BY Julian Yap Joe Nin
MAJOR history has been made this week not just in the arena of sports but also in the acting category.
The Williams sisters competed in their ninth Grand Slam final against each other at the Australian Open.
Better yet, Serena Williams made history becoming the first tennis player with the most Grand Slams in the Open era of tennis – 23, surpassing Steffi Graf, who achieved 22 titles throughout her career, after beating her older sister, Venus, 6-4, 6-4.
The entertainment industry could not shy away from the spotlight either.
Earlier this week, the nominations for the 89th Academy Awards were announced.
For the first time in 89 years, three black women have been nominated in an acting category – Viola Davis, Naomie Harris and Octavia Spencer for their supporting roles in ‘Fences’, ‘Moonlight’ and ‘Hidden Figures’.
Yes. This is history. This is news.
Not Kim Kardashian finally being back on Instagram- that is pure bullshit no one cares about. Or at least, not what I care about at all.
Why is all this history? Why is this news?
I’ll tell you why. Let’s start with the Oscars.
After two years of the #OscarSoWhite controversy surrounding the Academy just because of solely white nominees, it is refreshing to see so much more diversity in many acting categories within the Oscars.
Take, these three prolific women, for example.
This is the first time three black women have been distinct nominees in any category.
Let alone, the first time, three black people have been distinct categories in any category.
In fact, it is the first time black people have become the MAJORITY in a category at the Oscars.
This is just the tip of the iceberg.
British’s Dev Patel was nominated for best actor in a supporting category for his role as ‘Saroo Brierley’ in Lion – this marks the fist time an Indian actor has been nominated in this category in decades.
Ethiopian-Irish’s Ruth Negga picked up a nomination for best actress in a leading role for playing a small town girl from Virginia in ‘Loving’ – no black actress has won this category since Halle Berry’s win in 2002.
Hopefully, this streak will end sooner than we think.
People of colour are truly changing the game and giving the white folks, a run for their money.
But the conversation is not over – what about the Latin Americans, Asians or even Native Americans?
Where are they? Why are these groups seldom included in any category?
Let’s take, Asian actors, for example.
Ngor winning his Oscar in 1984, Photo Credit: Buzzfeed
At the 1984 Academy Awards, Noriyuki “Pat” Morita and Haing S. Ngor were nominated in the Best Supporting Actor Category for their roles in ‘The Karate Kid’ and ‘The Killing Fields’, with Ngor winning the award – the last time an Asian actor won in this category or any category.
In 2003, Ken Watanabe was a nominee in the Best Supporting Actor category for his role in ‘The Last Samurai’.
In 2006, Rinko Kikuchi picked up a nod in the Best Supporting Actress category for her role in ‘Babel’ – the first Japanese actress to be nominated for an Academy Award in 50 years.
It is obvious that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done until people of all races are fairly and equally represented by the crème de la crème of film award shows.
The 89th Oscar nominations however, is a great start to creating a more inclusive awards show recognizing talent and diversity, in whatever form it comes – race, color and gender.
This is how it always should be in any award shows within Hollywood or generally speaking, in humanity.
Now, onto the main event.
Great American tennis is going nowhere – as proven by the performance of the Williams sisters at the Women’s Singles final on Day 13 of the 2017 Australian Open at Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Australia.
Serena Williams winning the Women’s Singles meant two things – she officially regains her No. 1 spot over Angelique Kerber in the Women’s Tennis Association rankings and establishes herself as the oldest female Grand Slam Champion in the Open era at 35.
Serena now only stands one title short of Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24, claimed between 1960 and 1973.
Venus Williams’s gallant effort at attempting to take down her little sister at the Australian Open should not be discounted at all – this is the first time since 2009 that she has been in a Grand Slam final.
Her getting to this point is remarkable given her diagnosis back in 2011.
She is still battling a severe illness, Sjogren’s syndrome – an autoimmune disease that causes chronic fatigue and muscle soreness.
But, she faces this obstacle like a champ – with a smile on her face.
Back in the summer last year, she broke back into the top 10, reaching the semifinals of the 2016 Wimbledon Championships after losing to Angelique Kerber in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4.
Now, she leaves Melbourne as the runner-up.
Venus now rises to No. 11 in the rankings.
Clearly, she shows no signs of slowing down. She is just getting started.
Serena did not just make history this week.
The Williams sisters did too – Serena and Venus are in fact, the best siblings in sports history.
No one else has come so far and completely dominated the sport of tennis like they did.
Venus with 7, and Serena with 23, have a combined total of 30 Grand Slams singles titles – making up for almost half of the 67 Grand Slam titles they’ve both competed in since 1997.
Now, THAT is sibling supremacy we will probably not ever get to see in sports or in any athletic discipline.
But let’s be honest, it was not an easy road for both of them at all to get to where they are today.
How did two African-American sisters get transported from being raised in Compton – one of the most gang-ridden, impoverished parts of Los Angeles to wearing-only-white playing at Wimbledon in the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club?
Venus and Serena had to defy more odds than anything else to be standing across the net from one another in Melbourne.
Want to put that into perspective?
The answer is Straight Outta Compton – neither a film nor an N.W.A album.
It was their life – they learnt how to play the game on public courts in Compton with used tennis balls their father, Richard, cadged from country clubs.
The courts had broken glass with weed poking through the cracked concrete.
Today, the Williams sisters have done more than just dominate women’s tennis – they have set the stage and most importantly, opened the doors for women of color to climb the sport’s ladder.
Before the Williams sisters, Althea Gibson was the only black woman to have won a Grand Slam back in 1958.
Don’t forget Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens – just two of a half-dozen African-American women to be ranked in the top 100 in the past decade.
They proved that no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.
Anything is possible.
The Williams sisters will go down in history not only as one of the best female athletes BUT one of the greatest athletes of all time.