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Tennis Club Business HEAD Radical

WHAT DOES BLACK HISTORY MONTH MEAN TO ME?

"Black contributions should be recognized every month."

Bob Davis as posted on the American Tennis Association website:
Born in New York City during segregation, Bob was introduced to tennis at the age of 8. Because of his color, he was not permitted to play in USLTA tournaments, but there was an alternative, the American Tennis Association (ATA).
The ATA was created in 1916 to provide a competitive and networking venue for minorities. During the 1950 and early 60’s, Bob became a 2-time ATA National Champion; winning the ATA Junior National title and the Men's Doubles title with his brother, Hall-of-Famer Bill Davis. A hitting partner for Hall of Famer Althea Gibson and a Life member of the ATA, he competed in the U.S. National Championships (U.S. Open) at Forest Hills and was a USTA Mixed Doubles National Champion in 2006. Off the court, Bob leased the largest private tennis club in New York State in the '70s and managed his family-owned sleep-over tennis Academy in the 80's. He then helped to create and was National Program Director for the Ashe/Bollettieri "Cities" Tennis Program (ABC), which later became the Arthur Ashe Safe Passage Foundation.

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Photo: Bob Davis

TCB: Your ATA bio says you were a hitting partner of Althea Gibson. How did this come about? Can you elaborate?

BD: Althea and I were coached by Sydney Llewellyn in New York.  Syd was a brilliant coach who trained, not only Althea but contributed to Arthur Ashe's career as well as multiple ATA national champions.  Although I was only a teenager at the time, I was well suited to be cannon fodder for Althea.  She was merciless!

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TCB: You were 21 years of age during the Watts riots in Los Angeles. How did you perceive those actions in New York? Did they affect you at all?

BD: I was saddened to see the rampant, sometimes undirected violence of the Watts riots.  Los Angeles was a world away from the Azores, where I was stationed in the U.S. Air Force at that time.  I have come to believe, however, that it is the wanton violence that captures the attention of the lawmakers and the change-makers.  It is unfortunate that very few difficult changes occur without uprisings.

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TCB: Two years later you had to learn about the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King in Memphis, Tennessee. How did this affect you? Had you followed the Doctor's life and work?

BD: The assassination of Dr. King was traumatic for all Blacks. It further convinced us that peaceful protest had its place, but the hatred of Black people was deeply rooted in American culture and those overtly seeking justice were constantly in danger.  The insurrection on our capitol on January 6th, 2021 is further proof that this hatred has only increased as we inched toward racial equality.

Photo: Saratoga Herald Tribune

TCB: A lot of racial injustice issues came to the foreground last year. And with it came Black Lives Matter, the awareness, and the organization. How do you feel about both today?

BD: I think that the Black Lives Matter movement has been intentionally mischaracterized.  It has been positioned by opponents as "Only Black Lives Matter."  I believe that the murders of unarmed Blacks in America gave rise to the movement and I wish it had been named "Black Lives Matter Too!"  

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TCB: What does Black History  Month mean to you today, 46 years after it was first recognized by President Ford and in light of all those 2020 incidents?

BD: Black History Month is a 28-day period set aside to recognize the accomplishments of Black people to the development of the American experience.  I think, however, Black contributions should be recognized every month. Black children need to realize their potential and believe that they can accomplish great things.  Let a child know that, while mom is stopped at that traffic light, that a Black man invented the traffic light system.  Too many Black children believe that their destiny of mediocrity is predetermined.  I've worked on the development of inner-city programs for more than 30 years:  A decade as CEO of the Arthur Ashe Safe Passage Foundation, two decades as CEO of the Panda Foundation, and currently 2 years as President of the Bollettieri Tennis and learning program.  We are making progress, but not quickly enough!

TCB: Thank you, Bob.

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