Saturday, May 15, 2010
I've been so busy working on my family tree, gearing up for my journalism classes in the fall, packaging my projects and trying to avoid sinister relatives that I'm afraid I've neglected you.
And even now I'm only back because I took the time to enter an ESPN essay ticket memory contest. And I thought my memory was so damn good that I'd post it here. Because obviously I didn't win or I'd be out shopping for what I would wear to Monday night's Lakers' playoff.
But, hey I wrote and someone is going to damn well read it. Might as well be you.
Here it is, my submission to the Mason and Ireland essay contest.
Submitted by Skye Dent
The year was 1985. I was enrolled at this snooty university in Providence, R.I. Brown University. But, I’d managed to get into a photography class at this hip design school that most people passed while walking down the hill from Brown into the city. It was called The Rhode Island School of Design. (RISD for short, pronounced Riz-D)
A decade earlier and RISD would have been known as cool. A decade later, it would be hip. But, in 85, we used the term “wicked” as in “He was wicked hot.”
Growing up, I had wanted to be Arthur Ashe. That wasn’t meant to be. But, suddenly, I heard that he was going to be inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R. I. I knew I had to be there. Somehow I got a ticket and an invite.
So, I took my Honeywell Pentex K-1000. If you know that camera, you know that was back in the day. Nothing automatic about that single lens reflex. The prism focus probably is considered as ancient as the wheel these days, or at least a spoke.
I hitchhiked to Newport and to the Hall of Fame. It was my first time seeing grass courts, everywhere. People were oh so proper, except for the sports photographers, who like most folks in sports journalism, are pretty down to earth.
The only problem was there were tons of them. Surprisingly, I managed to bluff my way onto the grass courts where Arthur Ashe was getting his award. Probably by saying I worked for the Brown Daily Herald, which was a bad student newspaper, but not as bad as every Brown Bruin sports team back then.
I inches my way closer and closer to Mr. Ashe. I couldn’t believe it. It was like The Red Sea parting. Suddenly, he looked directly at me and waved. I took the shot you see below. Realizing that I might be discovered for the faker I was, I backed away.
I looked around and realized, sadly, that I was the only black person there other than Arthur Ashe and his family. The sports photographers and others had let me through because they assumed, my being there and being black, that I was related to Arthur Ashe.
I looked back at Mr. Ashe and we shared wistful smiles.
In that moment, I knew that my being there, one sole black tennis fan, meant as much to him as it did to me.