Archive for the ‘Olympics’ Category

The Lighter Side of Black

Friday, September 14th, 2012

By Maggie Mangiel




One of the most prevalent but unspoken of issues in the black community, in any part of the world, is colorsim.  Even in a day-to-day conversation, we seem unable to escape color references such as, “I’m sure you know Nikki, the tall light-skinned girl”, or, “look at that boy; he’s so dark, he is midnight blue”.  We have been demanding for years that the white community acknowledge, address, and terminate racism, but if we continue to point out the differences in our shades of blackness, how do we expect them to overlook it?  To make matters worse, some of us commit a truly horrific act.  So called “lightening creams” have created one of the most atrocious epidemics encountered by the black community since slavery; bleaching our skin in an unsuccessful attempt to conform to the “norm”.  Whose norm exactly?  In a recent article written  by a New York Times journalist on the issue; he quoted one of the men interviewed, “you have to change yourself, dilute yourself in order to fit into the Western norm and live in White America”.  So in order to succeed, one has to look the part.  This is the message some black celebrities seem to be projecting.  In 1999, North America was mesmerized and captivated as we all watched the home-run record race between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire play out.  I was on team Sosa and even got the jersey to prove it.  There was immense support for Sosa, not only from Chicago Cubs fans, but also from African Americans who didn’t even follow baseball.  An athletic brother with a Latin spice, can’t go wrong with that.  Then two years ago, pictures of a lighter skinned Sosa surfaced and I was wondering many things, but first was “how?”  Apparently, Sosa has undergone a skin-lighting treatment.  Well I was flabbergasted.  What would compel a successful role model to do such a thing?  He is in the spotlight; hell, he is in the record books.  His name has been immortalized.  I felt so ashamed and let down by someone I once idolized.  However, Sosa is not the first black person to do so.  Many other black celebrities, Michael Jackson not included, have been accused of doing it, from Roberta Flack, the Jacksons (Latoya and Janet), to Rihanna and Beyonce.  Many celebrities do it so they can be more acceptable to White America, therefore having more marketability, resulting in an increase in income. 

During the pre-Olympics campaign, US hurdler Lolo Jones was front and center as the face of the US Track and Field team, even though Dawn Harper, the reigning world champion in that discipline, is also an American.  But why was Harper commercially neglected in favor of a less accomplished athlete?  Was it for Ms. Jones’ closer to European features and olive skin color?  We can blame the media for favoring the lighter over the dark all we want, but the ugly truth is; it is not just White America who like it “light”.  The Black community is more than culpable.  Not long ago, HBO released a documentary about the Ali-Frazier saga.  Some of the people interviewed have admitted that one of the reasons Black America was on Ali’s side was the fact that he was the lighter complexioned fighter.  “He was prettier,” they said, and Ali himself, kept re-enforcing that notion by referring to Frazier as a “gorilla”, a “big ugly bear”, and saying things such as; “we can’t let the Asians think that brothers look like that”, even though Frazier’s physical attributes had no merit nor bearing on the sport of boxing.  I do not have to go as far back as the 1970’s to cement this fact.  In the recent history of Hollywood, Pop, and Hip-Hop cultures, the lack of women of darker complexion has been noticeable in those arenas and we would only see them in roles such  as slaves, overweight maids, prison inmates, “crack-whores”, and so on.  None of the women of darker complexion are given a chance at the glamorous roles which portray beauty.  Many rappers for example, including Kanye West, have declared that they prefer women of mixed races, hence lighter complexion as models in their videos.  Since the targeted demographic for Hip-Hop music is predominately African American, it leaves us with one conclusion; we like it “diluted”. 

Last year, a close relative of mine was gazing through my modelling portfolio and said, and I quote verbatim, “why don’t you use some lightening creams like ‘Fair and Lovely’?  Your pictures would look so much better and that would help your career.  You know magazines don’t like dark women.”  So hearing that I was wondering, were the likes of Rihanna right in choosing magazine covers and higher record sales over their own skin color?  Is bleaching the route to follow in one’s journey toward success?  Or am I being too self-righteous for thinking that what they did cannot be justified?  Should the Black youth listen to the lyrics of Vybz Kartel urging them to use the “Cake Soap”?  Is “fair” really “lovely” and should my sisters shed their skin to be considered attractive and marketable?  My answer to all of these question is a resounding N-O!.  It is time we faced this problem head on, shed the self-hatred, and say enough is enough.  I will stand up and may my sisters and brothers help me shout it to the heavens, “I’m black, I’m dark, and I’m beautiful”!


Maggie Mangiel, Fitness Model & Personal Trainer, for War Room Sports

The Greatest Olympian of All Time

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

By Maggie & Paul Mangiel

With advancements in technology, science, and the popularity of the event that occurs once every four years, we find ourselves watching, cheering, and even tweeting the greatest athletes to have ever walked the face of the Earth.  So, naturally the discussions regarding the accolade, “greatest Olympian of all time” will dominate multiple households, websites, and TV screens for the next few weeks.  “Faster. Higher. Stronger” is the motto of the XXX Olympiad games and has been for the whole of the modern era; therefore, the question arises.  Who best embodies this motto?  Out of the multitudes of international heroes who have graced the world’s grandest stage with their mesmerizing and often inspiring performances, out of the many iconic symbols who history has propelled into mythical and legendary status, who amongst them best defines the realization of the Olympic dream?  Most pundits would give the honour to the great Michael Phelps with his astonishing mark of 22 Olympic medals with 18 of them being plated in gold.  Or do you believe it would be unfair to bestow such a distinction merely due to medal count, especially since it is not plausible in many Olympic sports to accumulate such a collection within one lifetime; consequently, is the only logical answer Usain Bolt?  With his outstanding ability to deliver and truly entertain the World like no other.  With mind boggling concerts of majestic sprinting every time he steps on an Olympic track?  But surely the great Jamaican cannot possibly be awarded the title for he is not even the most decorated athlete in the history of his own Olympic discipline.  Sprint legends such as Carl Lewis and Jesse Owens rival and eclipse Bolt’s championships and records total.  Both men only needed one Olympic appearance to achieve what Bolt has done in two Olympics which is amass four gold medals and two world records.  So who possibly can be credited with being the greatest Olympian?  

The answer is no one.  No individual in history can own the the right to be referred to as the greatest Olympian, for this title is not determined by medals or records.  The requirements of this title are beyond measurement and thus cannot exist.  In the Summer of 1968 the hub of Central America, that is Mexico City, was the host site of the 19th Olympiad and it was there where Ethiopian Marathon great Mamo Walde stamped his legacy on the event with a dominant performance over the rest of the field, but the story on that race was not centred around Walde’s momentous victory, but on another man’s refusal of defeat.  John Akhwari of Tanzania made his first and most memorable Olympic appearance in the Marathon that night within the Mexican capital.  He came in as an “under dog”, a flimsy hope from a poverty ridden country, and a miracle was needed for him to medal.  Thanks to a fall which caused him to dislocate his knee and severely cut his shoulder on the 19th km of the 42km race, Akhwari certainly did not medal.  Like the rest of the field the injured athlete was completely helpless to stop the Ethiopian legend from marching towards a gold medal but hours after Walde crossed the line and the large crowd that had attended the games had vacated their seats, the tall emaciated figure of the Tanzanian appeared hobbling into the Olympic Stadium.  Bandaged and bruised with blood flowing down his arm and tears flowing down his cheeks, he crossed the white line on the track that signified he had completed the event that is arguably the greatest test of perseverance and determination the Olympics has to offer.  Finally after a few moments of confusion, one of the last few journalist who still remained approached the exhausted Olympian and asked why he had chosen not to comply with his understandably painful injury and withdrawn from the race?  The man replied, “my country did not send me 10,000 miles to start the race; my country sent me 10,000miles to finish”. 

So what makes Michael Phelps’ or Usain Bolt’s or anyone’s Olympic career any greater than that of this man?  Certainly great champions deserve the respect and reverence they receive, but the Olympics are about much more than winning.  They are a celebration of the greatest gifts and testaments that humanity has to offer.  Olympians are not pawns in a global competition for international supremacy; instead, they are microcosms of their own respective nations with each having their own unique story of struggle but more importantly with each having their own story of perseverance.  The perseverance that catapulted them to now stand in front of the world and embody all that is fair and great about mankind.  The Olympic motto, “faster, higher, stronger”  does not mean to go faster, reach higher, or be stronger than your opponent.  It simply means faster, higher, or stronger is a creed designed to be personalized and inspire all who range from the most dominant of champions to the most obscure of competitors and to believe that there is always room for improvement and advancement within your own life; so it is only logical that it is practiced by every true athlete within their life.  Due to that reasoning,  we are not to compare and contrast these athletes just as we are not to compare and contrast ourselves amongst our peers, but simply to understand the struggle and joy within our own lives and within our world.  Since no two struggles are the same; it would be foolish to critique and compare who possesses more valour.  The Olympic spirit is not meant to be judged but to be admired, and this should hold the same for the athletes.

Maggie & Paul Mangiel, for War Room Sports