Written by Staff Writer
Written by Staff Writer Alexandra Ulmer
King Richard’s ensembles of African American athletes have been used in a number of sporting events in the United States, like the Congressional Black Caucus Youth Sports Experience.
The US Olympic Committee also use the pieces to introduce athletes, such as London 2012 pole vault silver medalist Dalilah Muhammad, sprinter Galen Rupp and wrestler Ravaughn Thomas as they represent Team USA.
But they’re usually just the shells to flank the naked star himself; when founder Trevor Benjamin and his team made a few tweaks to their mural of Richard Williams in Harlem, they also changed the dynamics and purpose of the piece.
Originally as a poster for Richard’s mom to use to prove that she taught him sports, and has been used to showcase and bring visibility to the sports of Richard’s all-black boy teams.
The latest version is a more personal and laid-back, albeit, still powerful one.
Juliana Williams — Richard’s daughter, who serves as his representative and ambassador in her search for a way to make her father’s inspirational legacy a reality — says the mural is inspired by her late mother, the American singer and songwriter Aretha Franklin.
“Dad always loved Aretha Franklin,” says Williams. “When he would want to sing to the ladies, the ladies would come up and he would sing her songs, ‘Respect,’ ‘(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,'” she says.
“If dad didn’t know what she was saying then he knew that something meant something to him. There’s so much music from Aretha Franklin in the letters that my mother wrote to my dad.
“My sister and I grew up thinking that that’s something we would inherit because we had read it so many times. We are always reminded that something has meaning and it came from the heart.
“Her loss and importance in the American pantheon of history has been recognized in many ways but never with that level of genuine affection, that’s really beautiful.”
Inspired by her loss, Trevor Benjamin and his team decided to go public with the African-American athlete statue earlier this year. Not long after then, they made arrangements to bring the figure of Richard Williams out of retirement to Louisville, Kentucky, to be immortalized as a star player of L.A.’s Lonzo Ball’s all-star team on the annual NBA “2K19” video game.