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Fri, 12.28.1979

James Blake, Athlete, and Philanthropist born

James Blake

James Blake was born on this date in 1979. He is a former Black professional tennis player and cancer research advocate.

James Riley Blake is from Yonkers, New York; his father was Thomas Blake, Sr. is Black, and his mother, Betty is white-British.  His brother, Thomas Jr., is also a professional tennis player, and he has two older half-brothers, Christopher and Howard.

Blake graduated from Fairfield High School, in Fairfield, CT, in 1997. He attended Harvard University and left after his sophomore year to pursue a career in tennis.

Blake was inspired to pursue tennis after hearing his role model, Arthur Ashe, speak to the Harlem Junior Tennis Program members. Brian Barker was his first (and current) coach. Afflicted with scoliosis for five years as a teenager, he had to wear a full-length back brace for 18 hours a day, though not while playing tennis.  Blake was named Rookie of the Year for the 2000 World Team Tennis season. Away from tennis, Blake also enjoys golf, basketball, and baseball.

He first gained the attention of tennis fans worldwide after nearly beating Lleyton Hewitt at the 2001 U.S. Open. That same year, he saw his first Davis Cup action against India and became the third Black man to play the Davis Cup for the United States. Blake won the 2002 USTA Waikola Challenger in Hawaii. He has also twice won the Hopman Cup (with Serena Williams & Lindsay Davenport).

He and singer/songwriter John Mayer, also from Fairfield, are good friends. When Anthem Insurance invited Blake to do a cancer charity game honoring his late father, he invited Mayer (along with Andy Roddick and Gavin DeGraw) to perform.  Blake enjoys golf and basketball and is a New York Mets fan. On November 9, 2012, Blake married Emily Snider, a publicist, in a beach ceremony in California.  They have a daughter, Riley Elizabeth, born in June 2012.

On September 9, 2015, Blake was thrown to the ground, handcuffed, and arrested by a plainclothes New York City Police Department officer.  This happened in front of the Grand Hyatt New York after being mistaken for a suspect of interest. The officers relied on a witness and photo of a suspect that looked similar to Blake: they mistook him for a credit-card fraud suspect staying in the same hotel.

The NYPD Commissioner apologized for the mistake and stated the "arrest raised serious questions about [the officer's] actions" but denied allegations of racism.  Blake sued but withdrew his claim, saying he wasn't looking for financial compensation, "on the condition that the city establish a legal fellowship to investigate police misconduct and advocate for victims of brutality"

To become a Professional Athlete.

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The instructor said,       Go home and write       a page tonight.       And let that page come out of you—       Then, it will be true. I wonder if it’s that simple?... Theme For English by Langston Hughes
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