Eternal Argument In A New Format Importance Of Black Athletes

Updated: August 28, 2008


Well one athlete made the Cut

to appear on the cover of

” The Black List” the

NEW HBO series

book version

Even better Serena Williams is first among “equals.” Among 12 photos of prominent African Americans pictured on the cover Serena is placed #1. Obviously that was someone’s editorial decision. No reason to think it happened randomly.

The other Black athlete included in this highly touted HBO series beginning this week and the accompanying book is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. TWO athletes out of 23 profiles included in “The Black List” as it is bring currently aired. This is Volume One.

The HBO film and the book are the work of

veteran film critic Elvis Mitchell

here is how he describes it

” One of the purposes of this Black List is to track the black experience in America, and by doing so, to exhibit the wealth of variety in it. What’s evident from the speakers on the Black List is how that experience defies definition. Vernon Jordan puts it as simply as saying that African-American thought is not monolithic. Women’s rights crusader Faye Wattleton voices the idea that integration has caused problems as well as solved them; the areas that once housed every layer of the African-American social strata, from professionals to laborers, clergy to philosophers, offered illustrations of virtue to all within hailing distance; once those restrictions that kept blacks together were removed, a whole class of people was left behind without models next door to follow through the corridors of attainment. The necessity of having examples literally within reach is not lost on her.”

” For those pursuing art, avoiding the simplistic classifications of blackness is a full-time occupation itself; dancer-choreographer Bill T. Jones discusses the limitations of the cliché of black rage, and the dangers of not acknowledging his blackness first and foremost — which for him was an aesthetic self-abnegation but which his detractors saw as renunciation and selling out. Dealing with blackness for others is a call to arms; Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks embraces what might be called the nontraditional behavior of black audiences by providing context for it and looking to incorporate these responses into her work. ”

Our focus is the place of African American athletes in the process. Specifically 2 athletes among 23 African Americans featured. Looking at the list of those interviewed it is hard to argue any of these women and men should have been bumped in favor of more athletes. Some notable points made by Abdul-Jabbar are that he was a journalism major and had written several books. As for Serena she laments that she is always asked fluff questions by the Sports media rather than serious questions about her Tennis strategy. Give the Box an opportunity Serena !

The real point of this series and these two athletes is that the thoughtful interview process employed uncovers layers of surprise about well known African Americans we never see or hear in the often stereotyped way they are presented their well known fame repeated again and again without the media and others ever probing more deeply.

Hopefully in this era of Barack Obama

there will be many more volumes of

The Black List to come and many

more thoughtful fascinating

lives of African American

athletes deeply explored

with the interview used

as well as it is here

in The Black List