WNBA star Chiney Ogwumike does it all The Connecticut Sun forward is getting a head start on her potential post-basketball career

There is one rule of thumb Connecticut Sun forward Chiney Ogwumike continually abides by these days as a WNBA player: Don’t wait to begin your next career until after your current basketball career has ended.

It’s a mantra the 25-year-old repeats to WNBA rookies, and a sentiment that carries her through her many off-court endeavors, including her most recent announcement of joining ESPN as an analyst for its newly launched ESPN channel on Kwesé TV. The channel provides coverage and a unique sports experience to fans in Africa. For nearly three weeks, Ogwumike has faithfully rehearsed lines, shadowed on-air talent and attempted to correct her posture to ready herself for the new role.

“It’s an adrenaline rush, almost like playing in a game,” Ogwumike said. “You’re excited, but you don’t know what’s going to happen. You don’t know if you’re going to win, you don’t know if you’re going to lose. I second-guess myself because athletes tend to be different in broadcast. It’s a cool challenge for me because I love sports, it’s an African audience and, to me, the most important thing is, I knew this was out of the realm of what I imagined myself doing, but I knew representation matters.”

As a Nigerian-American, Ogwumike understands the passion African fans have for sports. Physical activities have always served as a bonding experience in her family, and the love for sports is partially responsible for Ogwumike and her older sister, Nneka, turning to basketball after being told they were too tall for gymnastics.

Staying connected and recognizing the need for in-depth sports coverage not only in her home country but throughout all of Africa is something that has been a priority for Ogwumike since her days as an international relations major at Stanford University.

Growing up, Ogwumike would travel back to Nigeria with her family once or twice a year. While attending Stanford and becoming a mentee of former U.S. Secretary of State and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, Ogwumike was encouraged to align her passion for giving back with her academic pursuits. For the first time, Ogwumike made solo trips to Nigeria before studying abroad during her junior year. In her free time, Ogwumike traveled the continent, working with nonprofits on basketball clinics and to help raise money to build basketball courts.

“I saw the country with new, educated eyes,” Ogwumike said. “It was a huge educational experience for me, and I left very optimistic because when you think about Nigeria, you tend to think of a place left behind. But the potential is there.”

After being drafted as the WNBA’s No. 1 overall pick in 2014, Ogwumike immediately went to work. She completed her rookie season averaging 15.5 points and 8.5 rebounds before being named the 2014 Rookie of the Year. Shortly afterward while playing in Italy, Ogwumike suffered a right knee injury that required microfracture surgery. She missed all of the 2015-16 season.

“I think athletes tend to make the injury their narrative,” Ogwumike said. “Injuries happen in sports, but I never wanted to be defined by it, and I think that’s my motive. My mindset has always been I love basketball, it’s my passion, it’s opened doors, but it’s not the be-all and end-all for me. When I got injured, it sucked because I was worried about what would be my basketball future, but the injury also gave me time to step back and think and plan on my future. I know I can’t play forever.”

Thinking ahead, Ogwumike focused less on the pain and slow rehabilitation process and more on how she can continue to strengthen and develop relationships on a different side of the sports realm. During her downtime, Ogwumike took advantage of television time, including co-hosting opportunities on ESPN’s First Take and His & Hers, as well as serving as an analyst for NBATV during the 2015 WNBA playoffs. Ogwumike also partnered with NBA Africa to help launch Power Forward, a youth engagement initiative that uses basketball as a tool to develop health, leadership and life skills in Nigeria.

The next season, Ogwumike returned to the court to finish second on the team with 12.6 points per game and 6.7 rebounds per game, earning her Associated Press Comeback Player of the Year honors. In a situation similar to the first, unfortunate circumstances befell Ogwumike again — this time, in the form of an Achilles tendon injury in her left leg while playing overseas in China.

“The second injury in China was a heartbreaker because I knew something was off,” Ogwumike said. “But I always try thinking of the positive. I got home within three days from China and had surgery quick, because I had doctors on speed dial for my other injury. The situation could be worse for me. If I’m going to be challenged in my career, I’d rather it happen now than later. I also know that my worth is not just my stats. As women basketball players, our worth is not just how we play but how we represent ourselves. Yeah, I’m missing my WNBA season and it stinks, but I’m really excited about this opportunity with ESPN.”

Juggling her WNBA career while co-hosting SportsCenter across subSaharan Africa will present challenges, Ogwumike said, only because it’s uncharted territory for her. Yet, Ogwumike is keeping a positive outlook. As she looks forward to returning to the WNBA in the 2018-19 season, her focus also lies in finding a deeper meaning off the court and giving back to the countries that have given so much to her.

“It’s unique for me because being Nigerian, I know what our passions are, and it’s sports,” Ogwumike said. “If you look at who I am, I’m a Nigerian-American female basketball player. And this show caters to all Africans, especially Nigerians because that’s some of the higher viewership, and I think female sports are on the rise. Even though it’s out of what I perceive to be the realm of possibilities for my career, it’s perfect for me.

“I always try to think of my little sisters and young girls that want to do what I’ve had the opportunity to do. That outweighs the fear. At age 25 it feels like an avalanche, but at the same time it’s like that adrenaline rush that I get from playing, and it’s cool. No matter what your lane is, attack it, do it to the best of your ability, and that can be the thing that opens doors.”

Chicago Sky center Imani Boyette is helping break taboo on mental illness African-Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population

Once there was a 10-year-old girl who found herself in an unexplained and vulnerable position. Filled with hurt and pain, in her mind she thought her presence on this earth was doing more harm than good. In her mind, she was the black sheep of the family. In her mind, she was crying out for help with a voice that no one could hear. But one day, her mind told her it was time to stop crying out. She decided it was time to end the pain she felt, or at least to try.

Before she was the center of the Chicago Sky, she was a child named Imani Stafford-McGee who tried to overdose on headache medication. It was her first attempt at suicide, but it was not her last. She was in a battle for her life. It’s a battle that many in the African-American community face but believe they are not free to discuss.

They are like Amanda Chambers, the founder and CEO of Divine Legacy Publishing, who once didn’t leave her house for three months because of anxiety attacks.

Today, the 22-year old WNBA standout and the publisher are sharing their truth in an effort to dispel the myth that mental health should remain a taboo subject.

Stafford-McGee married her college sweetheart, University of Texas football player Paul Boyette Jr., in 2015. The 6-foot-7 Los Angeles native was drafted 10th overall out of Texas by the Sky in the 2016 WNBA. Last season, she ranked seventh in the league in blocks per game and was named to the WNBA All-Rookie Team.

The troubles for Boyette, the daughter of former WNBA star Pamela McGee, began when she was caught in a custody battle between her mother and father, Kevin Stafford, at the age of 3. The court granted custody of Boyette to Stafford, implying that McGee’s playing career was interfering with her parenting ability. Her older brother, Golden State Warriors center Javale McGee, remained in the care of their mother.

She developed a rocky relationship with her mother and was sexually molested by a family member while in the care of her father. After revealing as a WNBA prospect that she had been sexually abused from the ages of 8 to 12, Boyette began to speak more openly about her battles with depression. It is one of the leading mental illnesses in the black community, followed by attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (commonly known as PTSD).

Using poetry and her WNBA platform, Boyette has become an advocate for mental health, most recently serving as a spokeswoman and summer camp counselor for Sparks of Hope, a nonprofit in Portland, Oregon, that helps children who are survivors of abuse. Through her time speaking out for mental health awareness, she’s observed firsthand the difficulty African-Americans face when approaching this subject. “It is one of the biggest reasons that our community is so heavily afflicted,” said Boyette.

“Poetry helped me find my voice and the confidence to tell my story,” she said. “The more I dove into poetry and shared it with others, I realized my problems weren’t unique. I would go to open mic and poetry slams and watch poetry videos on YouTube and hear all these people speaking openly and authentically about issues that were similar, if not the same, as mine.”

Among the many obstacles that burden the black community, for some the list begins with systemic racism and runs through poverty, police brutality, poor access to quality education, unequal employment opportunities and incarceration. What often won’t be found on that list is acknowledging mental illness.

There is often a “don’t ask, don’t tell” attitude when it comes to this matter, so mental health remains a secretive subject that many African-Americans who struggle with it refuse to discuss or report. While sometimes keeping things under wraps may not have an adverse effect, in other cases it can mean the difference between life and death. For Boyette, it could have been the latter.

According to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, African-Americans are 20 percent more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population. They are also more likely to experience factors that increase the risk for developing a mental health condition, such as homelessness and exposure to violence. The National Alliance on Mental Health states that African-American children are more likely to be exposed to violence than any other race.

There are several components that make publicly discussing mental illness a challenge. One of them is the notion that it’s not real.

Chambers often found herself separating from the outside world for fear of having to explain her anxiety attacks. People often lack empathy when talking about certain disorders, she said.

“It used to be very hard because people’s stock response regarding anxiety is typically, ‘You just need to relax.’ Well, if it was that easy, don’t you think I would do it? I mean, who wants to feel anxious?

“For a long time, I just kept it to myself. I didn’t even try to explain it to my husband, let alone other people. I stayed to myself, didn’t leave the house much, which was easy because I work from home, and I stopped attending events. At the time, it was just easier for me to retreat than to have to explain myself to people who refused to acknowledge that anxiety is a real thing. At one point I didn’t leave the house for about three months.”

Another obstacle is the idea of keeping in-house business in-house. “I was always taught what happens in the Stafford household stays in the Stafford household,” Boyette recalled. And while this tactic helps keep family business private, it can make it difficult to decipher when professional help is needed.

Dr. Janet Taylor, a psychiatrist who has appeared on several television networks, told Essence magazine that there is a general distrust of medical professionals because of their cultural bias.

“There are some health care providers who assume that … strife in black people or having a difficult time are what’s to be expected. In some cases they may normalize what may be a traumatic reaction,” Taylor told the magazine. Compound this with the fact that fewer than 2 percent of American Psychological Association members are African-American and it becomes clearer why black people might not seek help: They don’t believe providers are culturally competent enough to understand their issues.

Chambers found the strength to deal with her anxiety in her company. “It’s one of the reasons I started my publishing company,” she said. “When it comes to my business, I map everything out and set realistic deadlines that my clients and I agree on. Being able to see the deadlines puts me in control, and I don’t feel anxious at all. My clients love it because I’m extremely organized and detailed with everything, which is important in my line of work.”

Boyette found her strength to handle depression in poetry: “I always credit poetry with saving my life, and the many beautiful and supporting people I met through the art.”

Both Boyette and Chambers understand the lack of mental health resources in the black community, and that is why they speak out. Boyette uses her life as a warning to others to seek help. “My biggest word of advice is to keep fighting,” she said. “It sounds so cliché, but I couldn’t fathom my life today at 15-16 because I didn’t want to live. But I’m so overjoyed that someone bigger than me calls the shots.

“I encourage people dealing with these issues to, one, give yourself a break; some days you may only be able to brush your teeth — and that’s OK. But you have to try again tomorrow. And, two, you have to stay hopeful. Hope is the strongest weapon you have against darkness, against sorrow. I encourage people to seek help, be it professional or a loved one.”

Chambers is trying to provide a voice for the voiceless. Through programs with her sorority, Sigma Gamma Rho, Chambers talks about mental health with college students and is more open about it now than ever before. “In the beginning, it was [difficult to talk about having a mental illness]. Now I’m very outspoken about it. I have to be, because somewhere there’s a person who’s been sitting in his or her house for three months because they are scared of what people will say. I have to give that person a voice. I know how it feels to have no voice.”

Rolling Loud. Essence. Lollapalooza: The 13 best rap and R&B festivals of summer 2017 Chance is everywhere, there’s a hip-hop cruise — plus two big weekends in New Orleans

Summer is upon us — why not make a trip to George, Washington (yes, that’s an actual place), or East Rutherford, New Jersey? By June, even the small city of Manchester, Tennessee, will be a go-to destination. As random as these places may seem, they are music meccas: home to iconic summertime festivals.

The official start to summer isn’t until June 21, but while festival season spans nearly six months of the year (bookended by Coachella in mid-April and Made in America in early September), summer is the peak fest time. Jazz, hip-hop, old-school R&B, trap music — there’s a festival lineup of musical artists out there for everyone.

Be careful, though. Lineups and locations can be deceiving. If there’s one thing we’ve learned early on this season, it’s to resist attending a festival organized by Billy McFarland and Ja Rule. The recent debut of the inaugural Fyre Festival was an utter disaster. It began with so much promise: There was a dope lineup of artists, featuring Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music, Rae Sremmurd, Migos and Lil Yachty, and the location was the Bahamas’ Great Exuma (which has an interesting historical connection to America). The festival now faces a $100 million lawsuit. Fyre, though, is an exception to the rule. Festivals reign supreme come this time of year, and summer 2017 has much to offer. Below are the festivals that should be on your radar as we wind up basketball season, head deep into Major League Baseball and WNBA, and prep for NFL preseason.

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival — New Orleans

Usher, Black Thought and Questlove perform with Usher & The Roots during the 2017 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival at Fair Grounds Race Course on April 29, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Erika Goldring/Getty Images

April 28-May 7

Notable performers: Stevie Wonder, Usher and The Roots, Snoop Dogg, Alabama Shakes, Patti LaBelle, Nas and the Soul Rebels, Corinne Bailey Rae, Maze featuring Frankie Beverly

Happening right now in the Big Easy, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is blessing people with an all-star lineup that specializes in feel-good sounds. There’s the legend Stevie Wonder and the O.G. Snoop Dogg. There’s the sweet-singing Patti Labelle (hope she brought some of her pies) and the Grammy Award-winning blues rock collective Alabama Shakes. Boomers and Gen X-ers from far and wide get to two-step to Maze and Frankie Beverly’s “Before I Let Go,” while hip-hop preservationists get to witness Nas float through tracks from his 1994 Illmatic. But the one set in particular to circle in red ink? Usher performing with The Roots. Imagine Questlove on the hi-hat cymbals of “You Make Me Wanna.” Lord, give us strength.

Rolling Loud — Bayfront Park, Miami

May 5-7

Notable performers: Everybody and they mama

Do I go see Future at 9 p.m. on one stage, or Travis Scott on the other stage at 9:30? Do I go see Kendrick Lamar at 10, or Young Thug at 10:30? These are the unfathomable questions that festivalgoers will ask themselves at Rolling Loud — which is the best hip-hop festival lineup since the Rock The Bells days of the mid-2000s. Rolling Loud has come a long way since its debut as a one-day show in 2015 with Schoolboy Q as the headliner. In 2016, it was a three-day event with Future leading the pack. This year’s lineup, though? Kendrick Lamar, Future, Lil Wayne, A$AP Rocky, Travis Scott, Young Thug … the fact that Migos is on the fifth line of the bill is mind-boggling.

Broccoli City Festival — Washington, D.C.

Anderson .Paak and the Free Nationals perform on the main stage at the 2016 Broccoli City Festival.

Kyle Gustafson / For The Washington Post via Getty Images

May 6

Notable performers: Solange, Rae Sremmurd, 21 Savage, Lil Yachty

In the backyard of the country’s 45th president will be a unique display of unapologetic and green-living blackness: Broccoli City. The festival boasts brothers Swae Lee and Slim Jxmmi, who form Tupelo, Mississippi’s, own rock star rap duo known as Rae Sremmurd — the geniuses behind the 2016 megahit “Black Beatles.” The young phenom 21 Savage will be out there “trappin’ so hard,” and headlining the show will be Solange, fresh off winning her first Grammy for “Cranes in the Sky,” the lead track from her No. 1 album A Seat at the Table. Remember, don’t touch Solange’s hair. Don’t touch Lil Yachty’s either. He’ll be taking the stage at Broccoli City, too, swinging his red-beaded braids.

Powerhouse 2017 — Glen Helen Amphitheater, San Bernardino, California

May 6

Notable performers: Big Sean, Lil Wayne, DJ Khaled

Lil Wayne hasn’t released an album in almost two years, but people still love Weezy, and they’ll be there to see him break out his deep catalog of hits at the Powerhouse, hosted by Los Angeles’ Power 106 FM. Wayne will be joined by Detroit’s own Big Sean and the king of the summer anthem himself, DJ Khaled, who recently dropped “I’m The One,” the first single from his highly anticipated album Grateful. And with Khaled set to take the stage, you gotta wonder: Which surprise guests will he bring along? (Insert eyes emoji) Hope his 6-month-old son and executive producer, Asahd, is one of them.

Sasquatch! Festival — Gorge Amphitheatre, George, Washington

Leon Bridges plays an acoustic pop-up show at the Sasquatch Music Festival at the Gorge Amphitheatre on May 29, 2016 in George, Washington.

Suzi Pratt/WireImage

May 26-28

Notable performers: Frank Ocean, Chance The Rapper, Kaytranada, Mac Miller

What better way to celebrate Memorial Day Weekend than with Frank Ocean and Chance The Rapper at one of the most beautiful venues in the country? The Sasquatch! Festival, which launched in 2002, is bringing both for the three-day festival. Ocean headlines Day 1, and Chance closes out Day 3. These two artists became musical gods last summer, with Ocean dropping his first album in four years, and then another album days later, and Chance releasing a Grammy Award-winning mixtape. Both deserve to be on that stage as the last act of the night. Spoiler alert: This won’t be the last time you see Chance’s name on this list.

Spoiler alert: This won’t be the last time you see Chance’s name on this list.

The Governor’s Ball — Randall’s Island Park, New York City

Fans react as De La Soul performs at the Governors Ball Music Festival, June 4, 2016 in New York.

BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images

June 2-4

Notable performers: Chance The Rapper, Schoolboy Q, Majid Jordan, Kehlani, Childish Gambino, Wu-Tang Clan, Rae Sremmurd, A$AP Ferg, YG, Wiz Khalifa, Logic

Another Chance The Rapper festival appearance? Yup, another Chance The Rapper festival appearance. Can’t knock the hustle, and what’s so crazy is, while he’s hitting all these festivals, he’ll be in the thick of his own nationwide spring tour. In New York City, he’ll tee up an epic weekend of music. To be honest, the roster for Day 2 rivals the depth of the Golden State Warriors: YG, A$AP Ferg, Rae Sremmurd, Wu-Tang Clan and Childish Gambino. Sheesh. If you have to pick just one day to go, Saturday is your day.

Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival — Manchester, Tennessee

Recording artist Chance The Rapper performs onstage at Silent Disco during Day 4 of the 2016 Bonnaroo Arts And Music Festival on June 9, 2016 in Manchester, Tennessee.

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for Bonnaroo Arts and Music Festival

June 8-11

Notable performers: Chance The Rapper, The Weeknd, Travis Scott, Tory Lanez, D.R.A.M., Skepta, Gallant

The city of Manchester, Tennessee’s, population of approximately 10,100 balloons by tens of thousands when the masses flock to the fields and stages of Bonnaroo, where the wide range of performers include U2, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Weeknd, Travis Scott and D.R.A.M. And, yes, Chance The Rapper will be at Bonnaroo. His festival appearance tally is up to three.

Summer Jam — MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey

Travis Scott, Kanye West and Big Sean perform at the 2016 Hot 97 Summer Jam at MetLife Stadium on June 5, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Manny Carabel/FilmMagic

June 11

Notable performers: Too many to count

Summer Jam is an institution. Since 1994, the New York City radio station Hot 97 has preserved the sanctity of the hip-hop genre and black musical culture by hosting artists such as The Notorious B.I.G., Mary J. Blige, Aaliyah, Big Pun, Missy Elliott, 50 Cent, Eminem, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Drake, Nicki Minaj, Kendrick Lamar, Jay Z — let’s just stop there, because we could be here all day listing names. Chris Brown, Fat Joe and Remy Ma, Migos and DJ Khaled “& friends,” as noted on the lineup, are among 2017’s crop. One of the most special sets of the show will certainly be delivered by Faith Evans. It’s been exactly 20 years since her husband, The Notorious B.I.G., was murdered in Los Angeles in 1997. She’ll likely perform songs from her new album, which features the slain rapper. Will there be a hologram? R.I.P., B.I.G.

Summerfest — Henry Maier Festival Park, Milwaukee

June 28-July 2 and July 4-9

Notable performers: Future, Big Sean, Migos

Scrolling through the lineup page of 2017 Summerfest, it’s hard to get past a row without discovering another bomb artist who’s scheduled to perform. Ironically, Summerfest has the most diverse bill of any festival this year. The main amphitheater features Paul Simon, Pink, The Chainsmokers, Future, Big Sean, Migos, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan and Sheryl Crow. (How much you want to bet Willie Nelson and the Migos blow an L together?) But don’t sleep on the ground-stage performers, who include Alessia Cara, Steve Aoki, Ziggy Marley, T-Pain, BJ The Chicago Kid and more.

Ironically, Milwaukee’s Summerfest has the most diverse bill of any festival this year.

ESSENCE Festival — New Orleans

Singer Andra Day performs onstage at 2016 ESSENCE Festival Presented by Coca Cola at the Louisiana Superdome on July 3, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for 2016 Essence Festival

June 29-July 2

Notable performers: Diana Ross, John Legend, Mary J. Blige, Chance The Rapper, Solange, Chaka Khan, Jill Scott, India.Arie, Monica, Jazmine Sullivan

Still looking for a Mother’s Day gift for your mama, aunt or granny that you will enjoy as well? Go ahead and cop those ESSENCE Festival tickets. They’ll love you forever, because this lineup is LOADED. Three generations of #BlackGirlMagic will take the stage in the form of Diana Ross, Mary J. Blige and Solange. If that isn’t enough R&B for you, John Legend, Chaka Khan, Jill Scott, India.Arie and Monica all have you covered. New Orleans hometown hero Master P will also be performing. Oh, and Chance The Rapper will be there (that’s four festivals and counting).

Summer Fest Cruise — Miami to Nassau, Bahamas

June 30-July 3

Notable performers: Future, Lil Wayne, A$AP Rocky, Migos

There is nothing in the history of this universe that could be more fun than a five-day cruise from Miami to the Bahamas featuring performances from Future, Lil Wayne, A$AP Rocky and Migos, hosted by none other than DJ Khaled. If you haven’t booked yet, congratulations, you played yourself. Don’t worry, though, DJ Khaled’s Snapchat stories will keep you in the loop — and in the process give you the worst fear of missing out you’ve ever had.

Lollapalooza — Grant Park, Chicago

A general view of crowds watching Flume perform on the Samsung stage during Lollapalooza at Grant Park on July 31, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.

Daniel Boczarski/Redferns

Aug. 3-6

Notable performers: Chance The Rapper, Run The Jewels, Wiz Khalifa, Big Sean, Rae Sremmurd, Migos, Lil Uzi Vert, 21 Savage, Lil Yachty, Joey Bada$$, 6lack, Sampha

Lil Chano from 79th is coming home. After winning three Grammys and embarking upon a cross-country tour (with multiple festival appearances in between), Chance The Rapper is returning to his hometown of Chicago in August as one of the headliners of the four-day, jam-packed Lollapalooza festival. Chance has to bring out former President Barack Obama during his Saturday set. The two saints of Chicago dancing together onstage would be nothing short of legendary.

Made in America — Philadelphia

Jay-Z performs with Pearl Jam during Budweiser Made In America Festival Benefiting The United Way – Day 2 at Benjamin Franklin Parkway on September 2, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Sept. 2-3

Notable performers: Jay Z, J. Cole, Migos, Solange, Run The Jewels, Sampha, Pusha T, Vic Mensa

The finale of festival season couldn’t feature two better top performers. A mentor and mentee. Mr. Miyagi and Daniel Son. One of the greatest of all time in American music and one of the leaders of its new school. Jay Z and J. Cole are the marquee names of this year’s anticipated weekend, with Hov headlining after the warmup from Cole. With Jay’s sister-in-law Solange also on the bill, Made in America 2017 will be all about keeping the family close and fans screaming.

Athletes unite to spread awareness and help stem sexual assault From the NFL to the WWE, athletes are sharing stories of how sexual assault has affected their lives

Although April is designated for Sexual Assault Awareness, former NFL cornerback Wade Davis and other current and former athletes, in collaboration with Mic, are making it their mission to ensure that sexual assault awareness and the quest to end it spans beyond one month.

In four moving videos and a personal essay posted to Mic, Davis, WWE star Titus O’Neil, former Detroit Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy, Atlanta Dream center/forward Elizabeth Williams and Atlanta Dream guard Layshia Clarendon share their very personal stories of how sexual assault has affected their lives in a project called Athletes United.

“My mother was sexually assaulted at 11 years old, and that’s how I was conceived — via rape,” O’Neil said in his video. “And so for me, I’m very passionate about making sure that the same thing that happened to my mother doesn’t happen to other women or young men around the world.”

According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), there are 321,500 victims of sexual assault in America each year. Ninety percent of adult rape victims are female, and Americans ages 12 to 34 are at the highest risk of being sexually assaulted or raped.

For years, rape and sexual assault have been tagged as taboo topics. Only 344 out of every 1,000 sexual assaults are reported to the police. Some of the reasons most victims choose not to report sexual assaults are out of fear of retaliation, not wanting to get the perpetrator in trouble and/or fearing the police would not believe them. Only 3 percent of rapists go to jail.

Sexual assault survivors such as Clarendon and Levy’s wife, Desire Vincent, are taking a different approach to the trauma. Sharing their stories is not only therapeutic, but it can also be a tool to let other victims know they are not alone, besides empowering them and encouraging them to tell their story.

“I walked alone in my shame for years,” Clarendon wrote. “I only recently told my girlfriend, and she was the first person I ever shared my story with. That’s a long time to carry something. Something that I should not have felt I had to carry. I am speaking up because I want people to know that it can happen to anyone, that you are not alone and that it was not your fault.”

Read more about Athletes United and the quest to end sexual assault here.

WNBA style: The black-and-white case Nia Coffey and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough stand out as the athletes keep it clean and simple at the 2017 WNBA draft

The newest WNBA draft class was classy and (only slightly) sassy in New York on Thursday as the first round of picks were announced at a short ceremony. Most of the 10 women who attended the event wore black or white dresses or jumpsuits, simple jewelry, pretty makeup and loosely styled hair that draped elegantly across their shoulders.

Kelsey Plum, the 5-foot-8 guard from the University of Washington who finished her college career with an NCAA-record 3,527 points, was chosen first by the San Antonio Stars, and she set the style stage for a parade of little black shift dresses that seemed to be favored as appropriate for the dressy occasion. Seven of the 10 women present looked like they had reached into their mother’s or aunt’s closet for the simplest, safest frock they could find for their once-in-a-lifetime job placement crowning.

Unlike the young men who enter the NBA draft year after year, the women who are looking to enter the WNBA do not, as a rule, arrive at the draft ceremony dressed in outrageous patterns, bright colors or overly costumey ensembles.

There were no Jalen Rose or Amar’e Stoudemire draft moments in this class (look those up if you ever need a chuckle).

The ladies of the WNBA draft were all about to get paid, but their clothes kind of said, “Yeah, so … I’m just gonna hit up this draft situation real quick before church — I’ll just meet you guys there.” There were no Jalen Rose or Amar’e Stoudemire draft moments in this class (look those up if you ever need a chuckle). This was the fashion equivalent of an SMS text.

After Plum’s announcement and cordial photo op, three lovely ladies who played for the NCAA championship-winning South Carolina Gamecocks team — Alaina Coates, Allisha Gray and Kaela Davis — were drafted in the first round.

There were a few fashionable standouts: Nia Coffey from Northwestern was picked fifth by the San Antonio Stars, and the 6-foot-1 forward’s black dress with cold shoulder cutouts looked cool and modern paired with Coffey’s long gold pendant necklace and a pretty slick of red-orange lipstick.

Best dressed of the night was Shatori Walker-Kimbrough from the University of Maryland, who wore a skintight white pantsuit with an attached cape. The newly minted Washington Mystics guard looked like a cross between a superhero and Solange. Or maybe it was Solange dressed as a superhero. Whichever. It was an excellent, clean look, and Walker-Kimbrough should rock it as many times as she can.

The 2017 WNBA All-Star Game will be held at KeyArena, home of the Seattle Storm, on July 22.

How an all-black high school team starring Oscar Robertson changed Hoosier Hysteria The Crispus Attucks Tigers are back in the Indiana state finals for the first time in 58 years

Long before there was March Madness – which is now a multibillion-dollar industry – there was the more localized phenomenon known as Hoosier Hysteria: the run-up to the Indiana state high school basketball championship.

High school basketball in Indiana has long been akin to religion. When I was playing at Indianapolis’ Crispus Attucks High School, Butler University Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, site of the final rounds of the tournament, was the cathedral. And the state title was and still is the holy grail.

Until 1997, all Indiana high schools, whether they had 100 students or 2,500, were in one single class and competed for the same title. No matter how poorly a school might have fared during the regular season, it got a second chance when the four rounds of the state tournament began.

Today there are four classes instead of one, ranked according to school size from 4A down to 1A. The tournament’s final rounds were moved from Butler Fieldhouse in 1971 and, since 2000, have been played in Bankers Life Fieldhouse, home of the NBA Indiana Pacers and WNBA Indiana Fever. And for the first time in 58 years, the Crispus Attucks Tigers are in the state final on Saturday, competing in Class 3A this time around. You can bet I’ll be there to cheer them on.

The bad, bad Tigers are back.

Breaking a 44-year drought

Before 1955, teams from smaller cities and towns, some so small they were barely on the map, routinely won the state title. No school from Indianapolis – Indiana’s largest city and its the state capital – had won the championship in 44 years of organized high school basketball.

But in 1955, our Crispus Attucks Tigers had an opportunity to change all that – because we were in the state’s Final Four for the first time.

Attucks had been a source of pride for Indianapolis’ black community ever since its doors opened. Our parents, our teachers and our community had taught us pride in ourselves, inner dignity and resilience in the face of adversity. Our school was known as much for its academic excellence as its athletic achievements.

We had lost only one game all season, and we were not going to lose this game. We were comfortable playing at Butler Fieldhouse, where we played many of our “home” games anyway. (Our school gym was too small to host basketball games.) And we were eagerly looking forward to the traditional champion’s ride on the fire truck and a big celebration downtown. Or so we thought, anyway.

No Indiana farm boys here

Butler Fieldhouse was packed with 15,000 fans on that Saturday night, but it seemed eerily quiet as we took the floor against Gary Roosevelt High School, led by burly center Wilson Eison and future NBA star Dick Barnett.

Even Attucks fans, confined as always to a corner of the fieldhouse and surrounded by police, seemed more subdued than usual as they cheered for their “bad, bad Tigers.”

For the first time, two all-black schools were meeting for the state championship. Not only might Indianapolis have its first state champion – Indiana would have its first all-black state champion. That would also be a first for the entire country.

The mythological image of Indiana basketball for many years was that of the skinny farm boy shooting at a rusty hoop nailed above the barn door. But there were no skinny farm boys on the court that night. Both teams were made up of kids who had developed their games on inner-city public playgrounds.

We had changed the game. We had proven emphatically that our up-tempo style of basketball could be just as effective as the plodding, feet-on-the-floor approach many coaches still favored.

And we thought we might have also changed the culture as well. Our fan base was now spreading throughout the city. Luke Walton, the radio play-by-play announcer, was now referring to us as “Indianapolis Attucks.” Perhaps we had opened a small crack in the walls of segregation and discrimination that stood at the time.

The Klan ‘brings us together’

From the time it opened in 1927, Crispus Attucks had been a segregated school. Front organizations for the Ku Klux Klan had pressured the Indianapolis school board into moving black high school students out of the general student population into a separate school of their own. All-black high schools were built in Gary and Evansville as well.

Even in the mid-’50s, the Klan had tremendous influence in Indiana politics, business and education. At one point, an estimated 25 percent of all white men in Indiana were members. One of the Grand Dragons of the Klan was based in Indianapolis, from which he oversaw a fiefdom of 23 states.

Our school was named for a man of color – part African-American, part Native American – who was the first casualty of the Boston Massacre in 1770 and by extension, the American Revolution. According to legend, the Klan marched past our school in a victory parade when the school opened.

But the move to segregate us backfired spectacularly at that time.

Attucks was overcrowded, and its facilities substandard compared with other schools. But most Attucks teachers had advanced degrees, and some had doctorates. Excluded from teaching at white schools, these dedicated men and women were determined to create a superior academic environment within the confines of a segregated school system.

Academics shaped everyone at Attucks

The impetus for academic excellence came from Russell A. Lane, Attucks’ principal from 1930 to 1957. He had a law degree and a doctorate in education, and believed that Attucks should set the standard for secondary school education. He expanded the curriculum accordingly, with college prep courses included.

Lane also emphasized cultural pride, discipline and respect. Athletes were students first and foremost, and enjoyed no special privileges. They were also reminded that any time they stepped on a court or an athletic field, they were representing not just Attucks, but the entire black community.

And while we may not have been aware of it at the time, our quest for a breakthrough on behalf of all-black schools was part of the larger social context of the mid-’50s.

The Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education had legally put an end to school segregation in 1954, although it would take years for the law to be fully implemented.

Earlier in 1955, Marian Anderson – denied the right to sing in Washington’s Constitution Hall 16 years previously – had become the first black artist to sing at the Metropolitan Opera.

Later that year, Emmett Till was brutally murdered in Mississippi, and his killers were never brought to justice. Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus and set off the Montgomery bus boycott that accelerated the civil rights movement.

Ray Crowe speeds up the game

On that evening in Butler Fieldhouse, however, all we were thinking about was winning a state championship. Attucks had come close once previously, reaching the final four in 1951 in Ray Crowe’s very first year as head coach.

For its first six years, Attucks was not allowed to play against member schools in the Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA), and it took 15 years to gain admittance to IHSAA membership and the “Hoosier Hysteria” that was state tournament competition.

Before 1951, Attucks had been focused more on “legitimacy,” on gaining acceptance in the larger community. Its basketball teams played a technically sound but passive, nonconfrontational game so as not to upset anyone.

All that changed when Crowe, a math and physical education teacher, was promoted from assistant coach into the head coach position and, against all odds, launched Attucks’ period of greatest athletic success.

Crowe was totally on board with the Attucks philosophy of academic excellence above all else. That did not mean he was comfortable with the status quo when it came to basketball. He noted that “Some of the older teachers still thought we needed to avoid being too aggressive and confrontational. I needed to make them understand that the worst disgrace we could bring to the school was to lose when we had a chance to win.”

Crowe installed the more up-tempo style of play that his players were already playing on the playgrounds. It was faster, louder, more stop-and-go, more improvised – a style that, like jazz, allowed for individual excellence within a team context.

You had to be in great shape to play for Crowe. You ran on offense, pressed on defense. I think he had probably learned from the visionary coach John McClendon that you could play an all-out running game and score a lot of points while minimizing turnovers and maintaining discipline, good fundamentals and strong defense.

How the ‘Dust Bowl’ shaped our teams

 

My family – dad, mom, older brothers Bailey and Henry, and me – had moved to Indianapolis from the farms of central Tennessee in 1942, when I was 4 years old. Indianapolis was hostile territory if you were black. I was naïve about the depths of segregation in Indianapolis and in the world.

We kids being black, poor, and unwelcome outside our own neighborhood, our activities were pretty much limited to school, church, and sports. And basketball was the king of all sports. Guys played from sunrise to sundown.

There was a vacant lot near our house, and someone put up a backboard and a hoop. Our games would kick up clouds of dust, so the lot became known as the Dust Bowl. Even when we started playing on asphalt courts at the nearby Lockefield Gardens housing project, “the Dust Bowl” became the generic name for anywhere we played outdoors.

Players from Attucks dominated at both the Dust Bowl and the Senate Avenue YMCA, where indoor pickup games were played. The older players didn’t want to play with us younger kids, so we had to keep challenging them until we were competitive enough to stay on the court.

The Dust Bowl was the crucible in which my game was forged. I learned the importance of playing against people who were better than you, so you can learn from them and improve your own game.

Every moment we weren’t on the court, I was off to the side, working on my game. I started developing a side-step, fadeaway jump shot, releasing it above my head so it wouldn’t be blocked by taller players. I would even shoot at night by moonlight until the neighbors would tell me to go home.

Tom Sleet – coach, mentor, inspiration

I could practice all day and night, but I still needed someone to give me direction and structure. That person was Tom Sleet, who coached my seventh- and eighth-grade teams at Public School No. 17 and freshman basketball at Attucks. He taught us the critical importance of the fundamentals – that athleticism and gamesmanship, aka basketball intelligence – don’t mean anything unless you can execute consistently.

We learned how to pivot, how to box out under the boards, how to set a pick, how to pass and cut, how to move without the ball. Basically, we were running what is now known as the triangle offense in the seventh grade. Coach Sleet also emphasized the importance of defense and taught us how to play a tough, intense man-to-man game.

More importantly, he showed us how to become good citizens, and gave us self-confidence, a winning attitude and the encouragement to believe that we could succeed on the court and in other facets of life.

My first experience facing white players on the same court came when I was in the seventh grade at P.S. No. 17. In the eighth grade, we won the city’s first junior high school tournament.

People started taking notice, including Attucks coaches who were in the stands. Some of the older players at the Dust Bowl, seeing how serious I was about my game, started taking me under their wings and giving me helpful tips.

Following our tournament win, we got even more good news in our household: my oldest brother Bailey, better known as “Flap,” was chosen for Crowe’s first varsity squad at Attucks.

Flap was always a better shooter than I was. And where I was quiet and reserved, keeping my true feelings internalized, he was always vocal in speaking up for himself, which often put him at odds with his coach. He went on to star at Indiana Central University, setting an Indiana collegiate scoring record that stood for many years. Then he played for the Globetrotters and briefly for the NBA’s Syracuse Nationals and Cincinnati Royals, but I felt he never got the shot at the pro game that he truly deserved. He died much too young, in 1996.

Flap puts Attucks on the map

But Flap made a lasting contribution to the lore of Indiana high school basketball. His last-second shot capped a 10-point comeback against perennial powerhouse Anderson in the 1951 semi-state finals and put Attucks in the Final Four for the first time.

Even though the team lost in the semifinals and would not make it to the Final Four again for four years, this win was a turning point for Attucks basketball.

Attucks teams brought a new flair to the game, which horrified basketball purists. Having played pickup games at the Dust Bowl for years, they could play “positionless basketball” long before that term was in vogue. They had been further schooled by Sleet and Albert Spurlock, who taught industrial arts and coached track, cross-country and junior varsity basketball. All Crowe had to do was apply the finishing touches.

Crowe ran very few set plays, but his teams still played with discipline – focusing on team success, sharing the ball, working for good shots, deferring to the better shooters, playing within themselves without showboating.

And he emphasized that whatever the fans, your opponents, or the officials threw at you, you were to maintain your poise and composure. Keep your cool. He was not going to lose a game on a technical foul, and his players were not either.

Starting in 1951, Crowe’s teams were burned by bad calls in the state tournament three years in a row. He became determined that referees not be allowed to influence the outcome of a game. (This was a tall order, since there were no black officials in the Indiana Officials Association.) He stressed the need to build an early lead and keep it. His mantra was, “The first 10 points are for the refs … the rest are for us.”

He also allowed his tallest players to dunk the ball during warm-ups, alternating right and left hands, giving opponents a little preview of what they were up against before the game even began.

Attucks’ visually exciting style of play coincided with the emergence of television, and tournament games were now shown live statewide on TV.

I had seen very few varsity games up to this point. But when I watched Attucks beat Anderson on TV, I got a vision of what I could achieve.

Following in my brother’s footsteps

In 1953, Bailey graduated and went on to Indiana Central University. And, thanks to puberty and another summer of work on the farm, I grew from 5-8 to 6-3 and packed on some muscle. As a sophomore, I joined the junior varsity group lined up for tryouts. But Bill Mason, a senior guard I knew well from the Dust Bowl, kept beckoning to me. “Come on over here, Oscar,” he said. “This is where you belong.”

I was the last person chosen for the varsity, and assigned my brother’s old number, 43. Even if you were among the chosen, Crowe made it clear that your first priority was academics. All players from grades nine to 12 met in his homeroom first thing every morning. He called the roll and talked us through our homework assignments. If grades had been issued, he posted them for all to see. And then we were off to the other courses on our schedules. The day was interrupted by a second roll call at midday. The city fathers wanted to make sure we were all “in our place” and not out wreaking havoc.

I enjoyed school – the process of learning, the wisdom our teachers passed on, the personal attention and encouragement they gave us. I was naturally shy and did not raise my hand to volunteer answers, but I was ready if called upon. And bit by bit, I came out of my shell and learned to interact with people in settings other than the basketball court.

Stars Hallie Bryant and Willie Gardner had graduated along with my brother, and we were considered an unknown quantity for 1953-54. I was assigned to play forward and, sometimes the pivot as well. I came off the bench to score 15 points in our opener and started after that.

My game wasn’t yet as consistent as I wanted it to be, but we were winning – despite season-ending injuries to Willie Merriweather, Winford O’Neal and Sheddrick Mitchell, our three tallest and most talented players. By this point, I was assuming more of a leadership role, and coach moved me to guard so I could bring the ball up and create more movement on offense.

Even without our star threesome, we were still competitive till the very end of the season. In the semi-state finals, however, we lost 65-52 to tiny Milan High School, which was en route to a 32-30 championship win over perennial powerhouse Muncie Central, thanks to “the shot” by Bobby Plump.

And we took at least one small step on the culture side. As we advanced through the tournament, superintendent of schools H. L. Shibler arranged for cheerleaders from all the Indianapolis schools to join forces with our cheerleaders for the first time. That became a tradition from that point on.

1955 could be our year

As Attucks’ popularity grew, our “team without a gym” cut down on the road trips and began playing more Indianapolis schools – sometimes at the Arsenal Tech gym on the east side of town, and more and more often at Butler Fieldhouse. We could draw up to 11,000 people for our games, and were supposedly the best-drawing high school team in the country. The money went right back into improving conditions at our school.

Going into the 1954-55 season, our expectations were high. O’Neal had graduated, but Merriweather and Mitchell were back from their injuries. We had a solid, deep squad and another year’s experience playing together.

We finished the regular season 20-1, losing only at Connersville, where we had fallen too far behind to mount a comeback on their wet, slippery court and came up one point short. Then it was on to the sectionals, the regionals, and the semi-state, where we faced basically the same Muncie Central team that had lost to Milan the previous year.

Stealing the ‘game of the century’

Central and Attucks had traded No. 1 rankings all season long, and some of the media were calling this “the game of the century.” And it was a close, hard-fought battle. After numerous lead changes, Central had the ball for a last shot with 10 seconds left, but I deliberately played well behind my man and then leapt forward to steal the pass and seal a 71-70 win.

In the first afternoon game of the finals, New Albany put up a good fight, but we pulled away at the end and won 79-67. In the second game, Gary Roosevelt had its hands full with Fort Wayne North before winning 68-66.

Between the afternoon and evening games, neither Attucks nor Roosevelt teams were permitted to rest in Butler University’s dorms during the break, although white teams had always done so during previous tournament weekends. The Roosevelt players stayed with families in town, while our team was crowded into a downtown hotel room.

We figured Roosevelt would be tired in the second game, and we were right. We pressed them from the beginning, jumped off to an early lead and never looked back. We were up 21 at the half, and the only suspense was about whether we’d score 100 points. Final score: Attucks 97, Roosevelt 74.

Eison, who went on to be named Indiana’s “Mr. Basketball,” had 32 points and set a three-game tournament scoring record. I had 30 with a bit of time left, but when I saw a little-used senior forward named Willie Burnley open near the basket, I felt it was more important for him to get into the championship game scoring column than it was for me to tie the record.

A celebration denied

When the final horn sounded, we could not contain our jubilation as we raced onto the court. There’s a picture of me on a ladder, cutting down the net with a mile-wide smile on my face. But our win came with a bittersweet aftertaste.

As we climbed aboard a fire truck for the traditional ride downtown, followed by a caravan of our fans cheering for their “bad, bad Tigers,” we had a strange feeling about the trip.

And when we got to Monument Circle, we didn’t stop and get off and join our fans in celebration. There would be no downtown celebration. Instead, Mayor Alex Clark read a brief tribute, we took another lap around the circle, and then our parade was redirected to Northwestern Park in the black section near Attucks, where 25,000 people celebrated around a huge bonfire.

That’s when it hit me. It seemed like it was OK for us to win for the city, and bring pride to the general population, but we were still considered second-class citizens. I hung around for a while, but I wasn’t really in much of a mood to celebrate, so I went home.

Soon enough, we learned that city officials had called Lane before the finals and informed him that there would be no celebrating downtown. Merchants and city officials were concerned that if our “colored” fans were permitted to celebrate at Monument Circle, they would riot, loot and destroy businesses, shoot out the streetlights, and engage in all other sorts of unspeakable mischief.

Can’t bring back the thrill

Once we learned what the city fathers had done to us, I was furious. To this day, I cannot forget the pain of being rejected in my own hometown. Our Attucks championship teams have since been celebrated many times, but there’s no way to bring back the innocent excitement our group of deserving black teenagers – who had earned the traditional celebration – was looking forward to at that point in time.

The following year, when we won our second consecutive state championship, capping off an undefeated season and a record 45-game winning streak, I refused to take part in another bogus, second-class celebration, and just went home after the game.

It was obvious that if basketball’s popularity discouraged racial discrimination, the public at large still had not gotten the memo. Athletic excellence might change attitudes on a personal and cultural level, but it could not by itself end institutionalized segregation and discrimination.

Fortunately for history, Bob Collins, a sports reporter for the Indianapolis Star, accurately chronicled all Indiana high school athletic teams – including Crispus Attucks basketball – despite enduring continued harassment from whites.

And that first Indiana state championship remains one of the highlights of my playing career, along with the gold medal won by our undefeated 1960 U.S. Olympic basketball team and the Milwaukee Bucks’ first and only NBA title in 1971. Against all odds, we had accomplished something that could never be taken away.

The ‘bad, bad Tigers’ are back

Attucks’ success had unintended consequences. Middle-class blacks began enrolling their kids in schools other than Attucks, and those schools also snapped up the black student athletes who lived in their districts.

Despite his 179-20 record over seven years, and three consecutive trips to the state finals, Coach Crowe was never named Indiana Coach of the Year. Bill Garrett, a former “Mr. Basketball” who had been the first black player at Indiana University, succeeded Crowe as coach in 1957 and led Attucks to its third state title of the decade in 1959. Crowe had been promoted to athletic director when a new principal replaced Lane.

The traditional fire truck ride downtown was discontinued more than 45 years ago, when the state finals were moved from Butler Fieldhouse to Indiana University’s Assembly Hall.

Lockefield Gardens and the Dust Bowl no longer exist, having given way long ago to the campus of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and IU Health University Hospital.

Attucks was spared the wrecking ball but was downgraded to a junior high school, then became a medical magnet high school serving the hospital. For many years, its days of basketball dominance were but a distant memory.

But now the program has been rejuvenated, and I’m betting that Saturday’s visit to the state finals will not be their last. The “bad, bad Tigers” are back.

Two for Tuesday: First female Globetrotter Lynette Woodard and trailblazing comedian Moms Mabley They both paved the way for other women in their fields to thrive

This week’s Two for Tuesday features a trailblazer in comedy, Moms Mabley, and Lynette Woodard, who is an Olympic gold medalist, the first female Globetrotter and a WNBA standout.

Lynette Woodard

When the Harlem Globetrotters were looking to add a female basketball player to their roster in 1985, they added Olympic gold medalist Lynette Woodard. She immediately made history by becoming the first female member of the Globetrotters, where she spent two years. She later signed with the newly formed WNBA, where she played two seasons.

Born in Wichita, Kansas, Woodard led her team to a state championship during a sophomore year in 1975. As a senior, she was an All-American. She went on to play at the University of Kansas, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in speech communications and human relations. While at Kansas, she scored the most points in NCAA women’s basketball history (3,649). She also made the most field goals (1,572) and had the most field goals attempted (2,994). She set school records in rebounds (1,714), free throws made (505), steals (522), and games played (139).

She spent two years in the Italian women’s league and led all players in scoring. She was the captain of the 1984 Olympic team. She played two seasons in the WNBA for the Cleveland Rockers and the Detroit Shock.

According to biography.com, Woodard has been inducted into 10 halls of fame, including the Naismith Hall of Fame (2002), Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame (2005), and the African-American Sports Hall of Fame (2006).

Publicity still portrait of American actress and comedienne Jackie ‘Moms’ Mabley for Mercury Records, 1965.

John D. Kisch/Separate Cinema Archive/Getty Images

Moms Mabley

Moms Mabley was a trailblazer in her time and was the first black female comedian to grace the stage of the Apollo Theater in Harlem in the 1930s. Her stand-up routine challenged racial bigotry and her albums were funny with a tad bit of raunch.

Mabley’s stand-up persona was that of an old lady in a housedress who often brought to light racial bigotry in the form of humor. But offstage, she was young and glamorous, not allowing female traditionalism to define her.

Mabley was born Loretta Mary Aiken in Brevard, North Carolina, in the 1890s. Her firefighter father was killed in an explosion, followed by her mother who was later hit by a truck. According to biography.com, she endured a traumatic childhood including two rapes in her teens that both resulted in pregnancies.

Mabley didn’t let her traumatic childhood define her. She left home at the age of 14 and later joined the African-American vaudeville circuit as a comedian under the Theatre Owners Booking Association. It was there that she met Jack Mabley. The two entered a short relationship, but it was long enough for her to take his name. She became Jackie Mabley, eventually leading her to change her shtick to that of a nurturing role, leading her to evolve into “Moms.”

Films she appeared in include The Big Timers (1945), Boarding House Blues (1948), and the musical revue Killer Diller (1948), which featured Nat King Cole and Butterfly McQueen.

She also dived into a recording career with Chess Records when The Funniest Woman Alive became gold-certified. Other albums include Moms Mabley at the Playboy Club, Moms Mabley at the “UN” and Young Men, Si Old Men, No. She appeared on variety shows such as The Ed Sullivan Show, and performed at Carnegie Hall.

Mabley died on May 23, 1975. Comedian, actor and The View co-host Whoopi Goldberg paid homage to Mabley with her documentary Moms Mabley: I Got Somethin’ to Tell You, which was presented at the Tribeca Film Festival and was aired on HBO in 2013.

For National Women’s History Month, stories of Undefeated black women From athletes and actresses to soldiers and writers, here are some of the amazing women we’ve written about

To kick off National Women’s History Month, we’re sharing stories about the most Undefeated women who we’ve written about since we launched in May 2016.

They include athletes, actresses, soldiers, musicians, educators, activists and journalists.

According to the National Women’s History Project, “recognizing the achievements of women in all facets of life – science, community, government, literature, art, sports, medicine – has a huge impact on the development of self-respect and new opportunities for girls and young women.”

Here are stories about special women who are truly Undefeated:


  1. LUPITA NYONG’O is always on the queenside
  2. MARY J. BLIGE opens up about her message, her music and yes — her marriage
  3. SERENA WILLIAMS sits down with Common to talk about race and identity
  4. CANDACE PARKER leads Sparks to WNBA championship
  5. The UNDEFEATED 44: African-Americans who shook up the world
  6. STACYE HARRIS — The first black woman to become an Air Force lieutenant general
  7. CHRISTINA HOPPER – The first black female fighter pilot to fly in wartime
  8. ISSA RAE and Insecure
  9. The world of AVA DUVERNAY
  10. SKYLAR DIGGINS and her game preparation
  11. White House reporter APRIL RYAN ON her family, her new book and dealing with Trump
  12. LAILA ALI on new mentoring campaign

Skylar Diggins set to premiere ‘Little Ballers Indiana,’ an AAU documentary on hometown South Bend, Indiana, team The Dallas Wings star’s three-part documentary explores the hope basketball brings to young women

Skylar Diggins couldn’t be a more fitting name for the Dallas Wings point guard, because she just keeps reaching new heights. From legions of young girls sporting her famed Nike headbands, to her feature in Vogue, to her success averaging double digits for the Dallas Wings and signing a contract extension through 2019, Diggins is on top of her game like never before.

The WNBA star has now teamed up with Crystal McCrary, producer/director of Nickelodeon Sports’ Little Ballers and the NAACP Image Award-nominated BET series Leading Women, to bring us Little Ballers Indiana. Amar’e Stoudemire and Lupe Fiasco also have producer credits on this film.

Little Ballers Indiana is a three-part episode documentary that will premiere March 3 on Nickelodeon. The film gives a look at the Sky Digg Soldiers, Diggins’ AAU team for girls, ages 11-12, and their journey throughout the AAU season. The team is right out of South Bend, Indiana — the same state that brought the game out of legends such as Larry Bird and Oscar Robertson. Little Ballers Indiana comments on family, father/daughter bonds, the importance of Title IX, strength as beauty, bullying, images of black women in sports and a WNBA star’s connection to the city that raised her. Most importantly, this film, a little over an hour long, makes a powerful statement about hope through the game of basketball.

Diggins is shattering the stereotypical image of what a WNBA athlete looks like, both on and off the court, because, really, there is no look. And like your average women, she wears many hats. She is an athlete, a businesswoman and a role model. If the game of basketball teaches you anything, it teaches you that being an unselfish player is the key to on-court success. But for Diggins, Dallas isn’t the only team she’s playing for. A hometown hero in Indiana, she reps South Bend hard — especially the young girls.

little-ballers-indiana-1-1487696191-640x639

Nickelodeon

The Sky Digg Soldiers are coached by the man who coached Diggins when she was growing up — her father, Moe Scott. The film follows six girls and their families. Guard Amiyah Reynolds and forward Mila Reynolds are sisters on the team. Amiyah, the youngest of the two sisters, has a unique story as part of the 1 percent of the world’s population affected by vitiligo, a condition that causes depigmentation of the skin. Also on the team are combo guard Alycia Patterson, point guard Bria Brown, forward Ryin Ott and center “Kash” Biffle.

Family is a major theme of this film as AAU calls for not only a player’s commitment but also their family’s. In South Bend, “Coach Moe” was always a staple in the community. He served as the director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Recreational Center, the same place where the Sky Digg Soldiers currently practice.

Diggins joked that she shared her dad growing up because “he’s big on service and the community.” Several years after playing a pivotal role in his daughter’s success, nothing has changed for Coach Moe — service is still at the core of who he is.

Coach Moe played the biggest role in greenlighting the documentary. Before filming, McCrary, the director, sat down with Coach Moe and Roc Nation Sports before gaining access to the families to discuss concerns of the 11- and 12-years-olds being followed around by cameras.

“They trust Moe so much. I think Moe could tell I would take care of their story and tell it with dignity. Having gained the respect of Roc Nation Sports through a vetting process, I met each of the parents before a single camera was turned on. They viewed it as an opportunity for their girls and to be able to share their stories of hope,” McCrary said.

One of those stories was Amiyah’s journey with vitiligo — disease that causes the loss of skin color in blotches. Marcy Reynolds, Amiyah and Mila’s mom, said Amiyah is the bravest person she knows. A young girl, only 11 years old, shares the story of students who attempted to make fun of her skin discoloration. Her older sister, Mila, expressed her protection of her little sister and how basketball has made the sisters best friends. On the court, Amiyah isn’t her vitiligo, but “that girl with the nice jumper,” her mom said.

McCrary now has a special connection with the girls in the film. An ex-high school track and field athlete while growing up, McCrary recalled wishing her parents pushed her in sports the way these families do. “Parents’ weekends are now centered around their kids. It’s now more the norm for parents to be actively involved in kids’ lives,” McCrary said.

McCrary flew the entire cast and their families to New York for three days, where they participated in a photo shoot for Teen Vogue and went to Broadway plays. But family isn’t just a theme limited to their immediate family members — family is what the girls became on and off the court.

For anyone who has ever played AAU, traveling is one of the most exciting parts of it. For a lot of kids, especially kids from the city, AAU is one of the ways they get to see the country. In between tough practices and even tougher tournaments, the film captures the bond the girls develop just being kids, having fun at amusement parks and away from home. For Diggins, this was one of her greatest basketball memories.

“I used to love traveling to different areas, you never know who’s going to play. You’re just a kid having fun. Those are some of my favorite memories,” Diggins said.

Title IX was an important advancement for women’s rights and women in sports. Title IX made it illegal to exclude a person from participation or be denied benefits on the basis of gender under any educational program or activity receiving federal aid. Navigating growing up for young girls is tough, but it’s particularly tough for young girls who play sports.

By age 14, girls drop out of sports twice as much as boys due to a number of reasons, one of them being a lack of access to facilities and the stigma associated with being athletic. Today’s society would have you falsely believe that being athletic means that you can’t be feminine. Thanks to athletes like Diggins and Serena Williams, being a female athlete is becoming redefined.

Al Ott, Ryin Ott’s dad, recalled growing up believing that his sister shouldn’t play basketball. As luck would have it, Al Ott is now the proud father of two female basketball players, and they aren’t too shabby by any stretch of the imagination. The film captures an important moment in which Al Ott reflects on that thinking. “It’s us adults that make the world backwards,” he said. He, along with all of the other fathers in the film, works tirelessly to ensure their daughters’ success, some of them admitting that their daughters are already even better players than they are.

The film also features commentary from WNBA stars Brittney Griner, Elena Delle Donne, Lisa Leslie, Candice Wiggins and Tamika Catchings, among others. All of these women brought very different identities to league and commented on how they dealt with obstacles. Delle Donne dealt with growing up as a 6-foot girl, Catchings had a hearing disability and Griner dealt with her sexuality.

“I got called a lot of things. I was teased for preferring ‘dirt over dolls.’ It was something I dealt with at a really young age. For me, my safe haven was on the floor,” said Diggins. “Nobody could touch me. I was just Sky. Basketball helped me to know who I was.”

Basketball helped shape their confidence in themselves and their futures. The same is true of basketball for the Sky Digg Soldiers. Like anything, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. The Sky Digg Soldiers got off to a dominating start during their AAU season, winning Baylor Youth’s Invitational Tournament. Later in the season, they lost the championship-qualifying game in the Jimmy V Classic. If there’s one thing Coach Moe taught them, it’s the same thing he taught a young Skylar: Get better.

Since their playing days with the Sky Digg Soldiers, all of the girls have continued playing basketball and moved on to different teams. Both Kash and Alycia made their high school basketball teams as freshmen. The Reynolds sisters both moved on to play EYBL 13-under and 15-under basketball. Bria plays on a new AAU team, Lady Impact, and Ryin now plays volleyball and basketball alongside her sister for her high school. Despite some changes, the girls remain family. Diggins still keeps tabs on all of the girls and sees them when she’s in town.

Although the girls’ lives went in different directions, they still all make it a point to work out with Coach Moe at the King Center. Because, for them, home really is where the heart is — at the King Center in South Bend.

Minnesota Lynx Seimone Augustus goes deep on why WNBA players go overseas to make more money WNBA players need higher wages and playing all over the globe helps, but there are consequences

A week after Minnesota Lynx guard Seimone Augustus finished her seven-month season in Russia with the Dynamo Kursk, she was back in Minneapolis for WNBA training camp.

This has been the routine for Augustus, who is entering her 11th season in the league, for eight years now. To make a satisfactory wage, the three-time WNBA champion has opted to give up summers, time with her family and her wife of almost two years to play overseas.

Augustus discussed the wage discrepancy in the WNBA versus international professional leagues with VICE Sports and ESPN Films as a part of executive producer Carmelo Anthony’s The Clubhouse shorts.

“If I have a daughter, I want her to dream just as big as my son,” Augustus said in the film.

As of 2014, almost three-quarters of WNBA players were playing for teams overseas, with some, like Washington Mystic Kristi Toliver, juggling three teams. As juniors and seniors in college, women interested in pursuing a professional career are abruptly introduced to the reality that they will probably have to leave home to earn max money.

In the WNBA, the maximum income a player could earn in 2016 was $109,000. In Russia, that number tripled to $325,000 for one season and as of 2014, a player could earn an estimated $600,000 playing in China, as Brittney Griner reportedly did.

There are a few WNBA players, such as Skylar Diggins and Elena Della Donne, who earn big money from their endorsements, who don’t have to play abroad to pay the bills. But stars such as Crystal Langhorne, Angel McCoughtry, Maya Moore, Nneka Ogwumike, Candace Parker, and many more work during the WNBA offseason.

The WNBA’s stance on the double-dipping can best be described as uneasy. In 2016, the league negotiated with its players association to include a provision in the new collective bargaining agreement that allows teams — or the league itself — to fine players beyond the salary they automatically forfeit, for missing games because of overseas obligations. The league also gave each team a $50,000 “time-off” fund that the team can distribute to players who choose not to go overseas or who limit overseas play to fewer than 90 days.

“The notion of trying to find a way to both recognize the overseas play but also offer an incentive to limit that overseas play was very important to our ownership group,” WNBA president Laurel Richie told The Washington Post in 2014 after the new labor agreement.

As stated, players such as Augustus, who is a three-time Olympic gold medalist, get little to no break when they rotate going from their three-month WNBA season to their foreign teams. This creates little time to mentally and physically recover from long stretches of play and injuries that occur over the course of play. Small injuries can turn into long-term issues requiring surgery without appropriate rest and recovery.

“Obviously, we have to come out and put quality basketball on the floor,” Augustus said. “It’s very hard at times to have quality basketball and have players that are at 100 percent when we play year-round and we’re all kind of banged up. We’re doing the best that we can with the damage that’s been done to our body and very little break.”

While in the NBA, teams have been wary of putting brands on the jersey, Augustus believes branding could be a potential way to increase the stream of money coming into the WNBA and down to the players. The five-time All-Star said teams can do more to increase exposure of their players and their accomplishments by expanding media coverage. NBA players constantly use their likenesses to create greater earnings through endorsing products and services, which could benefit the WNBA as well on a wider scale.

“Without a doubt, we should be able to get those sponsorship deals and really promo that,” said Augustus. “There are just some areas we haven’t tapped into yet. I don’t know why, but there’s a lot of stuff that we can actually get involved with that men cannot touch. You’re not going to catch a man on a Tampax commercial. There’s many things that women use on a day-to-day basis that the league can use and we can use to get where we want to go.”

Augustus explained that she isn’t leaving the WNBA, because she wants there to be something for future generations to aspire to. She also said it would be a letdown of all the work the founders of the league put into it if the current players decided to forgo the league for increased earnings.