Monday, August 27, 2007

Day 1: Black Out In New York City

Althea Gibson, who won the US Nationals in 1957, becoming the first Black person with what became the US Open, gets her just due in a moving tribute on Arthur Ashe Stadium tonight. We got on Wimbledon for not giving Althea her due this year, but she actually won Roland Garros in 1956 to become the first Black person to win a Slam and her anniversary last year was overlooked by all. Still, better late than never.

The telecast opened with Serena and Venus Williams in giving props to Althea. A Black hero. A woman's hero. A tennis idol. Goosebumps.

Billie Jean King, who received her own tribute last year whe the USTA Tennis Center was renamed in her honor, holds a plaque honoring Althea in the opening night ceremony. Althea was officially inducted into the US Open Court of Champions. She died broke in 2003. Too bad she wasn't around to experience all of this. Better late than never.

Aretha Franklin holds her arms aloft after putting down "Respect" for the rapt audience.

Rachel Robinson, widow of Jackie Robinson who integrated major league baseball, looks on.

Janet Jackson takes it all in from the Williams family box.

Jackie Joyner Kersey, back-to-back Olympic Gold Medalist in the heptathlon, and Carol Moseley Braun, first Black woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate (Illinois), hold court as pioneering Black women in their professions. Other women honored include Dr. Mae Jemison, first Black woman to travel into space; Dr. Debi Thomas, 1988 Olympic silver medalist in figure skating; Sharon Pratt, first Black woman elected major of a major U.S. city; Yolanda Adams, Grammy winning gospel singer; Vonetta Flowers, Olympic Gold Medalist, 2002 U.S. bobsledding team; Ella Bully-Cummings, first Black female chief of police, Detroit; Sheila Crump Johnson, co-founder Black Entertaiment Television (BET), owner of 3 professional sports franchises and sole owner of PGA Tour golf courses; Traci Green, first Black female tennis head coach at Harvard; Nikki Giovanni, award winning poet and activist; Loretta Claiborne, first Special Olympics athlete to win the ESPY and the first Black woman to win the Arthur Ashe Courage Award; Susan L. Taylor of Essence, winner of Henry Johnson Fisher Award, the highest award in magazine publishing; Lynette Woodard, first female member of Harlem Globetrotters; Cynthia Cooper, two-time WNBA most valuable player; Roberta Flack, first artist ever to win back-to-back Grammy's for Record of the Year; and Zina Garrison, first Black player to win Olympic tennis Gold Medal. Phylicia Rashad, the first Black woman to win a Tony for lead actress in a drama, gave a speech about Althea near the beginning of the tribute and introduced the other pioneers.

Oracene Price, mother of multiple Slam champions Serena and Venus, is ravishing with gold hair.

Donald Young wins his first Slam match, coming from a set down to defeat Chris Guccione of Australia 6-7(2), 6-3, 6-2, 6-3.

Venus reacts to setting a new serve record for women. 129mph. Ouch. She also won her first-round match over Hungarian qualifier Kira Nagy 6-2, 6-1.

Miami native Ahsha Rolle musta felt the love. She upset No. 17 seed and 2006 quarterfinalist Tatiana Golovin of France 6-4, 1-6, 6-2 for her first win in Flushing Meadows.

Qualifier Scoville Jenkins isn't so lucky. He falls to The Name 3-6, 2-6, 4-6 in his first round, bringing his US Open record to 1-3. Apparently, he was out of the game for a while with a wrist injury that forced him to wear a cast. He has enough talent to be a decent professional player but I still feel that before his injury he got too little help from the USTA. Perhaps his name and his cornrows aren't helping his cause. Just sayin.

Serena closes out the night, shaking off some rust, and subdues hard hitting lefty Angelique Kerber of Germany 6-3, 7-5. Serena gives the thumbs up after the match. She hit her backhand well. Great sign moving forward.


oddman said...

Love your post's title, Craig. And your post too. It was a very moving tribute. I was knocked over. An amazing gathering of fabulous women, trailblazers all of them.

Helen W said...

Nic touch Janet Jackson wearinig a t-shirt from Venus' new line.

GVGirl said...

Nice post.

I have to disagre with something though. Let me say that I do some volunteer work on occasion for the Gibson foundation and know their board of directors.

Last year the French Tennis Federation and a major airline did honor Gibson during the first week of the French in a big way. They flew the major players in the Gibson foundation over for the French Open celebrations. However, the American media failed to cover it.

As for the USTA, what took so long!
I'm not holding my breath that they will keep up the support (financially) for the organization.

I just had to say it becasue I know the USTA more than most.



BettyBowHead said...

Thanks for the info on Scoville. We had seen him play Andy R at the US Open several years ago and felt that he had talent. Soon after that, we couldn't find any information on him. Sorry to hear about the injury. And I agree, I don't think that "Scoville" is that marketable. Unfortunately.

Craig Hickman said...


thanks for the information on the French Tennis Federation honoring Althea Gibson last year.

I heard nothing about it throughout last year's Roland Garros so I drew the wrong conclusion.

Karen said...

Hey Craig, did you feel like how I felt and many others on many tennis boards felt about tonight's match with the Pova gil. Man, that red dress does not become her skin colour. Girl, needs to get a tan. Roberta Vinci needs to retire. She is an embarassment to women's tennis. It is times like these when I say no to equal pay. Absolutely ridiculous that in 8 games she could only hit 1 winner, 1 winner.

Craig Hickman said...

Karen, remember that thing we said a few days ago? The less said about certain players the better. (wink)

Karen said...

ok ok I promise not to say anything more - LOL

Craig Hickman said...

LOL. You can say all you want, Karen.