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Naomi Osaka and Cori Gauff ‘Razzle Dazzle’ Their Way into US Open Second Round

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*Flushing, NY – Naomi Osaka, WTA world no. 1, kicked off her campaign to defend her US Open title inside Ashe Stadium on Day two of the event. Her last time inside the stadium was both triumphant and heartbreaking. She won her maiden Grand Slam title against her idol, Serena Williams, there, but she was reduced to tears by boos and jeers emanating from the crowd over the controversy between Williams and line judge, Carlos Ramos (he’s banned from officiating any Williams sister match this year).  Could she really put that behind her just play tennis?

Based on her scratchy play during the match, she did appear to be haunted by the past. Who really knows what was going on in her head, but she struggled to maintain her focus the entire match. She took the first set 6-4, but it wasn’t at all pretty. She wasn’t so fortunate to escape her erratic play in the second, however. Her feisty opponent, Anna Blinkova, was finally able to capitalize on one of the many chances she received to break Osaka and leveled the match by winning the second set tiebreaker, 7(7)-6(5). The world no. 1 has been known to turn matches on a dime, however, and was able to do just that in the third. She eked over the finish line with what she called “razzle dazzle:”

“Yeah, I mean, I feel like there was a term for it last year, because I remember last year I did it a lot [won 3-setters],” she said. “I would call it razzle-dazzle. So, like, after [I won] the match I would be, did you like that razzle-dazzle?”

The final score was 6-4, 6(5)-7(7), 6-2.

She’ll move on to “razzle dazzle” Poland’s Magda Linette in the 2nd round.

Meanwhile, Taylor Townsend, an up and down former juniors phenom was able to recover over on Court 7 from going down the first set to Kateryna Kozlova and win her match. Townsend had plenty of opportunities in the first to get it done in straights, but she lost her cool during the important points and made too may careless errors. After the lost set, she reset and in between games pulled out a notebook and apparently drew instruction or inspiration from its contents. Whatever the book contained, it helped her steady her game and ultimately win the match, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.  It was a good come from behind win, but she’ll need to clean up the errors and get her running legs tight, because she’s up against the relentless Romanian and former world no. 1, Simona Halep in the second round.

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Next up was last Wimbledon’s Cinderella, and our countrywoman, Cori Gauff. She made a name for herself on the London grass, beginning her campaign against her idol, Venus Williams. Gauff ended up not only winning that match, but also making her way to the round of 16 … in her very first Major tournament. So, the pressure was on to bring that level of play to the US Open.

She was up against Russia’s Anastasia Potapova, a fellow teen (just 3 years older) and juniors tennis cohort (both former no. 1s and both have GS titles). Potapova had a point to prove and likely saw Gauff as a mere peer who needed to be put back in her place; and the Russian came out pumped and firing winners to bring that to fruition. She darted out to a 3-0 leave, breaking Coco in her first service game. The struggling American looked to be at a loss for a solution and looked over at her box with flailing arms:

“I needed more positive energy,”  she said. “I was nervous. Just looking at them when they’re giving me a fist pump gives me a little reassurance. I think they were nervous. They wanted to stay more reserved, too. I was like, No, I need you guys to come on, stand up, I’m losing 3-Love, I need something to help me.”

They obliged and that’s where the fight began and she found her own “razzle dazzle” to see her through.

Gauff earned plenty of chances, but Potapova wouldn’t release her death grip on the big points. In under 27 minutes, the Russian increased her first set lead to 4-1, then buoyed by the crowd and Cori’s box, the momentum swung. She road the wave and nabbed two more games, recovering one break for 3-5. However, the American was unable to stop the pumped up Russian from closing out the set, 6-3. It was still game on, though.

Coco dropped her serve in the first game of the second set, but was able to quickly recover, leveling it with a break back for 1-all. At first she didn’t have the pop on her ball that her opponent had and had to rely on placement to survive her service games, but as she grew more confident in her shots, she began to take control. She broke at 3-2 and put a little distance between the two, then played smart tennis to extend her lead to 5-2 and go on to take the set by breaking again for 6-2. She let out a fist pumping roar and her box rose to their feet and did the same.

At the start of the third set, both players reset and came out and exchanged breaks of serve. But from there, Coco went on a tear and darted out to a 4-1 lead on her frustrated opponent. But the Russian pulled out a trick and called for a “medical timeout” due to an “ailing shoulder.” That tactic cooled Coco’s momentum and once they resumed she lost her lead:

“Honestly, I just wanted to win so bad, I was trying to really dig deep,” she said after the swing. “I was like, ‘you got to make her play. She’s not going to hand it to you.’”

Then at 4-all, the Russian found her composure again … but Coco was not to be denied. The American got down 0-30 on her service game, but dug deep to hang on to her serve for 5-4. The crowd was electric and 100% on her side and she fed off the energy, taking the next game and the match, 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.

“I mean, it was crazy,” she said of the win and the atmosphere. “Obviously I was nervous going out on the court. It’s such a big court. Then my home slam, so I wanted to do well. The crowd really helped me the whole match. Like, it was really a great atmosphere to play in and a great experience for me.”

Her second-round opponent is Timea Babos of Hungaria.

Maryland native, Frances Tiafoe, also notched a first-round wind on Day two. He needed to overcome 6’11” Ivo Karlovic, who usually dismantles players with his thumping serve alone. Tiafoe was up to the task, however, and had his towering opponent on the ropes, down two sets, 2-6, 3-6 … but that’s where it unexpectedly ended. The Croat retired and gave Tiafoe the walkover. He’ll need the reserves to face his next opponent, the unpredictable but capable opponent, Alexander Zverev.

And last but not least, Sloane Stephens, a former champion at the Open had the honor – or dishonor – of closing out the night session inside Ashe on day 2. She’s no stranger to the massive stadium, as she’s gone as far as to have won the championship, but her current form or lack thereof finds her packing to go back home and figure some things out.  She came Flushing this year having reunited with the coach who helped her win that aforementioned title, Kamau Murray, but maybe it was too little, too late.  She struggled to find her rhythm against Russian qualifier, Anna Kalinskaya.  She struggled on second serve points, didn’t convert on some of her break chances.  Poetic justice maybe, since her “new” coach is embroiled in controversy with his now-former client, Monica Puig?  Puig claims Murray didn’t inform her the reason he wouldn’t be accompanying her to this year’s Open was because he was reconnecting Stephens. She says she was caught off-guard by the news, which she only heard via the media.

 “It doesn’t have anything to do with me, so… Her side is her side,” Sloane said of the controversy.

“But I don’t think we should make it a big situation. I’m sure she’s fully aware of what happened. If she has a problem, then she should approach me. It’s not like I don’t see her all the time.”

“Yeah, to go to you guys and say everything that has been said I think is a little inappropriate. But it is what it is. We move on.”

Whatever the case, neither of the ladies made it past the first round.

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** FEATURED STORY **

’12 Years a Slave’ Screenwriter John Ridley Exposes ‘The Other History of the DC Universe’ with Black Lightning

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*Step into the DC Universe and history awaits. So much history. So many iconic heroes and villains. Yet only one side of the story.

Until now.

Oscar-winning screenwriter John Ridley is opening a new door into the familiar backdrop with his new comic book offering, “The Other History of the DC Universe.” As the name implies, Ridley shines a light on different perspectives of the iconic moments of DC history, from the eyes of heroes of color.

‘The Other History of the DC Universe” kicks off with Jefferson Pierce, a.k.a. Black Lightning for its first issue. The inclusion of Black Lightning was a no brainer to Ridley, whose view of comics changed with seeing the hero on the cover of Justice League #173. The sight of Black Lightning talking to members of the legendary Justice League proved to Ridley that someone like him could exist in the same world as the superhero elite.

“I love comics. I read comics, but I remember the first time I saw Black Lightning as a hero. When I went to the comic book shop, this was mid-’70’s and I was young. But I had to pull back,” Ridley, a longtime comic book fan, recalled while speaking at a media roundtable to promote “The Other History of the DC Universe” about his fateful trip to purchase comics the week he was introduced to Black Lightning.  “And I remember getting that bag that week and honestly, I remember like it was yesterday, and spilling the bag out and going through them and seeing Black Lightning and seeing a hero who looked like me, was a teacher like my mother was. That was really, really impactful for me.”

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Oscar-winning screenwriter John Ridley

Anchored by Ridley, “The Other History of the DCU Universe,” features artists Giuseppe “Cammo” Camuncoli, Andrea Cucchi, and colorist José Villarrubia. Covers for the five-issue bimonthly DC Black Label miniseries were constructed by Camuncoli (with Marco Mastrazzo) and Jamal Campbell. “The Other History of the DC Universe” marks Ridley’s latest venture into the world of comics after finding success outside the genre as a screenwriter with critically-acclaimed and award-winning work in film (“12 Years a Slave”), television (ABC’s “American Crime,” Showtime’s “Guerilla”).

Despite his good fortune in other areas, Ridley’s love of comics and Black Lightning remained as the country transitioned into its current state of strained race relations, a divided political climate and efforts for more diversity. Coupled with frequent protests, the arrival of “The Other History of the DC Universe” couldn’t come at a better time. For the project, Ridley played it close to his heart by selecting heroes “that meant something to me when I was growing up,” while paying respect to DC’s history and readers.

“I didn’t want to do a made-up history of the DC universe. I didn’t want to go through and say, ‘I don’t care about what happened before. This is John Ridley’s version of it.,’ said Ridley. “Honestly, I wanted a reaction…where a fan will look at moments and go, ‘Omigosh, I remember that.’ Here’s some different context.’ It wasn’t about saying the past doesn’t equal the moment that we live in. It was saying we’re here for a reason. We’re here because we’re fans.”

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Jefferson Pierce, a.k.a. Black Lightning

Ridley’s inspiration for “The Other History of the DC Universe” is more personal as each issue reflects the essence of storytelling, with someone telling their version of what happened while relaying their thoughts on how events affected them. With Black Lightning, readers experience his interaction with the Justice League and the world’s view of those with superpowers he felt focused more on worldwide threats than what was going on in his hometown.

“Here’s Black Lightning giving a version of an oral history, saying ‘Yeah, I remember that moment too,’ But it may be a little bit different than an individual would contextualize it, different readers,” Ridley stated. “But also what’s interesting about the series for me is that we also revisit moments from other characters that have a shared moment and may remember it completely differently than Jefferson Pierce did or feel differently about it or feel differently about Jeff Pierce. About, you know, why are you always this way. So for me, more than anything, it was trying to treat these stories as an oral history and getting the reaction that you have.”

Reflecting on stories he heard from his parents, Ridley recounted how moments shared were “were real heartbreak.”

“My dad was in the Air Force. They were all about service. And yet, there were moments where they were treated as just black people. But when we hear stories from people, when people share stories, if you have an ounce of empathy in you, you can hear that pain, that joy, that heartache, heartbreak. The inspiration that comes from an individual. Those stories, again, if you have the slightest ounce of empathy in you, the slightest capacity to see yourself in others, those stories mean much more,” Ridley added. “We definitely could’ve done the other history of the DC universe where it was just about big action moment and here’s Black Lightning just being a hero. Those are great stories because all of these folks are heroes in these stories. But I wanted to try to treat them as though you were listening to your uncle, your brother, your aunt, your sister, your cousin tell these stories in their own voices with their own perspectives and make them in some ways oral histories and so that it wasn’t just about these, a series of giant moments. But these were lives that were being shared. These were perspectives that were being shared.”

Black Lightning’s oral history isn’t the only one readers will be privy to. “Other heroes giving their side of “The Other History of the DC Universe” include Mal Duncan a.k.a. Herald and his wife, Karen Beecher (Bumblebee), Renee Montoya (the Question), Tatsu Yamashiro (Katana) and Black Lightning’s daughter Anissa, a.k.a Thunder.

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Tatsu Yamashiro a.k.a. Katana

“There were many characters that I wanted to try to include. For example, in the first issue, Mari McCabe, Vixen, I did not see the story as having her own story. But there was no way that you could not have Vixen in this series, that her appearances were not just a one and done. There was an arc to it. That is Jefferson Pierce being myopic and underestimating her. I thought that was really important that it wasn’t just characters of color railing against the prevailing culture all the time. Jefferson is a black man of a certain age, with a certain concept of Mari, what she could do and what she couldn’t do. And the next thing, she’s working with Superman. She’s big-time,” Ridley said while highlighting notable appearances from Vixen and John Stewart, one of the most popular Green Lanterns in the comics.

“So his [Black Lightning’s] relationship with John Stewart. A lot of people were like, ‘How could you not have John Stewart?’ John Stewart was always gonna be a part of it. but again, Jefferson’s relation to John and their reconciliation. I wanted to have a very human end.”

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Green Lantern John Stewart, appearing in the pages of John Ridley’s “The Other History of the DC Universe”

The views of black heroes only scratch the surface of “The Other History of the DC Universe.” As much attention is paid to Renee Montoya, a Latinx police officer, as well as Tatsu Yamashiro, a Japanese national living in America during the ‘80s, Ridley made sure these characters’ stories were given their due, adding another layer to his latest opus.

“With Tatsu Yamashiro (Katana), I remember in the ’80s, when America was at its height of anti-Japanese xenophobia. What’s it like for a Japanese national coming to America in the ’80s,” Ridley explained about Yamashiro. “And on the one hand, there are other people who look at her as a hero when she is in costume. There are other people who look at her as a menace when she’s just walking around.

“Renee had to be in it. You want to talk about a character who just started as a minor character in ‘Batman: The Animated Series’ and is now one of the most durable characters in the DC Universe? And played The Question at one point, my all-time favorite character, The Question. So she was gonna be in it. Always,” he continued about his reasons for including Montoya. But also Latinx, a police officer. You know, this series started before our current reckoning on race and police. To tell a story from a police officer’s point of view, who’s Latinx, who’s closeted, who believes in law and order but is also commenting on things like the LA uprising and what that means to her as a police officer.”

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Renee Montoya a.k.a. The Question

Coming back to Black Lightning,” Ridley examined another side of the hero with his daughter Anissa. The young heroine’s point of view is one that differs at times from her father’s, which is shown in the first issue.

“I just thought it was really important to try to bookend this series with a father and daughter. And there are things that you will see in Anissa’s story that goes back in common with what you have seen or read in the very first issue. And again, Jefferson pierce as a human being and things that she has missed, things that he deals with as a man of a certain age. And some of them positive, some of them, I wouldn’t say slightly negative, but certainly representative of a myopia that we see in the black community,” Ridley told the round table. “So it was not just again trying to pick up the characters from column A and column B. the characters that I felt a connection to because I felt like I had seen them grow up over a certain space and time. They had been part of my life. And wanting to be very honorific with the work the creators had done in the past having them arrive in this space.”

Furthering the diversity, Ridley included Duncan and Beecher in to the mix, knowing a couple with different views of the same happening would be a fun aspect to play with.

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Mal Duncan a.k.a. Herald and his wife, Karen Beecher a.k.a. Bumblebee

“It was very important that in this story, we were going to have at least one that was a black couple who were in love, who were sharing their story together. Also, because I thought it would be fun for a couple to…it was kind of ‘The Newlywed Game.’ ‘Wait. What? How do you remember that? No, that wasn’t how it happened.”

As the series examines unique views from its roster of heroes, it’s worth noting each issue takes place around the time the heroes were created by DC. According to Ridley, the time frame ranges from the ’70s to the early 2000s, a period that supports Ridley’s intent to create a real timeline and add weight to each character’s story.

“It was really important to me because I did think it added to the verisimilitude, it added to the reality to say that Jefferson Pierce is only gonna live in a certain amount of time. When the story ends or wherever he be found, he’d be roughly my age,” he said about placing Black Lightning in the ‘’70s. ”The stories begin essentially and I think you see in the issues, they all have timelines on them. I think roughly ‘77 to ’90-something. Technically, it’s a little bit earlier because he is in the Olympics in 1972. But if he was a decathlete, he would’ve been in the ’72 games. He would’ve been around the Munich massacre. What does that mean for him as a person? What does that mean for a guy who wanted to be better because he lost his father and at the games where was going to show what an amazing human specimen he is. it means nothing, compared to the loss of those Israeli athletes.

The Munich massacre was an attack during the 1972 Olympics, involving members of the Palestinian terrorist group Black September. The incident resulted in the deaths of 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team, who were taken hostage by Black September.

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Black Lightning in action as Superman looks from above in the first issue of John Ridley’s “The Other History of the DC Universe.”

“So I wanted those true timelines. Tatsu for example, coming around in the ’80s. What would that mean for a Japanese national? What would it mean for Renée to be a cop in the ’90s,” he added. “We treat it as a timeline. It was important to me because it helps makes these characters and their stories as real

Speaking to EURweb’s Lee Bailey, a humble Ridley welcomed the possibility of ‘The Other History of the DC Universe” crossing over into film as a way for his story to be seen by more people.

“I will say this. I have been very, very fortunate. Obviously, I work in film and I work in television and I continue to do so. So for me, writing a graphic novel was the endgame. It was so special and its’ such precious real estate. I mean I can’t lie. Even if somebody came back and this was successful enough and they said, ‘Hey, we would like to try and make it into a movie or a series or something like that…who doesn’t want to try to reach as many people as humanly possible, said Ridley. “But for me, because I am lucky enough to work in other spaces, it wasn’t about, ‘Oh this only is going to be fun or enjoyable or impactful for me if they make it into a movie. No, I mean the fact that this is going to be out, people are going to, within the confines of the Covid world we live in, go somewhere, purchase it, get it to read it, talk about it, love it, hate it. You know, embrace it. And whatever those things that people do with any issue, I get to be part of that. That is so special, in and of itself. If that is all that happens to it. I could not be more fortunate.”

The first issue of John Ridley’s “The Other History of the DC Universe” is on sale now. The second issue of the miniseries will be available on January 26, 2021.

 

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Is Pres. Elect Biden Obama’s 3rd Term? & What 44 Said About Black America’s Progress Under His Watch on ‘Breakfast Club’ (VIDEO)

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*Attorney Antonio Moore discusses the recent Obama Breakfast Club interview during his Book tour.

Moore harshly critiques the interview of Pres. Obama performed by Charlamagne, DJ Envy and Angela Yee.

He also looks closer at President Elect Joe Biden’s cabinet picks and measures them again Barack Obama & Bill Clinton’s prior administrations.

MORE NEWS: Ripped in Their 50s! Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Strip Down for Weigh-in / WATCH

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** FEATURED STORY **

The Virtual United Negro College Fund Tour Heads to NY, DC & NJ on Fri & Sat-Nov. 20 & 21 (EUR EXCLUSIVE!)

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*African American students interested in going to college can attend the United Negro College Fund’s (UNCF) Fall 2020 virtual Empower Me Tour. Set for this Friday and Saturday (November 20 & 21, 2020), New York, District of Columbia, and New Jersey will be repped. (This year’s tour kicked off earlier this month in Wisconsin and Illinois). To register, go here.

The Empower Me Tour is an extension of the goals of the UNCF. Founded in 1944, the UNCF, a non-profit, has raised more than $5 billion and helped more than 500,000 students attend 37 private historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

The EUR caught up with Stacey Lee, the tour’s director for four years, who discussed the importance of the event.

“The UNCF is the nation’s largest provider of education support to minority students,” said Lee. “The Empowerment Tour has been executed for the past 12 years and last year along we offered over $12 million dollars in scholarships.”

MORE NEWS/RELATED: BMEE Authors: Urgent Steps Are Necessary to Address Implicit Bias in Early Education  

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Stacey Lee, director of the Empower Me Tour. (Photo credit: UNCF)

Lee continued, “I think the great thing is that during these times, even with COVID-19, is that a number of corporations (Wells Fargo/P&/FedEx/Disney/Goldman Sachs) and donors have really been providing opportunity and financial access to our schools and students.”

The tour is packed with information and resources so that students and parents have the right tools to make informed decisions.

“It’s a free event that provides educational support, scholarships, interviews with colleges, empowerment, and information on how to get to and through college. We also provide this information for parents as well. We have a parent section that focuses on financial aid and the things you need to get your students to college.”

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Source: Empower Me Tour

Lee continued, “Sometimes we have students that don’t realize that they can attend college. They can receive scholarships. Some of them don’t even know what an HBCU is. So, it’s inspirational for me to see these students receive this information and the excitement that’s around this tour.”

In addition to college information, panel sessions on issues affecting the community will also take place. Legendary rapper Bun B will be part of a special My Black Is Beautiful panel. The panel will have discussions with girls and boys and the MC will lead the male portion.

“It’s about empowerment,” Bun B told the EUR. “It’s vital for us to lift each other up and amplify each other’s voices. We just talk about now what that role is in this COVID world. And with everything that we are seeing with young Black men on television, we want to keep them motivated and centered. We want to make sure that they are not discouraged in this moment.”

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Legendary rapper Bun B is a panelist at the Empower Me Tour. (Photo credit: UNCF)

Ever since Kamala Harris threw her hat into the presidential race and elected vice president of the United States, a spotlight has shined on the fact that she’s an HBCU grad (Howard University) and member of the African American sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha. These facts are not lost on the UNCF.

“Kamala has really boosted people’s awareness about HBCUs and (African American sororities) and the type of people that come out of HBCUs. HBCUS have also provided so many people from science, mathematics, and engineering programs (STEM).”

Bun B added, “We have more than enough examples to show you how beneficial an education from an HBCU can be. So, there is no reason to not be a part of an HBCU because the world is just as available to you as it is for anyone else attending any other type of university.”

Register for the virtual Empower Me Tour on November 20 & 21, 2020 here. Spring tour dates will be announced soon. For general information on the United Negro College Fund, go here.

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(Photo credit: UNCF)

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