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Black History

Sheryl Swoopes, The Little Dribbler

Raised by her mother in Brownsville, Texas, young Sheryl Swoopes played basketball with her three older brothers. By age seven, she was competing in a local kid’s league, the Little Dribblers. It was her siblings, she said, that helped her hone her game. “At first, they didn’t like playing with me,” she told the Los Angeles Times. “Then when they did, they wouldn’t play hard. But eventually one brother, James, played ball at Murray State. He’s 6-4. He wouldn’t play hard until he saw how good I was getting, when I beat him a couple of times.”

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WNBA All-Star and AAU alum Sheryl Swoopes.
WNBA All-Star and AAU alum Sheryl Swoopes.

By Tamara Shiloh

In April 1996, women’s basketball announced: “We Got Next.”

The WNBA was approved by the NBA Board of Governors, and games would begin the following year. The inaugural season proved successful as more than 50 million viewers watched the games.

Six months after the announcement, the league signed its first player, Sheryl Denise Swoopes (b. 1971–). In 1997, she was recruited for the Houston Comets. The signing of the contract had been long anticipated, far from the days when a girl turning pro seemed an impossible dream.

Raised by her mother in Brownsville, Texas, young Sheryl played basketball with her three older brothers. By age seven, she was competing in a local kid’s league, the Little Dribblers. It was her siblings, she said, that helped her hone her game.

“At first, they didn’t like playing with me,” she told the Los Angeles Times. “Then when they did, they wouldn’t play hard. But eventually one brother, James, played ball at Murray State. He’s 6-4. He wouldn’t play hard until he saw how good I was getting, when I beat him a couple of times.”

Over time, competing with her brothers increased her confidence, making her eager to test her skills on the blacktop. Swoopes made the basketball team at Brownfield High School, where she developed into an All-State and All-American high school player.

“It helps to play with the guys,” she told the Washington Post. “They’re so much more physical than girls are. Once you go out and you play with guys, and you get in a situation with girls, you think, ‘Well, if I scored on that guy, I know I can score on her.’”

Six feet tall by high school graduation, Swoops stood among the most popular college recruits. Her choice: University of Texas at Austin. It was the only school she seriously considered, yet she’d never given the 400-mile distance much thought.

“It was a big national basketball power, and I thought they could take my game to another level. But once I got there … well, I just didn’t realize how far it was from home,” she said. Homesick, after four days she returned home, relinquishing her full scholarship.

Determined to take her game to another level, Swoops ignored the naysayers predicting her career was already over. She enrolled in South Plains Junior College in Levelland, Texas. There, after her second season, she was named National Junior College Player of the Year. Basketball, going forward, was an uphill climb.

In 1993, Swoopes won the NCAA women’s basketball championship with the Texas Tech Lady Raiders. She has won three Olympic gold medals, an NCAA Championship, and a WNBA title. She was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016. In 2017, she was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.

Share Swoopes’ story about the game with your young daughter. Read “Shattering the Glass: The Remarkable History of Women’s Basketball,” by Pamela Grundy and Susan Shackelford.

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Black History

Ketanji Brown Jackson Sworn In as Newest Supreme Court Justice

Replacing Breyer, Brown Jackson made history as the first African American woman to serve on the highest court in the U.S. and will assume duties immediately, but her formal investiture will occur in the fall.

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Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson made history as the first African American woman to serve on the highest court in the U.S.
Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson made history as the first African American woman to serve on the highest court in the U.S.

On Thursday June 30, 2022, Ketanji Brown Jackson, 51, was sworn in by one of her mentors, Justice Steven Breyer, while her husband, Dr. Patrick Jackson, held both the family Bible and one donated to the Supreme Court in 1906. Replacing Breyer, Brown Jackson made history as the first African American woman to serve on the highest court in the U.S. and will assume duties immediately, but her formal investiture will occur in the fall.

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Black History

OPINION: Black Women Will Suffer Harshest Consequences After the Overturn of Roe

The impact of new abortion bans and restrictions will be felt most acutely by poor and working-class Black women — Black women are significantly more likely to live in poverty compared to white women. For these women, the overturning of Roe won’t mean that abortions will end; it will mean that access to critical, potentially life-saving healthcare will move hundreds of miles out of reach. It will mean time off of work (likely unpaid) and travel and childcare costs — expenses that may not be possible for women living paycheck to paycheck, struggling to simply put meals on the table.

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Glynda Carr is president and CEO of Higher Heights for America.
Glynda Carr is president and CEO of Higher Heights for America.

By Glynda Carr

The Supreme Court just dealt a devastating blow to reproductive rights. With its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson, five Republican-appointed Justices on the U.S. Supreme Court swept away half a century of progress and eviscerated women’s rights and equality. After last month’s leaked opinion, we knew this moment could come, but that doesn’t make the news any easier to digest.

For Black women in this country, the decision is especially devastating. Thirteen percent of American women are Black, but 38% of people receiving abortion care are Black. Abortion is necessary healthcare — and a lack of access can quite literally mean life or death for many Black women. This is especially true for Black women who have lower incomes, live in rural areas, and do not have access to health care because of systemic racism and discrimination.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, Black women are nearly three times more likely to die during childbirth than white women and are more likely to face maternal health issues. With new abortion restrictions and bans, these health outcomes are expected to get even worse: a 2021 Duke University study estimated the potential death toll following a total abortion ban and found a 33% increase in Black women who died due to pregnancy-related complications.

The states that are already moving to ban abortion are among those with the largest Black populations in the country. Consider Mississippi, the state with the highest percentage of Black residents in the nation, and one of the 13 states with a “trigger law” that ensured the decision would result in a near-immediate ban on abortion access. Three other states with the highest proportion of Black residents — Tennessee, Louisiana, and Arkansas — have these trigger laws in place, and many other states, especially in the South, are moving to severely restrict or outright ban abortion.

The impact of new abortion bans and restrictions will be felt most acutely by poor and working-class Black women — Black women are significantly more likely to live in poverty compared to white women. For these women, the overturning of Roe won’t mean that abortions will end; it will mean that access to critical, potentially life-saving healthcare will move hundreds of miles out of reach. It will mean time off of work (likely unpaid) and travel and childcare costs — expenses that may not be possible for women living paycheck to paycheck, struggling to simply put meals on the table.

At a time like this, when daughters suddenly have fewer rights than their mothers and grandmothers, it is challenging to imagine a way forward. But the answer is to do everything we can to restore our rights and ensure every woman has access to the healthcare they need and deserve, a right afforded to them under our nation’s Constitution.

To do that, we need to elect and elevate more Black women. Black women have been at the forefront of the fight to protect and expand reproductive rights — from members of Congress like Reps. Cori Bush, Ayanna Pressley, and Lauren Underwood, to our first Black woman Vice President Kamala Harris, to soon-to-be-seated Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.

We must elect Stacey Abrams to lead the state of Georgia — one of the states that is now positioned to severely restrict — or overturn the right to access abortion care under the leadership of their current governor, Brian Kemp.

And finally, we need to not only encourage, but throw our unwavering support behind more Black women from all across the country to run for office — women who personally understand the deep impact that a lack of healthcare and abortion restrictions have on communities that have lacked fair representation for far too long.

Today and every day, I stand with my partners and allies ready to continue the critical fight for access to affordable, safe, legal abortions for all women, no matter where they live, how they identify, or how much money they have. We will not back down.

Glynda Carr is president and CEO of Higher Heights for America, the only national organization providing Black women with a political home exclusively dedicated to harnessing their power to expand Black women’s elected representation and voting participation, and advance progressive policies.

The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.

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Bay Area

Oakland Mayor Greets Old Friend at Lakefest

Both Oakland natives, Jones and Schaaf became acquainted when the mayor was an Oakland City Councilmember representing District 4. Back then Jones taught her his breathing/aerobics exercises at his fitness studio in the Laurel District, which the mayor has utilized ever since, and which has been an invaluable tool in contributing to her overall health and wellness.

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Jonathan ‘Fitness’ Jones and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.
Jonathan ‘Fitness’ Jones and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.

At Oakland’s Third Annual LakeFest celebration on June 25, 2022, Oakland Post Ambassador Jonathan ‘Fitness’ Jones ran into longtime friend and supporter Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.

As Schaaf exited the stage after making remarks at an event touting Oakland culture through music, dance, fashion, food and more, she greeted Jones by demonstrating his highly acclaimed “breathing aerobics” technique.

Both Oakland natives, Jones and Schaaf became acquainted when the mayor was an Oakland City Councilmember representing District 4. Back then Jones taught her his breathing/aerobics exercises at his fitness studio in the Laurel District, which the mayor has utilized ever since, and which has been an invaluable tool in contributing to her overall health and wellness.

With over 30 years of experience in the health and fitness field, Jones is a member of the African American Sports & Entertainment Group and creator of Breathing Aerobics, a health and wellness company that specializes in teaching specific breathing exercises to improve overall health. He has taught Breathing Aerobics on major television and radio stations, which has earned him the moniker, “Guru of Breathing.”

For more info on Breathing Aerobics go to www.breathingaerobics.com

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