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Sunday, October 26, 2014


Life Lesson:

“I almost wish we were butterflies and liv'd but three summer days - three such days with you I could fill with more delight than fifty common years could ever contain.” 
― John Keats, Bright Star: Love Letters and Poems of John Keats to Fanny Brawne

Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.  ~Nathaniel Hawthorne

What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.  ~Richard Bachman  - Butterfly~Mariah Carey

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Pure Yellow

Warning: There are a few profane words in this entry.  Sometimes, they are the only words that fit the sentiment.  I stand behind them.

Pure Yellow

Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.  ~C. S. Lewis

Courage is fear that has said its prayers.  ~Dorothy Bernard Here Comes the Sun~The Beatles  Yellow~Coldplay Free Fallin’~Tom Petty

Today was a yellow day.  Perfectly — brilliantly yellow!  Good doesn’t begin to adequately describe it, and I felt good living it, and being aware of every moment of it.  You might be wondering what I’m talking about, and I shall tell you: today, Tom and I celebrate a friend who crossed the first item off of her bucket list of things she wants to do as she begins a new phase in the journey of her life.
To give you the back story so you’re up to speed: three weeks ago, my friend, Stephanie, was given a shitty diagnosis of terminal and inoperable cancer.  Stage IV Neuroendocrine Cancer, with a metastasis to the liver to boot.  Yeah.  It was a sucker punch [not to mention that it just plain sucked!] – one of those ones that hits you right in the gut, dead-center, and doubles you over....leaves you bent down for a while too as you try to catch your breath!  Stephanie is only 50.  She’s got a 10 year old son, and last summer, her other son made her a grandmother for the 1st time.  You can understand now why I referenced the diagnosis as “shitty”.  The following day, the oncologist didn’t make that suck-ass news any better when he told her there wasn’t much they could do for her at this point.  I mean, what are you suppose to do with that?   You’re trying to gear-up mentally for the fight of your life, when the doctor cancels that game plan.  It was sobering.  Surreal.  The entire weekend went back and forth like that — kinda like a see-saw.  Up and down the emotions went.  Back and forth the tears came.  I can only imagine what she must have been feeling!  No.  Scratch that.  I can’t.  I tried, but I can’t.  I hurt for her, and I was scared for her, like any friend would be.  I prayed a lot over the next few days because I believe in the power of prayer, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t ask for a miracle for her.   I’m not gullible!  Let me state that for the record.  But,  I’m a realist!  I prescribe to the philosophy of Anwar Sadat who once said, “you aren’t a realist unless you believe in miracles...” I do.  So, I asked God for one for her.  Asking for something can NEVER hurt!  NEVER.
Anyway.   Stephanie is a rare one.  She’s not going to roll over!  She’s not going to go quietly! Those were her words.   If this were a boxing match, I daresay it’s gonna be similar to the “Thrilla in Manilla” of 1975 between Ali and Frazier.   What I know of Stephanie, she gives as good as she, in other words, this isn’t going to be an easy fight for cancer!  Here’s a link if you’d like to check out the reference:  
Once she got her bearings back, she stated as much herself.  This cancer may have altered the overall scheme of things for her long-term plans, but she’s in the driver’s seat til the end of the road.  She wants to do as much as she can with the rest of her life, while she can – make some special memories for her children, and do those things that she thought she had more time left to do.  Again, her words.   She is an inspiration.  That’s all I can say.
That Sunday, she sat down and wrote up a fund-me page, because she’s a single Mom, and this diagnosis blind-sided her – the rest of us too.  She needs a little financial help to make this dream become a reality.  Dreams aren’t cheap!  Not the good ones, anyway! :-) {I’ll post her fund-me page at the end of this entry.}  If you want to donate a love offering, we “ain’t to proud to beg,” to help make this dream of hers come true.  She wants to do as much as she can, while she can.  Did I say that already?  Well, it bears repeating.  The time is now!  That’s a lesson for ALL of us: live now!  Don’t wait!  None of us are promised tomorrow.  No one knows what the future will or won’t bring us, so live now with NO regrets!  Those of you who know me know that, while I can be shy about asking for anything for myself, when it comes to my friends, I’m like a bull in a china shop!  There’s not a shy bone in my body, when it comes to asking for someone else!  Every $5 makes a difference and adds up!   If you can forgo a cup of store-bought Java for one day or a burger and fries and maybe donate $5 toward helping someone make some memories with their child become a reality, which one would REALLY make you feel better at the end of the day? That’s all I’m saying...
Now, the first thing on Stephanie’s list of things to do was skydiving or in the language of a person afraid of heights, as I am:  “ Oh my God! She’s ACTUALLY going to jump out of a plane at 14,000 feet above the earth!”
Brave.  I give her credit.  When she wrote on Facebook that she was going to do it, one image came to mind: Luke and Laura in the ‘93 return on General Hospital where Laura froze when she saw how high up they were and that Luke seriously wanted her to jump out into nothing but sky with NO net below her.  She became to scream – panic screams, and the only way he could get her to jump was to toss her purse out the door that had most of her important worldly possessions in it. {it’s on YouTube if anyone wants to see it.}  I think in that moment, I might be willing to even let go of my worldly possessions! [I hear you all calling me a chicken!] Okay, I’ll cop to that!
Truthfully, I think the ONLY way that I would go out of a plane at 14,000 feet is for someone to open the door and literally kick me out, even with my hands white-knuckled, holding onto the door jamb with EVERYTHING in me, but that’s me.   Stephanie, on the other hand, will go out full-force – just taking it all on.  I admire her fortitude.  She invited her friends and family to join her for this adventure.   I PM’ed her and told her that I’d be there in spirit, and would release a yellow balloon in solidarity.  So, now, you’re up to speed.
Friday, Stephanie left for Homestead, Florida with her youngest son.  Tom and I went out and got our yellow smiley face balloons that afternoon, after he got home from work.  We were ready for the big day.   Stephanie sent us all a message pertaining to Saturday: 10 a.m.~lift off.  She felt a mix of terrified excitement.  I understood that.   I felt a mix of terrified excitement for her!  So, I set the alarm and waited for the sun to come up.
I got up early.  It looked like a beautiful day at our end.  From hers, she reported early morning rain.
“Please, God!” I whispered, as I read that!  “Don’t let anything spoil this moment.”
I did the only thing I knew to do.  I sent out a song: “Here Comes the Sun.”
It did the trick.  The Beatles usually do! :-)
Not long after, she posted that she was on her way to the airport.
I leaned my head back and mouthed upward, “thank you!”
We waited for a bit longer for word that it was all a go.  Pictures were posted from the airport.  Stephanie rocked the look!  Let me tell you! I told her as much in a post.
Tom and I got our balloons and went out on our back deck as the music played: “Yellow” and “Free Fallin’”.  I took several pictures as we got ready to release our contribution to her moment.  We held hands as we counted down, then let them go and watched as they drifted higher and higher up into the blue, as the music played in the background.  It was a wonderful sight knowing that she was up there, and they were heading up to her! We watched until they disappeared from our view, then we went back inside, feeling a full gratitude moment.
I carried that image with me the rest of the day – those two balloons, side-by-side, floating up, up and away into the wild blue yonder up to our friend.  Later, I laughed, and cheered as I watched the image of her jumping toward earth, checking off the first item on a special “to do” list.  It was emotional.  I can only imagine the incredible feeling it must have been for her, as she sailed across the sky like a bird in high flight!
Stephanie, along with family and friends who are down in Homestead with her are having a fish fry tonight – making some special memories.   I told her Tom and I were going for ice-cream to top off the day’s celebration,  just like Chris Martin said to the audience before he sang “Yellow” to them.  And, so we did.  It was a popular night to go for ice-cream too!  By the time we got home, night was overtaking the sky.  I looked up and saw my father’s star, right beside the moon.  It’s not out every night.  But, I know he had to come out and give a two thumbs up for the day’s events, because he enjoyed “WOW” moments as much as the next guy, and today truly was one of those!  It was WOW and yellow all rolled up into one magnificent thing.  Pure yellow – NO other words.
I smiled as Tom and I walked to the side door.  We could hear the puppies barking their heads off as if we’d been gone for a week!  As we opened the door, they ran around in a crazy giddiness because we were back where we belonged, and all was right in their world.  Tom and I said some silly greetings to them, and they took off in play as I chuckled to myself and turned to close the door.   I thought about that sentiment for a moment: all’s right in the world.  On this day, it was! From the window of the door, I could see the moon high up in the sky.  As if sensing the importance of keeping with the day’s theme, it was yellow.  Not just ANY yellow though, a deep  golden one.  I smiled and thought of Stephanie:  Golden. Yellow. Brave. Bodacious. Beautiful. Loved.  Yeah....that’s what it had all been.  But, most of all: AMAZING!
Upward and onward, as they say.  On we go.  There are more adventures and memories to be made... Stephanie's jump - May 4, 2014  It Is Always Now~Sam Harris - Stephanie’s Fund Me Page

Monday, February 17, 2014


"It was the labor movement that helped secure so much of what we take for granted today. The 40-hour work week, the minimum wage, family leave, health insurance, Social Security, Medicare, retirement plans. The cornerstones of the middle-class security all bear the union label." -Barack Obama

Barack Obama.

*Post will be forthcoming.

                                                            "Yes. We can!" {♥ this picture}

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Voice

Whitney Houston.

Two years ago, the world lost, in my opinion, one of the most incredible voices ever gifted to us. I had the pleasure of seeing Whitney in concert back in her early days - when she first began her career.  My mother and I sat mesmerized as she sang for several hours. Her range was tremendous. Her pitch was perfect. Her voice was unlike any we had ever heard before. When she let her band take a 20 minute break, and she stayed and sang gospel songs a capella, well, to say that it was incredible would be a gross understatement!
I was saddened to learn two years ago that she had lost her struggle with that demon she carried inside.  It's difficult to put a measure on a loss like that, and I'm not going to try, other than to say that she's missed. Thank God for the music! It is the gift that will last a lifetime. Thank you, Whitney! Rest in peace... - One Moment In Time - All At Once - The Greatest Love Of All - Where Do Broken Hearts Go - When You Believe [Duet w/Mariah Carey]

                                                           Whitney and Bobbi Kristina - So Emotional  - I'm Every Woman - He/I Believe [Duet w/Cissy Houston] - I Know Him So Well [Duet w/Cissy Houston] - I Look To You  - Exhale - Miracle - Bridge Over Troubled Water [Duet with Cece Winans] - Run To You - Whitney sings our National Anthem - Hold Me [Duet w/Teddy Pendergrass] - Battle Hymn of the Republic [performed for our military in VA] - A Song for You - Does It Hurt So Bad - I Didn't Know My Own Strength - Jesus Loves Me - I'll Always Love You...


Saturday, February 8, 2014

I've Got The Music In Me...

                                                   “What we play is life.” –Louis Armstrong

“Music is your own experience, your own thoughts, your wisdom. If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn. They teach you there's a boundary line to music. But, man, there's no boundary line to art.” 
                                                            –Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker

“They hear it come out, but they don't know how it got there. They don't understand that's life's way of talking. You don't sing to feel better. You sing 'cause that's a way of understanding life.”
                                                                       –Ma Rainey - Black on Track~Charting African-American Music History

There are four core types of African-American music: gospel, blues, jazz and soul music:

Gospel music includes religious hymns that slaves began singing in the fields as they worked to help them pass the time and cope with their living conditions; 

Blues coupled the religious story-telling of gospel to the primal rhythms of drums and guitars – hence the reference of R&B music.  Early blues began in the south near the Mississippi delta, but was taken to different parts of the country by African-Americans who were seeking to escape racism and the poverty of the south;

Jazz is a uniquely American form of music that came to prominence around the turn of the 20th century, some argue earlier, and has it roots in the African-American communities of the South.  

Soul music is a combination of various elements of all three of the above types. 

Music is the universal language. It is calming, soothing, restorative, and comforting.  We use music for both joyous and solemn occasions – to celebrate; to mourn; to worship or just to relax.  As we continue to celebrate Black History Month, I have included on this entry those pieces of music which nurture my soul — ease a troubled day — heal a broken spirit — elevate a happy heart and just make me smile.  I hope you enjoy each selection. - Oh Happy Day! - The Edwin Hawkins Singers - Soon And Very Soon - Andrae Crouch - His Eye Is On the Sparrow - Shirley Caesar - Great Is Your Mercy - Donnie McClurkin - Precious Lord Take My Hand - Mahalia Jackson - Through It All - BeBe Winans - John Lee Hooker - Please Don't Go - Mr. Bojangles - Sammy Davis, Jr. - At Last - Etta James - Mustang Sally - Wilson Pickett - Yesterday When I Was Young - Lena Horne - Every Time We Say Goodbye - Ray Charles & Betty Carter - Lonesome Valley - Mississippi John Hurt See See Rider Blues - Ma Rainey - I'm a Man - Muddy Waters - Good Times - Phoebe Snow - God Bless The Child - Whitney Houston - John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman - My One & Only Love - My Lucille - B. B. King - Someone To Watch Over Me - Nancy Wilson - Sweet Soul Music - Arthur Conley - My Funny Valentine - Sarah Vaughan - All Of Me - Count Basie - Cry Me a River - Ella Fitzgerald - So What - Miles Davis - After All - Al Jarreau - Absolutely Live - George Benson - Wild As The Wind - Nina Simone - All The Things You Are - Charlie "Bird" Parker - Wishful Thinking - Earl Klugh [Discovered Him in college ♥♥♥] - C'est Si Bon - Eartha Kitt - You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine - Lou Rawls - Back On The Block - Quincy Jones [Full Album] - No Ordinary Love - Sade - I Feel Good - James Brown - The Greatest Love of All - Whitney Houston - I'm Still In Love With You - Al Green - Can't Get Enough of Your Love - Barry White - Piano In The Dark - Brenda Russell - I Want You Back - The Jackson Five - Papa Was a Rolling Stone - The Temptations - Someday We'll Be Together - Diana Ross & The Supremes - Stone Love - The Supremes - Everybody Plays The Fool - The Main Ingredient - Chain of Fools - Aretha Franklin - You Really Got A Hold On Me - Smokey Robinson & The Miracles - No Night So Long - Dionne Warwick - Everyday People - Sly & The Family Stone - People Get Ready - Curtis Mayfield - A Change Is Gonna Come - Sam Cooke - Midnight Train To Georgia - Gladys Knight & The Pips - The Jackson Five - Who's Loving You - You Make Me Feel Brand New - The Stylistics - Didn't I Blow Your Mind This Time - The Delfonics - Have You Seen Her - The Chi-Lites - Proud Mary - Ike & Tina Turner [This one is for my mother] - Me & Mrs. Jones - Billy Paul - Aquarius~Let The Sun Shine In-The 5th Dimension - A Song For You - Donny Hathaway - The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face - Robert Flack - A Kiss To Build a Dream On - Louis Armstrong - When Will I See You Again - The Three Degrees - Lady Marmalade - LaBelle - Tell Me Something Good - Rufus The Closer I Get To You - Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway - Superstitious - Stevie Wonder w/Jeff Beck - Old Friend - Phyllis Hyman - A House Is Not a Home - Luther Van Dross - A Smile Like Yours - Natalie Cole - The Very Thought of You - Nat King Cole - I'll Be Seeing You - Billie Holliday - I Don't Want To Fight No More - Tina Turner - Billie Jean - Michael Jackson [Motown 25] - Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me - Oleta Adams - Let's Get It On - Marvin Gaye - Ain't No Mountain High Enough - Diana Ross - If Ever You're In My Arms Again - Peabo Bryson All The Way - Jeffrey Osborne [King Curtis] - Your Song - Cissy Houston - Soul Serenade - King Curtis - Baby Can I Hold You - Tracy Chapman - Thank You For The Years - Shirley Bassey - Three Times A Lady - The Commodores - If You Asked Me To - Patti LaBelle - Natural Woman - Aretha Franklin - I've Been Loving You Too Long - Otis Redding - Try A Little Tenderness - Otis Redding Respect Yourself - The Staple Singers - One In A Million You - Larry Graham - Hot Fun In The Summertime - Sly and the Family Stone - Celebrate Me Home - Donna Summer - What's Going On - Marvin Gaye - Ain't Nothin' Like the Real Thing - Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell - Could It Be I'm Falling In Love With You - The Spinners - Let's Do It Again - The Staple Singers - Ain't No Woman Like the One I've Got - The Four Tops - Then Came You - Dionne Warwick & The Spinners - No One - Alicia Keys So High - Usher - Irreplaceable - Beyonce - Just Another Day - Queen Latifah - Man In The Mirror - Michael Jackson - I Got The Music In Me - Thelma Houston - If You Don't Know Me By Now - Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes - Betcha Bye Golly Wow - The Stylistics - Just To Be Close To You - The Commodores - September - Earth, Wind & Fire - I'll Be There - Mariah Carey - You Are The Sunshine Of My Life - Stevie Wonder - I'll Always Love You - Whitney Houston - Endless Love - Lionel Ritchie & Diana Ross - Saved The Best for Last - Vanessa Williams - I'll Take You There - The Staple Singers [Close Your Eyes & Be Transported]

It's certainly not all of the glorious songs that I love, but it's a good collection of some favorites.  Enjoy & Blessings~

“We all have idols. Play like anyone you care about but try to be yourself while you're doing so.”   
                                                                    –B. B. King

Thursday, February 6, 2014

A Stroke of Grace

“True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.” – Arthur Ashe

                                                           Arthur Ashe, Wimbledon-1975

For those of you who do not know the name Arthur Ashe, and I honestly cannot imagine that, let me say that he was a mild-mannered athlete who was gladitorial in his convictions.  He has always had a special place in my heart because he is a native son of Richmond, Virginia.  Born on July 10, 1943, Mr. Ashe set a stellar example during his lifetime, and he truly left the world a much better place than what it was in when he was born.  He left us on this day, 21 years ago at the age of 49 – much too soon!  I honor and remember him today as we continue to celebrate Black History Month.
When I was a young girl during the 70's, there were not many sports that I enjoyed watching on televison.  Tennis, however, was not among that list.  I adored the game, and I loved watching the greats: Billie Jean, Jimmy, Chris, John, Bjorn and then there was Arthur.  He was ranked number two in the world in 1975.  He was a black man too boot, and that was an unusual sight in the tennis world back in the 70's.
What I remember about watching Arthur Ashe play tennis, aside from the enjoyment of it, was that he always seemed calm  – even keeled.  Things didn’t rattle him.  He had a certain restraint about him that I found amazing, especially when certain calls made during a game were questionable.  Later, I learned that his coach trained him to be calm under pressure.  It served him well.
I remember when he played at Wimbledon.  It was a little over a month before my 12th birthday and a holiday weekend in our country.  The year was 1975.  The most notable thing about that weekend [July 5th] though was that he was playing Jimmy Connors for the title.  No black man had ever won it.  My father and I were glued to the television as we watched that Saturday.
The first two sets went by quickly as he put the pressure on. I think he took both of those sets in less than hour.  Jimmy Connors was NOT happy! I remember that vividly.  Curse words were muttered.  Connors rebounded in the third set and took that one – seven games to five.  But, it was that last set, when cool-as-a-cucumber, Arthur Ashe broke Jimmy Connor’s serve in the 9th game, I turned around and high-fived my father, knowing that he had it in the bag.  He took the match quickly after that — popping a winning volley over the net after he got a weak return by Jimmy Connors.  It was history in making, that game. It was a WOW moment! A black man had won Wimbledon – a first.
To his credit, Jimmy Connors stated in a very sportsman-like manner, “I couldn't find an opening. Whether I served wide balls, or kicks he was there. Everything he did was good: fine returns, short and long, and hard serves and volleys.”
In 1979, he suffered a heart attack.  Arthur was 36 years old.  As a result, he had quadruple by-pass surgery, followed by a second round of corrective heart by-pass surgery in 1983.  I think the only thing crueler than a heart attack that forces you into an early retirement, which occurred for him in 1980 from competitive tennis, is contracting H.I.V. from the blood transfusion you received during the by-pass surgery for said heart attack.  That’s what happened to Arthur.
He worked as an AIDS activist up to & throughout the last year of his life. He was a class act.  A statesman to the world of tennis. He was a man of composure and decency.  More importantly, he was a lesson in grace.
The world lost him to AIDS-related pneumonia 21 years ago today.  Nelson Mandela wrote to Arthur Ashe as his life's end was approaching. I believe Mr. Mandela’s words summed up best how many of us felt about him, “...I hope you feel my embrace...and that it serves to let you know that we love you and wish you well.”

I’m attaching excerpts from a couple of articles here, because I could never say to you as eloquently what they state about Arthur Ashe — things that made him an important figure in history, and there is still more to say and know:

Sportsman of the Year
by Kenny Moore
From Sports Illustrated, December 21, 1992
If you’d like to read the entire article, please go here:

Arthur Ashe epitomizes good works, devotion to family and unwavering grace under pressure

In 1973, after years of trying, Arthur Ashe wrangled an invitations to play in the South African Open tennis tournament. He wanted to see for himself how the world might help press South Africa to ease its system of racial oppression, its apartheid. In Johannesburg he met a poet and journalist, a black man named Don Mattera. The South African watched when Ashe was confronted by young blacks who hissed that he was an Uncle Tom and told him that his visit only served to legitimize the racist white-minority government, which should be boycotted, made a pariah, until it abandoned apartheid. Mattera heard Ashe defend the use of sporting contacts to chip away at injustice. Allowing one black man to compete in the tournament had been a concession by the government, and, Ashe argued, "small concessions incline toward larger ones."
Mattera listened when Ashe cited Martin Luther King Jr. and Frederick Douglass on how, since power surrenders nothing without a struggle, progress can come only in unsatisfactorily small chunks, and even the tiniest crumb must be better than nothing at all. The South African blacks shouted that Ashe didn't grasp the nature of the police state that bore down on them, that in South Africa his Reverend King would have been thrown into Robben Island prison with their Nelson Mandela. In the face of their seething anger, Ashe had the saintly temerity to warn that if they hoped to exert consistent moral pressure, their emotions were best kept controlled.
No minds were changed. Ashe, depressed by the prospect of standing helplessly on the outside while South African blacks suffered, asked Mattera if he, too, felt Ashe shouldn't have come. Mattera answered carefully, saying it was good to know that people in the rest of the world were concerned, but Ashe needed to understand the full extent of Soweto's misery.

A few days later the South African Bureau of State Security banned Mattera, meaning that he was declared invisible and inaudible. He could no longer publish, travel, enter a library or even speak with more than two people at a time. Imprisonment, he knew, might follow. After a final word with Ashe, Mattera went back to his tiny house, put his six children to bed, lighted a candle and wrote:

I listened deeply when you spoke
About the step-by-step evolution
Of a gradual harvest,
Tendered by the rains of tolerance
And patience.
Your youthful face,
A mask,
Hiding a pining, anguished spirit,
And I loved you brother —
Not for your quiet philosophy
But for the rage in your soul,
Trained to be rebuked or summoned. . . .

Mattera's words are an uncanny blueprint of Ashe, a man constructed to hold fast to reason however impassioned his world... ~ NYTimes Obituary

Nelson Mandela, Arthur Ashe, and the Transformative Power of Sports
by Bill Simons
To read the entire article, go here:


Whimsical tennis paintings are delightful, but Mandela’s fateful connection with Arthur Ashe—the athlete who campaigned most strongly against apartheid—was a whole other matter.
For decades, anti-apartheid politics was intense and contentious. Should one follow the pleas of activists and the UN to isolate South Africa’s apartheid rulers by boycotting the nation or instead, should one say that art, sport, and economics have their own dynamic, above the fray and independent of politics? Many, like Paul Simon, the Supremes, McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, and Brad Gilbert, became involved in the harsh controversy.
At first, Ashe wasn’t even aware of the reach of apartheid, and he presumed he could play the South African Open. But his South African friend Cliff Drysdale quickly informed him that he wouldn’t even be allowed into a land where racial rules prevailed. In his book Days of Grace, Ashe recalls that another South African pro, Ray Moore, thought there just might be a way out of the morass. “I think,” Moore suggested, “There is one man in South Africa capable of leading my country out of this mess”
“Is he white?” Ashe asked.
“No,” Moore replied. “He is a black man, a lawyer imprisoned on Robben Island … His name is Nelson Mandela.”
“Mandela? I’ve never heard of him.”
“Well, you will,” Moore insisted. “In fact, I think he will become president of South Africa one day.”
Over time, Mandela and Ashe proved to have much in common. Both were renaissance thinkers with deep wells of calm, possessing a quiet reflective nature that allowed them to adeptly evolve, change course, master a range of challenges, and quietly inspire. And both shared a burning desire for justice that exceeded their deep appreciation of decorum. Over the years, both Mandela, from inside his jail cell, and Ashe, from outside and using his platform of fame, campaigned against apartheid.
Ashe would go through two phases. He began by fighting for years to get a visa to visit South Africa in order to be the first black to ever play the South African Open—on the condition that the stadium be open to both blacks and whites. From 1973 through 1977, Ashe would visit South Africa four times. There, while briefly integrating sports events, he “looked apartheid directly in the face, [and] saw the appalling WHITES ONLY and NONWHITES ONLY signs, the separate and drastically unequal facilities very much like those of my childhood in Virginia. I saw the sneer of superiority on the faces of many whites, and the look of obsequiousness, fatalism, cynicism, and despair on the faces of many blacks.”
Ashe’s trips, including his run to the final of the 1973 South African Open, were sensational happenings. While an angry few raged and called him an Uncle Tom, claiming his presence gave legitimacy to the apartheid regime, most saw him as a role model and beacon—a successful African-American in a black culture too familiar with failure.
Black writer Mark Mathabane said Ashe was “the first truly free black man” he had met, and wondered, “How could a black man play such excellent tennis, move about the court with such self-confidence, trash a white man, and be cheered by white people? …The more I read about the world of tennis and Ashe’s role in it, the more I began to dream of its possibilities. What if I too were someday to attain the same fame and fortune as Ashe? Would whites respect me as they did him? Would I be as free as he? The dreams were tantalizing.”
But the real world struggle to abolish apartheid was daunting and bloody. Amidst heated debates, Ashe became a fierce advocate for the international boycott of South Africa. Invoking Mandela’s position, he convinced the ATP to prohibit the creation of two new proposed South African tournaments. Ashe also moved to have South Africa banned from Davis Cup play, and convinced John McEnroe’s father to stop his son from playing a $600,000 exhibition against Bjorn Borg in Bophuthatswana, South Africa.
Then, in a move that Ashe felt probably cost him his job as Davis Cup captain, he took to the streets and participated in an anti-apartheid demonstration outside the UN, joining the likes of Coretta Scott King and Harry Belafonte as one of 3,000 demonstrators arrested outside of the South African embassy in Washington.
All the while, Mandela was reading Ashe’s writings and telling the world that, once he got out of prison, the first person he wanted to talk to was a tennis player—Arthur Ashe.
Eventually, when apartheid at last tumbled, Mandela told the world, “I stand before you not as a prisoner but as a humble son of a free people.” Soon after, New York City celebrated the triumph with a ticker-tape parade and a town hall meeting at City College. There the circle was completed. Ashe recalled the intimate moment:

“I watched [New York City mayor David Dinkins] go over to Mandela and whisper in his ear. I saw Nelson’s head raise abruptly, and he broke into a beautiful smile.
“Arthur is here?” he asked, with obvious surprise and delight.
“He’s right here,” David said, turning to me.
“Oh my brother,” Nelson said, looking straight at me. “Come here!”
He threw his arms around me and held me for a moment in a most affectionate embrace. He told me that in prison, he had read my three-volume work A Hard Road to Glory, about black American athletes.”

Ashe noted what so many felt, that for Mandela, “to have spent twenty-seven years in jail … to have been deprived of the whole mighty center of one’s life, and then to emerge apparently without a trace of bitterness, alert and ready to lead one’s country forward, may be the most extraordinary individual human achievement that I have witnessed in my lifetime.”
The connection between Mandela and Ashe had evolved into the most significant international bond ever between a politician and an athlete. After all, the two agreed that, as Mandela wrote, “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire, the power to unite that little else has … It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers.”...

• Ashe was also an active civil rights supporter. He was a member of a delegation of 31 prominent African-Americans who visited South Africa to observe political change in the country as it approached racial integration. He was arrested on January 11, 1985, for protesting outside the Embassy of South Africa, Washington, D.C. during an anti-apartheid rally. He was arrested again on September 9, 1992, outside the White House for protesting on the recent crackdown on Haitian refugees.

• In 1973, Arthur Ashe became the first black pro to play in South Africa’s National Championships. Prior to his arrival, Ashe told the South African government that he would not play in front of a racially segregated audience and would not accept limitations on his free speech while in South Africa.

                                                                           Circa 1965

                                             Two GREATS: Arthur Ashe & Nelson Mandela

Amazing Fact: Did you know that after spending 27 years in prison, upon Nelson Mandela's release and prior to his visit to the United States, when asked if there was anyone who HE would like to meet, he replied, "Arthur Ashe."

• Ashe continued to work even though he was weak from the disease of AIDS. During his last ten months of life, he continued to help children. He also demonstrated to support Haitian refugees, continued to fight racial injustice and battled AIDS. He said, “. . . Living with AIDS is not the greatest burden I’ve had in my life. Being black is.” He said in his last speech given the week he died. He said further, “AIDS is killing my body, but racism is harder to bear. It kills the soul.”

“You come to realize that life is short, and you have to step up.  Don't feel sorry for me. Much is expected of those who are strong.” –Arthur Ashe, July 10, 1943-February 6, 1993