The 44 Percent: Serena Williams, Virginia Key homeless encampment update & ‘Nope’

·5 min read

A Black girl from Compton might be the best tennis player ever.

Just let that sink in.

If that doesn’t resonate, think about all the popular conventions challenged by the one and only Serena Jameka Williams.

When Williams revealed her intent to “evolve” away from the game of tennis Tuesday, the sports world suddenly stopped. Fellow athletes wished her the best. Sports columnists tried to capture her legacy. And fans gushed over her esteemed career. That’s because tennis — scratch that, the sports world — has never seen anyone quite like Williams.

C. Isaiah Smalls II author card
C. Isaiah Smalls II author card

Very few athletes have a resume comparable to Williams. Consider this: how many people could have won their 23rd Grand Slam title while pregnant? How many could be back on the court less than a year after overcoming a pulmonary embolism during childbirth? How many could use that near-death experience to call out the medical racism that results in the outrageously high Black maternal mortality rate? And how many could succeed amid incessant attacks about their shape, outfits and playing style?

Williams has been unapologetically herself: someone equally consumed with winning and standing for what’s right. From her bead-laden braids in the 1990s to the victory Crip Walk in 2012 to the incensed response to accusations of coaching in 2018, Williams has transcended tennis while simultaneously reminding little Black girls to never forget their upbringing. Here’s what she wrote in Vogue:

I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my career. Mistakes are learning experiences, and I embrace those moments. I’m far from perfect, but I’ve also taken a lot of criticism, and I’d like to think that I went through some hard times as a professional tennis player so that the next generation could have it easier.

INSIDE THE 305

Miami-Dade County Judge Fred Seraphin, left, is running against challenger Renier Diaz de la Portilla.
Miami-Dade County Judge Fred Seraphin, left, is running against challenger Renier Diaz de la Portilla.

Haitian judges targeted, leaders claim as one race turns ugly over attack flier:

One Miami-Dade court race has taken a rather nasty turn.

The political battle between Miami-Dade County Judge Fred Seraphin and challenger Renier Diaz de la Portilla has turned ugly. A political ad published Seraphin’s cell phone number and also falsely accused him of hiding his arrest record. A college senior at the time, Seraphin spent a night in jail after being arrested on allegations of an armed robbery. The charges were eventually dropped.

“I was falsely accused and was the only light-skinned in a highly suggestive lineup; everyone else was taller and darker than I was,” Seraphin told the South Florida Business Journal in 2001. “I was the one who stood out.”

While Diaz de la Portilla sought to distance himself from the mailer, his brother, Miami Commissioner Alex Diaz de la Portilla, whose political action committee created it, said it was Seraphin who first crossed the line when he told a group of Cuban lawyers that the only good thing about his opponent “is that he’s Cuban.”

An archival photo of a Black family enjoying a day at Virginia Key Beach Park. Virginia Key Beach Park, founded in Miami-Dade County in 1945, celebrated its 75th Anniversary on Aug. 1. The Florida Legislature proclaimed Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020, and each Aug. 1 thereafter, as “Historic Virginia Key Beach Park Day.”
An archival photo of a Black family enjoying a day at Virginia Key Beach Park. Virginia Key Beach Park, founded in Miami-Dade County in 1945, celebrated its 75th Anniversary on Aug. 1. The Florida Legislature proclaimed Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020, and each Aug. 1 thereafter, as “Historic Virginia Key Beach Park Day.”

Homeless encampment on Virginia Key put on hold:

Miami Commissioners’ plan to build tiny homes for homeless people on Virginia Key, once the only beach Black Floridians could visit, has been temporarily paused.

At a press conference Monday, Mayor Francis Suarez and Commissioner Joe Carollo, the proposal’s sponsor, said the 6 month-pause will allow the city and Miami-Dade County officials to work on three key issues: increasing availability of shelter beds, finding alternative temporary housing sites and ending the release of jailed homeless individuals within Miami city limits. The announcement followed criticism from Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, County Commissioner Raquel Regalado and other community members.

“We feel that it’s an unfair burden for the city to have to take care of all the homeless without more help from Miami-Dade County,” Suarez told reporters.

Carollo also accused critics, some of whom disapproved of the Virginia Key plan due to its proximity to the historic Black beach, of playing “the race card.”

“What does this have to do with the historical Black beach?” Carollo said, responding to a question at the press conference. “That’s a mile and a half away, the place that we’re looking at. It’s got nothing to do with the historical Black beach, and those that are using that as the final straw to throw at us, they should be ashamed of themselves.”

OUTSIDE THE 305

Activists participate in the Miami March for Breonna Taylor in downtown Miami on Saturday, September 26, 2020.
Activists participate in the Miami March for Breonna Taylor in downtown Miami on Saturday, September 26, 2020.

Justice Department files federal charges against four officers involved in Breonna Taylor raid:

More than 800 days after police killed Breonna Taylor during a late-night raid of her apartment, several federal charges have been filed against four of the officers.

Three of the officers, Sgt. Kyle Meany and detectives Joshua Jaynes and Kelly Goodlett, are accused of fabricating an affidavit that justified the raid. A fourth officer, Brett Hankison, is charged with violating the rights of Taylor, her boyfriend Kenneth Walker and three of her neighbors when he fired his gun.

“What we’ve been saying was the truth, that they shouldn’t have been there,” Tamika Palmer, Taylor’s mother, said, later adding, “I’ve waited 874 days for today.”

United States’ Brittney Griner (15), right, drives past Japan’s Maki Takada (8), left, and Himawari Akaho (88), center, during women’s basketball preliminary round game at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Friday, July 30, 2021, in Saitama, Japan. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
United States’ Brittney Griner (15), right, drives past Japan’s Maki Takada (8), left, and Himawari Akaho (88), center, during women’s basketball preliminary round game at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Friday, July 30, 2021, in Saitama, Japan. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Brittney Griner sentenced to nine years in prison:

Two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner was sentenced to 9-1/2 years in a Russian prison last Thursday. The WNBA superstar has been imprisoned since her February arrest on accusations of carrying two vape cartridges containing cannabis oil.

There’s still hope that Griner won’t serve the majority of the sentence, Negotiations for a potential prisoner swap involving Griner and former security consultant Paul Whelan for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout are underway, according to multiple media reports.

HIGH CULTURE

“Nope” director Jordan Peele at the premiere in Los Angeles on July 18, 2022.
“Nope” director Jordan Peele at the premiere in Los Angeles on July 18, 2022.

A little praise for Jordan Peele’s ’Nope’:

Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio. Quentin Tarantino and Samuel L. Jackson. Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. Jordan Peele and Daniel Kaluuya.

OK sure, it might be a little premature to add Peele and Kaluuya to the list of great director-actor duos. But having followed the critically-acclaimed “Get Out” with another stellar film in “Nope,” the two might end up on that list. Released July 22, “Nope” explores a family’s encounter with a monstrous U.F.O. while exploring themes of exploitation, legacy and voyeurism. The film has already surpassed $100 million at the domestic box office, the first R-rated film do so since January 2020.

Similar to “Get Out,” “Nope” is a film that deserves to viewed on the big screen with surround sound.

Where does “The 44 Percent” name come from? Click here to find out how Miami history influenced the newsletter’s title.