It’s not every morning that my tennis Twitter timeline greets me with multiple tweeps urging the world to listen to Serena Williams narrate a BBC montage with Angelou’s “Still I Rise” (a poem I posted about here back in December, that time because Twitter had let me know about Williams reciting it on receiving an award).
The BBC has been roundly criticized for its feeble and at times astounding gormless coverage of women’s tennis this past fortnight (h/t @MBDigital001). Here’s hoping that it does better going forward. While this clip neither mitigates nor addresses the deep-seated attitudes and assumptions undergirding the coverage issues, it was nonetheless lovely to glimpse hundreds of people thrilled and moved by this new rendition of an almost-forty-year-old poem — one barely older than the woman who today tied Steffi Graf’s record of 22 Slam singles titles, and then won doubles with her sister, both of them significantly older than the majority of other elite WTA players.
Crowd craning to see Serena Williams in Cincinnati, 2014
I was actually thinking about this very poem a few days ago, while writing a note to my friend Tony, who was the narrator of Darrell Grant’s Ruby Bridges Suite when my church performed it this past June. I don’t think there’s a public recording available of that movement (yet, anyway), but it is stirring stuff. I was thinking of Tony’s voice bringing the congregation to its feet as he read Grant’s adaptation of Angelou’s words (Angelou’s poem quoted here):
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
… Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
In the meantime, what is online is Connye Florance, singing as Ruby’s grandmother — “Hold My Hand“:
For the world, child, is not fair
Danger follows everywhere
Lift your eyes, child
You will see
God is watching
[I quote from more of the suite in this entry from that week. Tennis to poetry to church — it is all related.]
A couple weeks ago (8/29), the New York Times Magazine published photographs and videos of elite women tennis players by Dewey Nicks.
In yesterday’s magazine, the writers to the editor included one Sam Abrams, who quoted Walt Whitman at length:
fierce and athletic girls … are not one jot less than I am,/They are tann’d in the face by shining suns and blowing winds,/Their flesh has the old divine suppleness and strength,/They know how to swim, row, ride, wrestle, shoot, run, strike, retreat, advance, resist, defend themselves,/They are ultimate in their own right — they are calm, clear, well-possess’d of themselves.
Murray Mound Pantoum
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