Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Black History Month - Arthur Ashe and Alice Walker

To obtain equality is not a month's job. (Kenya (Gikuyu)

1944: Alice Walker, the Pulitzer Prize Winning Author of the Color Purple born

Alice Walker is probably best known for her novel, The Color Purple. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and was made into a film that many of us have seen more times than we remember. The Color Purple was also adapted into a Broadway musical play, starring Fantasia Barrino who was American Idol in 2004.

Her activism places her close to my heart. She knew Jim Crow laws because she was born in Georgia to a father who was a sharecropper and a mother who worked as a housemaid. Influenced by Martin Luther King Jr, she registered voters in Mississippi and in Georgia during the 1960s. In March 2003, she was arrested in an anti-war protest outside the White House. Further, her writings focus on the struggles of women against racism and sexism.

But Walker's most greatest gift to us all, in my view, is restoring Zora Neale Hurston to her rightful place in literature. Hurston was forgotten and her work was out of print when Walker discovered her unmarked grave and read her stories. Thanks to Walker, we have access to Hurston’s inspired writings, and we have come to know her memorable characters from Their Eyes Were Watching God – Janie and Teacake. Thanks to her, also, Hurston’s gravesite now has a headstone.

1964 - Arthur Ashe, Jr. became first Black to play on U.S. Davis Cup team.

Arthur Ashe was the first Black picked to play for the US Davis Cup team. He was also the first (and only) African-American to be ranked #1 in the world. Before him, the most prominent Black tennis player was Althea Gibson. She was the first Black American woman to compete in a world tennis tour, and to win a Grand Slam title in 1956.

Ashe remains the only Black American player to win the men’s single at Wimbledon, the US Open, and the Australian Open.

Apart from being an outstanding tennis player, Ashe played a critical role as a human rights advocate. When apartheid South African authorities denied him a visa to play in the South Africa Open, he used this denial to call for South Africa to be expelled from the professional tennis circuit. He was arrested in 1985 for protesting during an anti-apartheid rally, and again in 1992 for protesting a crackdown on Haitian refugees.

Venus and Serena Williams owe much to trail blazers like Arthur Ashe.

Also on this date in:

1780 - Paul Cuffe & six other U.S. Blacks petitioned state legislature for right to vote claiming “no taxation without representation.

Cuffe, Walker, and Ashe have indeed shown by exanple that equality is not a month's job. The struggle continues...


Anonymous said...

nice post. thanks.

Yvonne McCalla Sobers said...

Thanks much for stopping by. All the best.


When the occasion arises, there is a proverb to suit it. (Proverb from Rwanda and Burundi)

Welcome to this space where we can talk about proverbs that we can relate to (or not), and proverbs that make sense to us (or not). Most of all we can discuss how proverbs make us think about life and living. We can also share experiences of proverbs that have provided us with lifelines or just the chance to reflect.

Some of the proverbs here may also be found in "Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs", published by Random House and authored by Askhari Johnson Hodari and me. The foreword is written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

One of the unique features of our book is that we arranged the proverbs according to life cycle, in sections including, Birth, Childhood, Love, Marriage, and Intimacy, Challenge, and Death.

For more proverbs and for information on Lifelines: the Black Book of Proverbs, please visit us at