Different Strokes: Serena, Venus, & Black Tennis w/ Cecil Harris
January 21, 2022
Hosted by Diane Dewey
Have you ever wondered what goes into the making of tennis champions like Serena, Venus, and Naomi? The answer would surprise you. Tennis presents obstacles to people of color, starting with proximity to tennis courts. Are there public tennis courts in neighborhoods around New York City, Chicago, Houston, Miami? Drop in with author Cecil Harris to find out the intricacies both personal and systemic of navigating the tennis circuit. Different Strokes chronicles the rise of the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, as well as other champions of color, closely examining how African Americans are collectively faring in tennis, on the court and off. Despite the success of the Williams sisters and the election of former pro player Katrina Adams as the U.S. Tennis Association’s first Black president, top Black players still receive racist messages via social media and sometimes in public. The reality is that while significant progress has been made in the sport, much work remains before anything resembling equality is achieved. The days of tennis as a country club sport for the aristocracy have long passed, as have the pre-Open era days when black players faced long odds just to be invited to the four Grand Slam events. An entire generation of sports fans has grown up seeing Venus and Serena Williams as the gold standard in American professional tennis. Although the Williams sisters have done more than any other players to make tennis accessible to a diverse population, it’s not as if the tennis revolution is over. When you watch tennis next, take a close look at the umpire, the person sitting in the high chair of authority at courtside. Look at the tournament referee and the tournament director, the officials who run the tournament. In those seats of power and influence, blacks are still woefully underrepresented. Take a tour behind the scenes with Cecil Harris in this pre-recorded episode of Dropping In. Right now, Cecil has his keen eye trained on the Australian Open and what happens next!
Friday at 8 AM Pacific Time on VoiceAmerica Variety Channel
At Dropping In we’ll explore diverse stories about identity. By listening to others talk about their own path, ours becomes less fearful. Where are we now and how do we meet the challenges? Dropping In is a place of discovery. We might believe that our life experiences are uniquely our own. Yet there’s a community of people that are here to bear witness, to relate to, link arms with and support us. They join us on Dropping In, tackling subjects like breaking into your dream business, cultural differences, child abuse, mental illness, shamanism, gender search, religious shunning, and fitting in as a marginalized outsider. These can feel like lonesome tasks. How do others find their power? Listening to their personal truths validates our own. Drop into the conversation to find the common threads, your uniqueness and our shared experience as humans.
My most pressing question has always been about identity: Who am I? Growing up near Philadelphia with my adoptive family, my genetic identity was hidden. Then, my Swiss biological father, Otto, contacted me when I was age forty-seven in 2002. I’d been told by my adoptive parents that my biological parents were dead, supposedly to protect me. Meeting Otto upended my life. Through him, I met my German biological mother’s family to discover that her story too, had been changed; that she’d not wanted to surrender me and she’d searched for me all her life. Finding my truth was essential.
Based on my experience I am excited to talk to people about their own search for identity. My education includes a BA from Villanova University, a certificate from the Art Institute of Philadelphia and a Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling from Capella University. I’ve worked for The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, The SoHo Partnership and the National Academy of Design and have studied writing through New York University’s Continuing Education program. As an entrepreneur, I founded my art appraisal business, The Realization of Art in 2006. My non-fiction writing has been published in Shared Space, a monograph, and in Artes online magazine. Writing workshops worldwide have given me the chance to learn and hone my craft. My first book, “Fixing the Fates,” was awarded the National Non-Fiction Author’s Association Silver Medal and the Living Now Award.