Aug. 6, 2002 – Two accomplished Virgin Islands athletes, veteran tennis player-coach Vic Ebbesen and former world boxing champion Livingstone "Ras-I Alujah" Bramble, are to be honored at a sports awards banquet on Thursday evening on St. Thomas in connection with the annual Beacon Schools Celebrity Golf Tournament.
Ebbesen and Bramble will become two of the four new inductees into the African-American Ethnic Sports Hall of Fame. Being inducted posthumously on Thursday will be V.I. major league baseball player Elmo Plaskett and Puerto Rico's baseball legend Roberto Clemente.
They will join some 30 sports figures nationwide, including seven other Virgin Islanders, who have received similar recognition since this particular hall of fame got started two years ago.
Ebbesen was the founder of the V.I. Tennis Association. As he worked on his acceptance speech on Tuesday at his home on St. Thomas, he recalled that during his tennis career in the territory he played an exhibition game with another ethnic hall of famer, the legendary Althea Gibson. "I think it is an honor," he said of his induction.
Bramble, a native of St. Kitts who made St. Croix his home, rose to the top of the fight game in the 1980s, holding the World Boxing Association Lightweight title from June of 1984, when he took it away from Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini, to September of 1986.
The seven Virgin Islanders honored at the first Caribbean induction ceremony for the ethnic hall of fame, held last year on St. Thomas, were boxers Julian Jackson and Emile Griffith; baseball players Al McBean, Valmy Thomas, Horace Clarke and the recently deceased Alphonso "Piggy" Gerard; and pro basketball player Glen "Kimble" Williams.
The awards dinner Thursday at the Renaissance Grand Beach Resort also will recognize three other prominent local athletes — tennis pro George Lewis, teen-age tennis competitor Aisha Christian, and veteran V.I. women's tennis champion Fenella Cooper, who also has taught tennis at the University of the Virgin Islands. While these honorees are not being inducted into the hall of fame, Arif Khatib, promoter of the event, said he wants to acknowledge their achievements as well.
Lewis said on Wednesday that word of his honor caught him by surprise, but pleasantly. "I feel very good about it," he said. "When I heard about it, I said, 'Oh, really?'" But when he spoke with Khatib, Lewis said, he found out that others had recommended him for the award, based on his years as a tennis player and his community work with young people.
One of those young people Lewis has worked with is the 18-year-old Christian, who has been playing tennis since the age of 5 and has gone on to compete throughout the Caribbean as an accomplished athlete. "She's one of the first Virgin Islanders to be ranked in the ITF in the world, No. 230," Lewis said, referring to the International Tennis Federation.
Lewis and Christian recently played in a B.V.I. tennis championship tournament, each reaching the semi finals in singles play, but winning as a team in the mixed doubles against Grenada.
Khatib, a financial manager for a number of professional athletes including Ricky Henderson, Vida Blue, Claudell Washington and Clifford Brandt, said he viewed promotion of the hall of fame as a way to recognize athletes for their contributions to sports and to the communities in which they live. "These are people who have demonstrated excellence on the field of play but also have a sense of community," he said.
The awards banquet also is a way to encourage athletes to support the efforts of gifted young athletes, Khatib said. Brandt, an Oakland Raiders football player, was one of the sports celebrities scheduled to come to the territory to take part in the annual Beacon fund-raiser golf tournament but word was received on Wednesday that he could not be present. Other pro athletes who will be taking part, Khatib said, include George Atkinson, former Oakland Raiders player and CBS television analyst; Dari Jordan, who played with the San Francisco 49ers; Billy North, who was with the San Francisco Giants; and Michael Meriweather, who played with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
According to Khatib, proceeds from ticket sales at African-American Ethnic Sports Hall of Fame events such as Thursday's banquet go to fund scholarships. Since the program began, he said, nine such scholarships have been awarded to students attending historically black colleges and universities.
Thursday's event will begin with dinner at 6 p.m. with the induction ceremony to follow at 7:30 p.m. It's open to the public. Tickets are $40. Reservations must be made "right away," Khatib said Wednesday. This may be done by calling 775-3092.
For information on the Beacon Schools Celebrity Golf Tournament, which gets under way with social events on Thursday evening, see "Beacon Celebrity Golf fund-raiser begins Aug. 9".
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