Turning history’s pages

September 22, 2022

By Jacquelyn D. Heath
Special to The Milwaukee Times

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Years ago as a journalist in training, one of my professors described journalism and news as “the first draft of history.”

Historic events surely have played a major role in life as we know it during September 2022. As society prepared to commemorate past milestones, time marched on and added other unplanned events to the docket.

The U.S. Open tennis tournament held annually in Flushing, Queens, NY, is a major sports highlight each September. This year it ushered in the retirement at age 41 of phenom Serena Williams. Since 1995 , when she and her sister Venus burst onto the pro tennis circuit from the public tennis courts of Compton, CA, her fierce and focused playing style coupled with incomparable skills dominated the court and broadened the appeal of tennis to a wider audience, particularly in communities of color.

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In men’s tennis, Frances Tiafor competed in the U.S. Open and became the first African American male to advance to the quarter finals since the late Arthur Ashe captured the men’s singles title in 1968.

For the past 21 years, the world has reflected on the events of the morning of September 11, 2001. That day, terrorists commandeered and weaponized airplanes and crashed them into the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon outside Washington, DC, killing thousands of civilians. The term “9-11” has become associated with the concept of blind hatred and international terrorism, similar to how July 4 brings to mind freedom, independence and self-determination It will never be just another date on the calendar.

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September 8, 2022 set off 11 days of mourning and remembrance in Great Britain and shared by the world, with the announcement of the passing of Queen Elizabeth II at age 96. Her 70- year reign made her the longest serving monarch in her country’s history and one of the longest reigning monarchs in world history. Her lifetime encompassed events from the Great Depression, World War II and Beatlemania, to the racial integration of her own family with the marriage of her grandson Prince Harry to Meghan Markle, an American woman of color. Through it all, the Queen’s demeanor provided a constancy that the world probably will not see again anytime soon.

In entertainment, one of Broadway’s original “Dream Girls,” Sheryl Lee Ralph, won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a comedy series for her role as kindergarten teacher Barbara Howard in Abbott Elementary. This is the first win in this category by an African American since Jackee Harry won back in 1995 for playing “Sandra Clark” on 227.

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Quinta Brunson, the creator, writer, producer and star of Abbott Elementary, won the Emmy for that series in the Outstanding Comedy Writing category, the first African American woman to win that award as a solo honoree.

These news events allow us as a human race to view the past and look forward toward the future – if not with a set plan, then with some sense of perspective. Turning history’s pages, we are reminded of how far we have come as a people, but more so, how far we still must go to achieve a more perfect, equitable state of being and opportunity for all.