Thursday, December 5, 2013


When I was in middle and high school, I played tennis.  I immersed myself in the sport and followed several tennis players closely.  One of them was Arthur Ashe.  Arthur Ashe was a graceful, efficient player.  He had a cool metal-y/carbonite racket while everyone else played with wooden ones.  He was smart, he was funny,  he was committed, and he taught me about apartheid.

Arthur Ashe refused to play tennis in South Africa as long as audiences were segregated. He would not go to South Africa if he could not speak freely. Reading what he wrote, and listening to what he said, I learned about passes and homelands and banning and Soweto and Sharpeville and necklacing.  I don't recall him ever discussing Nelson Mandela, but it's hard for me to believe he did not at some time, somewhere.

Today, when I heard that President Mandela had died, my first thought was of Arthur Ashe.  I don't know when or how or what I would have learned about apartheid were it not for him.  And here, the man to whom the whole world looked as the embodiment of change and patience and forgiveness and the end of that horrid system, was gone.  I thought that, if there is a life beyond this one, what a wonderful meeting two of my heroes would have.

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