Wilmington-based One Love Tennis Program will hold a public screening of the critically acclaimed film “ALTHEA” at Thalian Hall on June 18.
“ALTHEA,” which is based on the life of tennis great Althea Gibson, was inspired from a picture that hung on the wall of Rex Miller’s childhood bedroom. Miller is the film’s producer and director, and will be in attendance at Thursday’s screening.
Gibson was the first African-American tennis player to win one of the four major singles tournaments and helped integrate her sport at the height of the Civil Rights movement. She twice won Wimbledon and the U.S. Championships (now known as the U.S. Open).
“I hope everyone joins us for this historical and what will be a very memorable evening at Thalian,” said local tennis great Lenny Simpson, who began the youth program after moving back to the Port City in 2013. “Althea was my coach and mentor–if you didn’t know this, from Wilmington–my next door neighbor. I have the opportunity to show this very powerful documentary about this great world champion and her struggles to become number one in the world.”
Students within the New Hanover County School system were first in the country to screen the film in September 2014 and also took part in a question-and-answer session with Simpson.
“In addition to keeping the Althea legacy in Wilmington alive, we hope that further recognizing Althea each year will help raise awareness and appreciation for the opportunities and life changing aspects of tennis and programs like One Love that incorporate tennis, academic tutoring and character building,” Simpson said.
In August 2014, The City of Wilmington officially honored Gibson with an official proclamation declaring the week beginning on the second Monday in September as “Althea Gibson Tennis Week.” The tennis center located at Empie Park is also named in honor of Gibson.
“I got interested in Althea’s story because of a photograph that hung on the wall of my childhood bedroom,” Miller said. “Taken in 1958, it shows two brown-skinned women, dressed in their tennis whites, holding tennis rackets and standing on the front lawn of the Merion Cricket Club, a prestigious tennis club outside of Philadelphia.
“One woman was my mother, Millicent Miller. The other was Althea.”
To learn more about the June 18 screening, visit http://www.one-love-tennis.org/.