By Jean H Charles
Naomi Osaka, the new world sensation in tennis at 20 years old, benefits from an aura that will transform her into one of the most sought after brands in the world. Issue from a mother from Japan, a father from Haiti and growing up in the United States, she has an astute father who plans long ahead the future of his two daughters, Naomi and Mari.
He has them carry the name of their mother Osaka, he has the surname Mari spelled without the e unlike Marie in French and brought the whole family to South Florida in the United States where the environment is friendlier to a mixed race family. Having observed the story of Mr Williams who dedicated his life to coach his two daughters Serena and Venus to become world stars in tennis, he decided, “Eureka, I would prepare my two girls to become the next tennis sensation in the world.”
When they were prepared to confront the large public, he decided to have them carry the Japanese flag to glory and to stardom. It was an astute and strategic decision because the brand can reap the entire Japanese and Asian market with the rest of the western world as surplus.
I am a devotee of the US Open in Flushing Meadow Park. In fact, in the last 40 years I have lived in Elmhurst, New York, in the shadow of the Arthur Ashe stadium where I have maintained my press accreditation for the last 15 years. With the US Open coming right after the West Indian Carnival that comes on the first Monday of September, the tennis championship in Flushing lasted a full 15 days of excitement and grand living.
There in the complex, filled with flowers, good food, tennis entertainment and the beau monde that come from all over the world you would thought that you have found nirvana or the lost paradise.
Albeit it lasts a very short period, the entire building structure is closed right after the events with a skeleton staff just for repairs and preparing the venue for next year’s tournament. The US Open brings to the coffers of the City of New York millions and millions of dollars, with tourists following one of the best tennis tournaments in the world.
There were the Williams’ daughters Venus and Serena who, adroitly coached by their father, have been the tennis sensations for decades, with Serena carrying some 24 trophies. Here is now the decade of Osaka, expertly coached by their Haitian born Maxime Jean Louis.
I could have ridden on the plane of celebrity by filing before the game my story titled: I am predicting Naomi will beat Serena. But I was too preoccupied by another event: the 500th anniversary of the charter by Charles V creating the enslavement of millions of blacks from Africa to the Americas and to the West Indies. My next essay, “The Duty to Remember”, wants to perpetuate in the minds of future generations the suffering of the ancestors, the need for repairing and the obligation to rise up to one’s divine destiny.
This is the story of the father and the mother of Naomi. It started when young Jean Louis obtained a scholarship to study in Japan. At the university he met the young mother. In the mono-cultural environment of Japan, the ethos is suspicious of any foreigner, say, a black man. The young couple had to leave Japan to settle in 2006 in South Florida, where the sky is more hospitable to a mixed race family.
Naomi was only five years old when she moved to Florida in a tight knit environment that is the staple of both Haitian and Japanese cultures. That is where the father has discovered the story of the Williams sisters, and he said to himself, “Eureka, my two daughters will become one day the next Serena and the next Venus.”
I am certain Naomi is familiar with the Haitian music, in particular Tabou Combo, the Haitian band that is celebrating this year its 50th anniversary and which is very popular in Japan. I could not watch the game live because the Haitian local television stations were not astute enough to relay the game live for the Haitian public. But Naomi became a sensation on the Haitian social net as soon as the game was over.
Dear Naomi, as you circle the globe bringing in more trophies for Japan in different venues such as Wimbledon in London, Roland Garros in Paris, do remember you are also a daughter of Haiti. Carry that beautiful country in your heart and your spirit, albeit it has been characterized as a shitty place by one of the world’s leader.
Indeed, misery and garbage and corruption are its everyday lot but it is a place that enchants the visitor with its mountains after mountains, the bon enfant attitude of its citizens, its strong culture born from the patrimony of the fight to win freedom from slavery for millions of black people in the world. Invite the Japanese people to come and invest in Haiti. Urge them to do even more, to teach us to rise up after a calamity, as you did after the catastrophe of Hiroshima.
As a Haitian and Caribbean origin, carry the hope and the aspiration of the region to rise up and to reach the zenith. Do remember to always bring along in the tournament your bottle of castor oil (huile mascriti). I have provided a liter to Serena William’s father for his daughter. I am certain your grandmother on your father’s side will teach you that the mascriti oil will soothe the muscles as they flex to strike those shots so formidable that any competitor will have a hard time to sustain.
You have been branded as the ambassador of change for Japan and also the ambassador for change for Haiti. In Japan you will teach the citizens of your mother homeland that cultural diversity is an asset; in Haiti you will teach the citizens of your father homeland that they must rise up to their divine destiny of emancipator nation and shy away from corruption, greed and avarice to practice fraternity and solidarity amongst each other.
There are thousands of young men and women in Haiti in the urban and rural areas who can also become tennis champions, bringing more glory to Haiti. Be the champion of that movement for building hundreds of tennis courts in each town, so tennis will stop being the field of the rich and the famous but for one for all children in the world!