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Dad Daze: ‘King Richard’ takes game, set and match

Nov. 28, 2021 Updated Sun., Nov. 28, 2021 at 2:23 p.m.

Aunjanue Ellis, Mikayla Bartholomew, Will Smith, Saniyya Sidney, Demi Singleton and Daniele Lawson in “King Richard.”  (Chiabella James/Warner Bros.)
Aunjanue Ellis, Mikayla Bartholomew, Will Smith, Saniyya Sidney, Demi Singleton and Daniele Lawson in “King Richard.” (Chiabella James/Warner Bros.)

The long Thanksgiving weekend is about tryptophan overload, Cyber Monday (who needs Black Friday?) and blockbusters. Regarding the latter, there are a number of worthwhile films screening, but parents shouldn’t miss “King Richard.”

It’s the incredible true story of the rise of tennis aces Venus Williams and her sister Serena Williams. However, the focal point isn’t on two of the greatest athletes to ever grace a tennis court, but on their father, Richard Williams.

Great move since a dad, not just in the Black community but every community, is integral. While interviewing Chris Rock, I asked the comic-actor icon how he escaped his gang-riddled Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant a generation ago. “We were the only family on the block that had a father,” Rock said. “We never wanted to disappoint him.”

When I asked comic-actors Damon Wayans and his younger sibling Shawn Wayans how the comedy factory of the Wayans Brothers survived and thrived in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen, when the neighborhood name was apt back in the 1980s, Damon Wayans laughed. “Our father made us get up every morning at 5 a.m. to get him coffee,” Wayans said. “We started our day early and always had something to do.”

A study by Thomas, Krampe and Newton shows in 2004 that 39% of African American children did not live with their biological father and 28% of African American children did not live with any father representative. In the African American culture, the father representative has historically acted as a role model for 2 of 3 African American children.

A 2002 survey by Thomas, Krampe and Newton shows how the father’s lack of presence has resulted in several negative effects on children, ranging from educational performance to teen pregnancy.

It would be easy to assume that Williams was hellbent on success on the court only for his pair of prodigies. However, education was always a priority. The journey for the Williams family is extraordinary. What the quirky and demanding father accomplished as the patriarch of a financially challenged family of color to succeed in the privileged lily white world of country clubs is incredible.

“King Richard” is such an inspirational film for parents. Williams always believed in his children, and the bar was always high. The Williams sisters were straight-A students who were raised to be humble despite all of their staggering success.

Williams somehow succeeded even though he defined conventional wisdom with his insistence of his daughter’s using an open stance and avoiding the typical path to professional tennis, which is the junior circuit. Sure, you want your children to succeed, but if they don’t ultimately reach their goal, it’s important to at least try.

After experiencing “King Richard,” I had a discussion with my son Eddie, 19, who is an undeclared college student. Eddie isn’t certain about his career path, but my advice for him is if he’s going to reach for something, the time is now, not at midlife.

Eddie is toying with theater as a major. Sure, it’s very competitive and not the most secure profession, but if that’s where your passion lies, go for it! That’s one of the many messages conveyed in “King Richard.” Williams displayed how a parent can be tough and tender, which is the antithesis of how many parents act when something goes awry as their children are climbing the athletic ladder.

Will Smith, as Richard Williams, is exceptional, and the rest of the cast, particularly Aunjanue Ellis, who portrays his wife, Oracene, offer terrific support throughout this PG-13 film.

None of our children will ever experience the athletic heights of the Williams sisters, but their compelling story will hopefully inspire children and particularly parents to dig a little deeper.

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