When you think of Black people who have earned the title of being “THE FIRST (Fill In The Blank)” as it relates to sports, legends like Jack Johnson, Jackie Robinson, Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe come to mind. These athletes are historically significant because they broke the color barrier in their respective sports and in the face of very difficult odds went on to become champions. Simply put, they rose above adversity to become the best of the best.
I am an Olympics junkie. I especially love the summer Olympics, being a track and field fanatic, so this is one of my favorite times in sports. One of the things that I love most about the Olympics is hearing the stories of the athletes. Rarely in sports do you get the back story about the athletes and their struggles to make the team. Then you get to watch their journey as they strive to be the best they can be and beat the best in the world. A very compelling sports two-fer. Most of the stories center around personal triumph or tragedy. However, sometimes the stories are much bigger than the individual athlete and are of greater global importance. And sometimes these stories change history.
The list of Black female Grand Slam tennis champions is a very short one. So is the list of Black female Olympic tennis champions. Among this very select group of Black female athletes is Althea Gibson and the Williams Sisters. Althea Gibson paved the way for all Blacks in tennis to follow. Venus and Serena have literally picked up the ball and crushed it.
Nathan Cliff Heard was born in Newark on Nov. 7, 1936, to Nathan E. Heard, a laborer, and Gladys Fruitt, a blues singer. He never completed high school, and always listed New Jersey State Prison in the education section of his résumé. Nathan C. Heard, a novelist, wrote realistically of prison life and the mean streets of Newark, NJ.
Born in Fayetteville, GA, actor Gary Anthony Williams attended Clayton State College. A classically trained actor, Williams honed his craft via involvement with the Georgia Shakespeare Festival, then performed in various theatrical locales including Agatha’s Dinner Theatre, The Shakespeare Tavern, and the Alliance Theatre. Williams moved into television in the late 1990s, with a guest spot on the series drama In the Heat of the Night and a small role in the Schwarzenegger thriller End of Days (1999).
The Tuskegee airmen were so called because most of the Black pilots were trained at Tuskegee University in Alabama during the 1940s. Through their bravery and actions, the Tuskegee airmen joined the ranks of other patriotic Americans who defended the United States of America against the Axis military powers during World War 2.
Chris Munger directed this 1974 blaxploitation version of the popular skinflick Starlet!…1969. The story concerns Clara, Juanita Brown, an aspiring actress from the housing projects of Gary, Indiana, who goes to Hollywood in search of fame and fortune.
One of the most charismatic action stars, Fred is known for coming at you hard in-your-face action. True to his image, you can find him presently doing exactly that in Down ‘N Dirty, his second in a series of films in which he stars as street-wise Dakota ‘Dak’ Smith (first starred as “Dak’ in Night Vision – which he received the Dallas Forth-Worth Film Critics Assoc. Award).
The 1970s gave birth to two of the most enduring and endearing mystery characters of all time. It was also the decade when many policemen said that the best and most realistic depiction of what it was really like in their world was being done on a weekly sitcom.
Joe Frazier’s life, in and out of the ring, was indelibly tied to the man with whom he had an often poisoned relationship – Muhammad Ali.
Ali and Frazier, who on Monday, November 7, 2011 lost his toughest fight of all to liver cancer aged 67, were at the vanguard of the heavyweight division’s heyday throughout the 1970s.
Ronald “Butch” Lewis, known in the fight industry for tenaciously landing his light heavyweight champion Michael Spinks a massive $13.5 million purse for what turned out to be a brutal, one round KO at the hands of Iron Mike Tyson, apprently suffered a massive heart attack. Lewis, age 65 and more active in recent years in the music and TV fields than in boxing, was in or around his stately home in Delaware when he went into cardiac arrest.
Today I ventured to the Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con with three goals in mind. To meet Pam Grier, Richard Roundtree and Billy Dee Williams. As my business partner and I made our trek, we talked about our continued love of the 1970’s, the films, the animation from the Saturday morning cartoons and the comics. We even discussed how this could be a small turning point in our lives as we continue to follow our passion by meeting these 1970’s film icons.