All Hail Queens Serena and Venus: Celebrating the Williams Sisters' Legacies

by Leah C.K. Lewis

Serena Williams is adored. She is revered. She dominates in such an elegant sport and the world knows it. Tennis lovers, especially those of us who understand her impact and age-defying accomplishments, are happy to be alive during her tenure, which is now twenty years and running.

Scores of women across generations, particularly those of us of African descent, find Serena and her older sister, Venus, also a five-time Wimbledon champion, endearing and inspiring. Interestingly, the only times Venus has lost at the Wimbledon finals are the three in which she was beat by Serena. In their supreme wisdom, the athletic gods saw fit to give the world to two chocolate-colored sister-goddesses. Both, after all, are multiple Olympic champions.

In a recent post-match interview, Serena complemented her big sister Venus with splendid attribution. Essentially, Serena noted the benefit of having Venus to look up too, to have as a practice partner, best friend, and confidante. Indeed, Venus, two years older, paved the way for Serena and has upheld her little sister effervescently with tremendous pride and poise as Serena has exceeded Venus in her number of major championships won.

We, the public, have not witnessed any envy, jealousy, or spite from Venus in what would be trying for almost anyone. Likewise, we have not seen arrogance or gloating from Serena. These two biological sisters embody the definition of love: “Love is patient, love is kind; it is not envious, boastful, arrogant, or rude; love does not insist on its own way; and it is not irritable or resentful.”

How blessed they are to have the benefit of one another’s company as they transverse the globe, overcome health challenges, pursue non-sport related interests, and win and lose matches. Together and with a host of family, friends, coaches, and supporters, Venus and Serena continue to surmount challenges associated with succeeding in a sport that has not always been welcoming of them—and which still poses hostilities from time to time—as they establish themselves as the most dominant pair of siblings, by far, in the history of tennis.

Queen Serena has her detractors and haters, but clearly, she drinks their tears as a delicate, and sustaining elixir of haterade. Over the years, I have marveled that neither she nor her sister Venus have ever once slipped and cursed anyone out. Remarkable resolve considering all these two dynamic champions have endured. The Williams are certainly better women than me—and most, if folks are honest. Their decorum shall be an enduring quality in the years to come and has been a standard against the ignorance and vitriol the Williams family has experienced both within and outside of tennis.

Serena is approaching the highest mark of modern-era Grand Slams at an age when most women and men have their best athletic days behind them. This past Saturday, at 33, Ms. Williams won her sixth Wimbledon title. The only other woman to win a Wimbledon title at the age of 33 or older is the great Martina Navratilova. Serena’s strength, fitness, and her stamina are apparent. Never has there been an athlete who has aged as gracefully as a fine cabernet or, better yet, a pinot noir.

With one more Grand Slam title, Serena will tie German Steffie Graf. With three more Grand Slam titles Serena will tie Margaret Court of Australia. So many of us hope we will witness history right along with Serena and Team Williams, should she surpass Ms. Court’s record. I imagine that Ora Washington, Althea Gibson, and Arthur Ashe are smiling while sitting courtside on the other side of the Jordan, cheering her on. In so doing, we know, as they know, that our Ancestors’ struggles in the class-conscious sport of tennis were not in vain.

For African Americans, the Williams Sisters hold particular significance. They are ours, and we are theirs—especially those of us with an appropriate sense of community and healthy self-esteem. We value them and hold at bay any negative depictions (and there have been far too many) of our ladies, who are model world citizens, consummate professionals, and well-rounded human beings.

Possibilities abound when young women and girls see themselves in Venus and Serena. Every little girl should be shown video of Venus and Serena when they were young. The tennis prodigies with their beads and braids, beautiful brown skin gleaming from the sweat of hard work and the beating of the sun, and the swoosh of their rackets on the cracked inner city courts of Compton. It is not hyperbole to assert that the talent held by these once little girls from Compton is emblematic of the potential and promise of every little African American girl.

Thankfully, there are currently a host of young women who are willing to follow in their exceptional footsteps. Taylor Townsend, Madison Keys, and Sloane Stephens are currently carrying Venus and Serena’s ceremonial trains. These young women are making names for themselves, and in the process, will pick up the mantle carried with such distinction by Venus and Serena.

The sisters have been paragons of virtue, dignity, and the idealized “American Dream.” Their mother and coach Oracene Price Williams is as composed as they come under the bright lights and scrutiny of celebrity. Richard Williams, father and coach of the amazing progeny Venus and Serena, is power and protection personified.

Driven by a visionary father, a deeply involved and supportive mother, these two hardworking, but supernaturally talented women, are luminary. Girls and young women have two stellar role models who have done the extraordinary in the rarified world of tennis.

The Williams family has shown the world what is possible even against the longest of odds. All hail, Queen Serena and Queen Venus.

Photo: Shutterstock

Leah C.K. Lewis, J.D., M.Div., D.Min., (ABD), a frequent contributor to is sports enthusiast and former administrator in collegiate athletics. Follow her on Twitter @HumanStriving, Soundcloud, and Facebook. #StayWoke

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