As an Africana/film historian and person with common sense, it has always gotten on my nerves that individuals refer to a sports as white or black. It is if America has massive amnesia and forgot that about 110 years ago blacks were not considered super athletes but sickly, frail creature prone to certain diseases, destined to “naturally die off” like the American Indian. Sports stardom is based on hard work, natural talent, access, luck and MONEY. Serena and Venus’s father worked hard to get them access so their talent and work ethic could be admired by the world and Tiger’s dad was featuring his little golf prodigy at three years of age. As black athletes become contenders in swimming, gymnastics, hockey, speed skating and other so called “white” sports we sometimes forget the people like Pete Brown, Arthur Ashe and the incomparable Althea Gibson who opened the door for today’s superstars.
Brittany Griner talked about her new memoir, In My Skin. She is a young, beautiful 23 year old, the WNBA‘s number 1 pick–who made international news last year by being the first active WNBA player to come out publicly–to be a little cocky. But perhaps not surprisingly, she was the complete opposite: approachable, authentic, grounded and very articulate. She casually wandered in with her agent after hitting up some of Portland’s notoriously delicious food carts, reached out her hand and said “Hey I’m Brittney”—as if I wouldn’t have known.
As a lifetime basketball player, lover of the sport, and an out lesbian for over 20 years, I have to say it’s incredible and a little mind blowing to witness the progression and growth of women’s sports over the years and to see such a courageous young woman like Griner–who’s not only a star basketball player but now a leader for so many LGBT groups–speak so matter-of-factly and confident about queer issues. I was delighted to sit down and listen to her talk about her journey, the WNBA and what’s next for her.
Mami Konneh Lahun was due to fly home on Monday but did not return to her temporary accommodation in Greenwich on Sunday and has not been seen since.
Black women’s bodies have been subjected to hateful, vile scrutiny for centuries. Sarah Bartmaan was displayed naked on European stages as “proof” of the bestial sexuality of black women, while white women who began wearing bustles were seen as the epitome of femininity.
White women, like Kim Kardashian and Angela Jolie are praised when they alter their features into what is seen as stereotypically “black assets.” While black women at peak physical conditioning are defamed as “too fat and not proper representatives of America.” Serena had the grace to blow this hater off. I doubt what Caroline Wozniacki would have any of the grace that Ms. Williams displays if she received half the ridicule and scorn that she gets regularly.
At a recent exhibition match in Sao Paulo, Brazil, 22-year-old Caroline Wozniack stuffed her tennis outfit with padding in what many are interpreting as an imitation of Serena Williams’ body, and “made many in the audience laugh as she swung her tennis racket while displaying her fake assets.”
For the past decade, Spelman College, a historically black women’s school in Atlanta, has fielded NCAA teams in basketball, volleyball, soccer, softball and other sports. But when its small Division III conference started dwindling, college President Beverly Tatum says the school decided it was time to change focus.
“We have to ask ourselves: What is the cost of the program and who is benefiting? How many people are benefiting? Is the benefit worth the cost?” Tatum asks.
So the school decided to drop its NCAA athletics program, which will save about $1 million a year, school officials say.
The black community in America is very diverse. People who live in the North have different traditions and culture than those who live in the South. African immigrants are most recent Black Americans. People from the Caribbean and more have been migrating to this country for a century. Despite racist immigration policies that banned black immigration for several decades Caribbean Americans from Marcus Garvey, James Mc Kay, Shirley Chisholm, Sidney Poitier, Colin Powell, Harry Belefonte, Patrick Ewing, Tim Duncan, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Gil Scott Heron and Eric Holder have made indelible contributions to America. Sanya Richards-Ross is no exception.
Richards-Ross is the first runner, male or female, to reach Olympic finals in both 200 & 400 since since 2000. She also won individual bronze medal for the 400m race in 2008. The following year, Richards-Ross became World Champion, winning a gold medal in the 400 meter race repeated this performance in the 2012 Olympics Games. On making the 2012 Olympic team Sanya tweeted”Making my 3rd Olympic Team is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I’ve never been more focused, determined, excited! It’s everything.”
Richards-Ross was born in Kingston and immigrated to America at the age of 12. In high school, she lettered in Track and Field and Basketball in high school and was a member of the National Honor Society, graduating with a 4.0 G. P.A. Sanya was named National High School Female Athlete of the Year, USA Track and Field’s Youth Athlete of the Year, Women’s Prep Athlete of the Year. She became an American citizen in 2002.
She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs School of Business School of Business 2006 with a degree in management information systems and was inducted into The University of Texas Hall of Honor. She began dating Jacksonville Jaguar’s cornerback Aaron Ross in 2003 and the couple got engaged in 2007 They were married on February 26, 2010 and the celebration which was aired on the WE TV show Platinum Weddings.
he spent five years fighting an autoimmune disease called Behcet’s syndrome. Now, Richards-Ross thinks she may have been misdiagnosed. A visit to a new doctor last year resulted in a new diagnosis and a new treatment and despite ongoing symptoms, she states that she not felt better in years.
Ms. Richard-Ross has not forgotten her Jamaican roots. The Sanya Richards Fast Track Program founded in 2007. The primary focus of the program is to enhance literacy and numeracy; develop students’ readiness for standardized tests; promote an active and healthy lifestyle through sports; and enhance social skills with regards to professionalism and employability.
The greatest moment of the London 2012 opening ceremony for me was the inclusion of the Empire Windrush, the ship that initiated the mass migration of Caribbean immigrants in 1948. England would not have made such a speedy recovery from WWII without the labour of Caribbean immigrants. My parents were part of this first wave of immigration that ended when the racist political leader Enoch Powell 1962 led the effort to pass the Commonwealth Immigrants Act restricting the entry of immigrants in 1962. By 1972, only holders of work permits, or people with parents or grandparents born in the UK could gain entry, effectively stemming most Caribbean immigration. Today black and mixed race people of Caribbean ancestry make up about about 3% of the population of the UK.
People of African decent have been in England since the Roman occupation. There were African people in the court of King James IV of Scotland and Queen Elizabeth I. 18th century England was home to a black population of between 10-15,000 people – mostly in major ports but also in market towns and villages across the country. Some whites who bemoan the browning of England have black ancestry. Scientist James Watson spouted nonsense about the genetic inferiority of black people and then found out he was 16 percent African, which means one of his great-grandparents was of African decent.
Although the stigma of interracial marriage is less of an issue in England. Black and mixed race British people face some of the same issues faced by African Americans in the areas of education and criminal justice. That is why the gold winning performance of Jessica Ennis means so much to Black Brits and the British population as a whole.
Jessica was born in Sheffield. Her father, originally from Jamaica, is a self-employed painter and decorator; her mother, a social worker, was born in Derbyshire. She began her athletic career at the age of ten and almost immediately began winning high jump competitions. Ennis won the national schools high jump title at the age of 14, but chose to compete in the heptathlon. This combines the high and long jump with the shot put and javelin, the 100m hurdles and running races over 200m and 800m. Her first Olympic dream ended in tears when just before Beijing in 2008 when she was forced to withdraw because of a triple fracture that threatened to end her career. After a twelve-month lay-off , Ennis returned to competition and won the Ennis won the gold medal at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin and won the title of won the “Sportswoman of the Year” award from the British Sports Journalists’ Association. In 2010, she became the World Indoor Champion for the pentathlon with a new British Record, Commonwealth Record and Championship Record with score of 4,937 points, finishing ahead of all three Beijing heptathlon medal winners. Jessica was voted European Athlete of the Month three times in 2010, “Ultimate Sports Star” at the Ultimate Woman of the Year Awards from Cosmopolitan magazine for the second consecutive year and “Outstanding Female Athlete” at the Commonwealth Sports Awards.
At the 2011 World Athletics Championships Ennis finished second although she beat the gold medal winner in five of the seven events. Ennis was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2011 Birthday Honours for services to athletics. Ennis was also honored with a waxwork figure at London’s Madame Tussauds . In October of 2011 Ennis was voted Athlete of the Year for the third time by the British Athletic Writers’ Association.
Nicknamed the “Golden Girl, ” Ennis’ face was on billboards all over England promoting the upcoming games. She truncated her competition schedule to prepare for the Olympics, but still took first place in the hurdles, shot put and high jump in the 2012 World Indoor Championships, winning the silver medal. Ennis won the gold medal in the heptathlon at the London 2012 Olympic Games with a British and Commonwealth record score of 6,955 points, beating German silver medallist, Lilli Schwarzkopf by 306 points.
Ennis like many other black female athletes have faced criticism about her body. A senior figure at UK Athletics suggested Jessica was ‘fat and has too much weight.’ Ennis, who shook the slight off, joked that when she Googled her name the first thing she found was people talking about her backside. Jessica will have the last laugh since she could make around five million dollars in the next two or three years if she chose to, from sponsorship and endorsements. Ennis chose not to compete in the 100 meter hurdles, preferring to bask in the glow of her recent win. On her plans for the immediate future, she said: “I’m definitely going to relax, eat lots of rubbish food, have a few glasses of wine and enjoy this moment for as long as possible.”
The roar from the crowd when France’s Teddy Riner was crowned Olympic heavyweight judo champion at the London Games on Friday was so loud he probably felt it could be heard in Paris.
A hero in his homeland, the 10,000-strong crowd at London’s ExCel Centre, awash with red, white and blue tricolour flags of France, chanted his name in the sort of reception usually reserved for pop stars.
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Cuban men have a remarkable boxing tradition with Teófilo Stevenson and Félix Savón as two of only three boxers to win three Olympic gold medals in three consecutive games. Cuban women also have lesser known olympic history in the martial art of Judo, but have not won a gold since Driulis González in the 1996 Atlanta games. Recently, Cuban women have been on the comeback trail, with three silver medals at the Beijing Olympics.
Idalys Ortiz, was the youngest judo medalist, had to be satisfied with a bronze medal at the Beijing games. The judoka had a triumphant comeback, winning the women’s Olympic +78kg category title in the 2012 games. Ortiz, 22 is seeded at number six in international competition, beat Japan’s Mika Sugimoto after she was awarded the win by the referee and two judges as the fight finished scoreless after extra time. After her win the exuberant Ortiz jumped for joy and exclaimed, “it’s a dream! Now that I have achieved this, I feel very happy and I thank everyone who has contributed. My family … everyone who trusted me.”
Women athletes have not had an easy path either. In the early years of the modern Olympics, women were not well represented. Women participated for the first time at the 1900 Paris Games with the inclusion of women’s events in lawn tennis and golf. Women’s athletics and gymnastics debuted at the 1928 Olympics. The implementation of Title 9 in 1972, provided American women with the opportunities and resources to compete in the Olympics on a much wider basis. In 2012, women’s boxing was introduced, resulting in no remaining sports that do not include events for women. Even Muslim women are experiencing a growing inclusion as three Islamic countries (Qatar, Brunei, and Saudi Arabia) sent female athletes to the 2012 games.
Even though African American women shoulder both racial and gender burdens, they have made amazing strides in events that have been seen previously as “white” or “male” events. These accomplishments has not come without criticism. Although Althea Gibson broke the race barrier in professional tennis in 1947, Olympic medalists and tennis superstars. Gabby Douglas has won two gold medals at the 2012 Olympics. She competed in all four events, garnered Venus and Serena Williams face criticism about their bodies, playing styles and femininity 33% of points that led Team USA to the gold and wiped out the Russian competition to win the top spot in the Women’s All Around competition. 16 year old Gabby left her family and friends in Virginia Beach to train in Iowa with Olympic coach Liang Chow. Her mother sold her jewelry and worked overtime to finance Gabby’s training and lodging. Instead of congratulating the young phenomenon on her historic accomplishment, internet troll took to the twitterosphere with comments about her hair!The numerous accomplishments of other black female Olympic pioneers have been marginalized by the media. Swimmer Lia Nealwon the bronze medal in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay and also helped set a new U.S. record in the event. Neal, who is also a spokes woman for an organization that introduces children of color to swimming and water safety, has received very little press coverage as the second black woman to qualify for the U. S. Olympic Swim Team. She is only 17 years old and a high school senior. I expect Ms. Neal will be harder to ignore in 2016. Paige McPherson 21, defeated 2004 silver medalist, Nia Abdallah, to earn a spot on the 2012 Taekwondo Olympic Team. Paige, who attends Miami Dade College was raised in Sturgis, South Dakota in a multi-ethnic family of adopted children. Paige will begin competing on August 10th.
Many would be suprised to know that black women have a long history in the elite sport of fencing.Nzingha Prescod, an economics major at Columbia University, follows in the footsteps of Nikki Franke, a member of the 1976 and 1980 U.S. Olympic fencing teams by scoring a berth on the 2012 team. The team, the youngest in American Olympic history placed sixth in team competition but coach but Coach Amgad Khazbak said he is looking forward to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games where he believes Team USA could be a contender for the gold. So next time moron spouts nonsense about the athletic superiority of certain racial groups or gender tell them about achievements these barrier breaking ladies!