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Track and Field Olympic Champion Wilma Rudolph: Lightning Fast

Her athletic performance in Rome earned her the title of one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century.

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Wilma Rudolph/ Wikimedia Commons

As a child she was told that she would “never walk again.” Number 17 of 22 children, she was born prematurely and contracted infantile paralysis at age 4. This left her with a twisted left leg and there was no cure. But to the family of Wilma Glodean Rudolph (1940–1994), those words were nonsensical. Nothing, they thought, would stop young Rudolph from walking.
Together, family members cared for and supported Rudolph. They would remove her brace and massage her injured leg. By age 6, she began to hop. By age 8 she could move around with a leg brace. After surviving bouts of polio and scarlet fever, her prognosis was gloomy. “My doctor told me I would never walk again,” Rudolph had said. “My mother told me I would. I believed my mother.”
By age 11, Rudolph, who dreamed of becoming an athlete, often played outdoors. She began to play basketball with the neighborhood kids. Soon, Rudolph was transitioning into a natural athlete. In high school she broke records and led her team to the state championship, and was nominated All-American in basketball. But a chance meeting with a college coach would take Rudolph in another direction.
Track and field became Wilma’s passion, and like basketball, she was a natural. Her rise was astonishing. While still in high school she was competing on the collegiate level.
At age 16, Wilma competed in the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, Australia, bringing home a bronze medal in the 4×100 relay, and later entered the 1960 summer Olympics in pursuit of the gold. 

Her athletic performance in Rome earned her the title of one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century. She won three gold medals and broke at least three world records, becoming the first American woman to win three gold medals in track and field at the same Olympic game.
At the height of her dream of becoming an international track and field star, the Saint Bethlehem, Tenn.–born Rudolph was dubbed “the fastest woman in the world.” She took advantage of the spotlight and media attention and used her platform to shed light on social issues. A heroic homecoming was held for the new Olympic champion, yet Rudolph refused to attend because the gathering was segregated. She never again competed in the Olympic Games.
Rudolph won the Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year award in 1961 and retired in 1962. She then enrolled in Tennessee State University and completed her degree becoming a teacher and a commentator. She continued her involvement in sports, working at community centers throughout the country.
During a 1995 interview, Rudolph said of her illness: “I never once thought that I would not walk because I was surrounded by people who were positive about it.” And that positive attitude was the backbone of success throughout her life.
Rudolph died of a brain tumor in 1994.

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African American News & Issues

Black Panther Mini Museum Free to BIPOC Juneteenth Weekend

Lisbet Tellefsen is the curator, Linnea Du is the editor, Otherwise provided design, and Art Kotoulas production.

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Graphic courtesy West Oakland Mural Project.

The Mini Museum of the Black Panther Party @ The Mural opens on Juneteenth, June 19, 2021, at 831 Center St., Oakland, CA.  It’s open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.  Tickets for up to five people for a 30-minute tour can be purchased in advance by logging onto westoaklandmuralproject.org.  Children under 12 are free as are BIPOC folks during Juneteenth weekend. Individual tickets can be purchased for $12.50.

Lisbet Tellefsen is the curator, Linnea Du is the editor, Otherwise provided design, and Art Kotoulas production.

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Arts and Culture

Buddy Bolden: The Forgotten Father of Jazz

It is suggested that Bolden was a byproduct of his time and circumstances. He was an improviser; there was no trace of written music left. He performed at the beginning of the age of recorded music and silent film, so there are no known video or audio traces of him. So far, only one photograph of him has been discovered.

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Buddy Bolden holding his coronet is standing to the left of the upright bass player. Wikipedia photo.

Charles “Buddy” Bolden (1867–1831) is one of the central figures in New Orleans music, yet his place in the history of jazz remains tenuous. His name may mean nothing to a casual jazz listener but his legacy, a collage of truth, whispers and some rumors, lives on.

Much of what is known of Bolden comes from oral accounts passed down decades after his death. Records about his life remain scarce. It was often said that he cut hair at a barber shop in New Orleans; jumped from a hot air balloon over Lincoln Park and played his coronet on the way down; moonlighted as the editor of a scandal sheet called The Cricket.

What music scholars do know is that Bolden grew up in the New Orleans’ neighborhood now known as Central City. It’s likely that there, from childhood, he was constantly exposed to brass bands parading through the streets. He probably attended Fisk School and may have even graduated. During this time Bolden began studying the coronet.
Bolden would later become a working musician known for his loud sound and improvisational skills. He played in parades, at picnics, parks and union halls, and was a favorite at the honky-tonks. Yet this talented pioneering jazz musician had schizophrenia.

He was unable to properly read music and had impaired motor function. He only improvised on his coronet, playing the ragtime music popular from the 1890s to the 1920s. It never mattered because people loved him.

Bolden was arrested for the first time in 1906. According to newspaper reports, Bolden, in a fit of psychosis, was convinced he was being drugged or poisoned. He attacked his caregiver, who was either his mother or his mother-in-law. “He was booked on a charge of being insane, and alcohol abuse was cited as the reason for his insanity.”

How long Bolden was jailed is unknown. His life, however, would deteriorate after the incident. He became erratic and unreliable; he eventually quit playing his coronet. His final public performance was during a parade on Labor Day 1906. He dropped out of the festivities before the finish.

Two more arrests were made the following year. After the third (March 13, 1907), Bolden was committed to the State Insane Asylum in Jackson, La. It was there that he would spend the rest of his life.

By the time New Orleans music was dubbed jazz (1918) Bolden had been in the mental asylum for more than a decade. He was a distant memory.

It is suggested that Bolden was a byproduct of his time and circumstances. He was an improviser; there was no trace of written music left. He performed at the beginning of the age of recorded music and silent film, so there are no known video or audio traces of him. So far, only one photograph of him has been discovered.

Bolden died in obscurity. He was buried in Holt Cemetery in New Orleans, but the location is unknown.

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Arts and Culture

Juneteenth Jubilee

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