and then swooping in to win all the big tournaments. Wearing nonconforming attire (including those dangerous, life-threatening beads!), having media engagements, having businesses(!).
So now, what do we make of this seemingly overwhelming support for Coco? In the years since 2001, I contend that commentators haven’t gotten more socially conscious; rather, they’ve gotten more adept at controlling their language, and more aware of the backlash they’d face if the white robes were allowed to peek through. What of the spectators? In the era of donaldfuckingtrump and his all-pervading stench, racial attitudes have gotten worse, not better. So what gives in the tennis world?
Is this a new breed of tennis fans? Are there less bigots attending the games? Is it that they find Coco less threatening than the Williams Sisters? For the record, Coco is far more outspoken about political and race matters than the Sisters ever were. (Being Jehovah Witnesses, they were/are not permitted to get involved in “affairs of the world.”) A good test of where we really are may be the next time Coco goes up against Jessica Pegula. Who will the fans choose to support then?
In tennis — as in previously lily white gymnastics — Black athletes have stormed the citadel. The gate has been kicked off its hinges, and there’s no way to hold the fort. This shift in crowd support may simply be a case of resignation: “If we can’t beat ‘em, we might as well join ‘em.”
I’d love to hear your opinions on the matter.
News round up by dopper0189, Black Kos Managing Editor
Prize-winning fiction writer Deesha Philyaw, who struggled to find a publisher for what became her acclaimed debut “The Secret Lives of Church Ladies,” has a 7-figure deal for her next two books.
Mariner Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, announced Thursday that it had signed up Philyaw and will publish her novel “The True Confessions of First Lady Freeman” in 2025. Mariner calls the book a “biting satire” of the Black church and “a deeply provocative” story about family, friendship and “sexual agency.” Philyaw, who attended several different churches as a child, is centering the novel around a megachurch leader.
“In writing True Confessions, I really wanted to explore the narratives that 40- and 50-something Black women sometimes tell ourselves - as well as the narratives told about us - regarding our desires and aspirations,” Philyaw said in a statement.
Her second book for Mariner, “Girl, Look,” is billed by the publisher as a “poignant new collection, giving a vivid snapshot of the interior lives of Black women across generations, drawing readers to consider Black women and girls’ vulnerabilities, invisibility, and beautiful contradictions, in a post-COVID, post-Breonna Taylor world.” Mariner has not set a release date for “Girl, Look.”
“The Secret Lives of Church Ladies,” a collection of nine stories, was released by West Virginia University Press after several major New York publishers turned it down. It won the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Story Prize and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and is being adapted for television by HBO Max.
Descendants of enslaved Africans on Georgia’s Sapelo Island – one of the last intact Gullah Geechee
communities in the state – are worried their cultural heritage and property could soon be lost after city officials voted to change the island’s zoning laws.
Historians believe Hogg Hammock, on Sapelo Island, is one of the last surviving Gullah Geechee communities in the Georgia Sea Islands. The Gullah people are descendants of Africans who were enslaved on coastal plantations in the South and retain many of their African cultural traditions and languages.
On Tuesday, the McIntosh County Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 to change the zoning ordinance in Hogg Hammock. The new ordinance includes raising the maximum square footage of a heated-and-cooled house from 1,400 to 3,000, according to a statement released ahead of a public hearing on the ordinance last week from McIntosh County Manager Patrick Zoucks.
The limit on square footage “was imposed in what appears to be a good faith effort to control property values and deter the construction of large residences. Unfortunately, there was little consideration for the enforceability of this provision,” Zoucks wrote, noting it is “impossible” to control if people add heating or cooling to their homes after moving in.
Sapelo Island descendant Josiah “Jazz” Watts, 52, told CNN the county’s zoning plan “shocked us all,” saying residents are concerned the new changes will allow the wealthy to build properties in the community and lead to high property taxes.
A 17-year-old Texas high school student has been suspended due to his loc hairstyle, in the same week the state passed a law banning discrimination based on hairdos.
Darresha George told KTRK that her son Darryl was issued several disciplinary notices before he was suspended from Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu, 30 miles east of Houston, for wearing his hair in a loc ponytail.
Ms George told the news site her son had been told to remain away from his high school in the same week that Texas passed the CROWN Act on 1 September, which banned race-based hair discrimination in workplaces and schools.
“I know he’s upset, and he feels terrible about it,” Ms George told KTRK.
The school district’s dress and grooming code states that male student’s hair should not extend below their eyebrows, ear lobes or the top of their t-shirt collar.
Danger: High Voltage” are among the first words seen on screen in writer-director Clement Virgo’s adaptation of David Chariandy’s 2017 novel. It begins with wannabe DJ/producer Francis (Aaron Pierre) pressuring his younger sibling Michael (Lamar Johnson) to join him in scaling a sinisterly buzzing pylon in their home town of Scarborough, Ontario. The voltage stays at that level throughout much of Brother, which ticks off several films’ worth of heavy-duty subjects – police brutality, racism, the immigrant experience, gang violence, closeted desire, dementia, cancer – and only occasionally verges on the ponderous.
The question that haunts the film is: what made Francis climb that day? After the opening scene, the action shifts forward a decade to find Michael, his old flame Aisha (Kiana Madeira) and his mentally fragile mother Ruth (Marsha Stephanie Blake) still reeling from Francis’s death. In dealing with the tensions and pressures of Black masculinity, and slipping between three separate time periods in the life of its fatherless protagonist, the movie inevitably invites comparison with Moonlight. Memories of that Oscar-winner are also summoned by Todor Kobakov’s dolorous score and Guy Godfree’s cinematography, which is so sumptuously lit that it almost stains the eyes. Heavy with grief the film may be, but it’s always a beautiful mourning.
Rwanda’s atomic energy board says it has signed a deal with a Canadian-German company to build its first small-scale nuclear reactor to test what the company asserts is a new nuclear fission approach in one of the world’s most densely populated countries.
Rwandan officials said Tuesday that the reactor won’t produce any electricity for the country’s grid. Instead, it will explore the technology developed by Dual Fluid Energy Inc. to address the need for low-carbon energy.
If all goes well, officials said, Rwanda and the company could set up a production line of such reactors in the central African nation as the country turns to nuclear power to help meet growing energy needs and adapt to climate change.
Much of the country’s electricity comes from hydropower and diesel plants, according to the Rwanda Energy Group, and only about 68% of people have access to electricity.
Dual Fluid Energy, founded in Canada in 2021, is one of more than 20 small modular reactor projects in development — using various approaches and fuels — that were assessed in a report this year by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Nuclear Energy Agency.
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