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King Richard Watercooler Talk

Kanene Ayo Holder and special guests discussed King Richard, the Oscar contender starring Will Smith as tennis impresario and father to Venus & Serena.

The Monday after it premiered, we needed to talk about King Richard, the goosebump-inducing story about Venus and Serena Williams’ childhood, their visionary dad and first coach, Richard, played by Will Smith.

In a 2+ hour after-watch conversation, we were joined by legendary Olympian and history-making activist John Carlos, who gave the film “an A+.”  “I thought it was outstanding.  The GOAT for Black movies coming in,” said Carlos.  He added that “when Black people write their story, they write far more of the truth than has been written in the last 100 years in Hollywood.”

Host and moderator Kanene Ayo Holder – two time National Endowment for the Humanities award-winning racism researcher, diversity trainer, activist, and comedian – added her own takeaway:  “All he did was speak love into them. He didn’t speak fear, pain, oppression. He said, ‘You’re gonna be the greatest that ever lived.’  It was divine manifestation.”

Cheryl Bradford, Founder, Women of Color Unite, took issue with critics who questioned the story’s focus on the father. “We don’t get here by ourselves. We stand on our ancestors’ shoulders no matter who they are,” Bradford said. “Black parents have had a lot to go through — more than we did.  I understand he was not perfect. I love that he was not perfect. Those stories need to be told, too.”

TV producer and former Obama advisor Tracy Baker-Simmons shed light on the role of Venus and Serena as executive producers of the film.  “I’m always talking about controlling the narrative. For me, when I see it as a producer, I was impressed that Venus and Serena must have had a lot of say about how their father’s story was told, and they focused on the visionary story: mighty faith, risk taker, pioneer, strategist.  They controlled a narrative and decided how the story would be told.”

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