Rev. Daughtry's weekly article that appears in the NY Daily Challenge every Wednesday and Friday.
Jackie, Imus and Rappers - Part V
It was in 1946, I had just turned 15 when Jackie Robinson came to play for the first time in Jersey City, New Jersey. He came with the Montreal Canadians, a farmed team of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Mr. Branch Rickey, president of the Brooklyn Dodgers, had signed Jackie earlier in the year.
Plymouth Church in Brooklyn Heights, is one of the stops on our annual tour of the Underground Railroad historic sites in New York. The church was pastored for forty years by Dr. Henry Ward Beecher, a fearless abolitionist. He was the brother of Harriett Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabinet which highlighted the horrors of slavery. President Abraham Lincoln, who visited the church on at least two occasions, is reported to have said that Mrs. Stowe’s book started the Civil War.
It was in this church, we were told, that Branch Rickey made the decision to bring Jackie into the White Major League. It does seem right that such a momentous decision should be made amid the ghost of yesteryear’s Earth Shakers.
Surely, cracking the seemingly impregnable wall of racism in a southern white dominated sport, would require extraordinary courage and wisdom; courage to stand firm and push ahead against the flood tide of resistance and wisdom to pick the right person and the right time. Unarguably, Jackie was the right person. He was subjected to the kind of offensive name-calling that Imus has put into public turmoil a few weeks past. That is why it is ironic that while Jackie is being honored, the issue of name-calling is still relevant today. Jackie paid an exorbitant price for those years of restraint. It took a toll on his health and probably contributed to his early demise. Every baseball player, irrespective of color, creed or national background owes a huge debt to Jackie. In a real sense, he freed everybody. The major league, is in fact, the major league now. The World Series is truly the World Series now. Before Jackie, it was some white boys, while excluding others, yet calling themselves the best.
It’s a strange piece of illusion some whites have practiced for hundreds of years. They can claim to discover land where other people had been living for thousands of years or claim to be the best in the world, while excluding most people in the world. Here is the sad and cruel irony, the disparaging names Jackie was called are surpassed by the names rappers are ecstatically calling their own brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers.
Branch Rickey was smart in another way. He saw the handwriting on the wall. The Black Baseball League was drawing great crowds; to tap into that reservoir of popularity would translate into prosperity, in addition to an opportunity to make history which comes to relatively few earthlings.
Here is the contradiction that integration brought upon us, which caused many thoughtful Blacks to wonder if the progress of integration did not bring retrogression for Black people. Jackie leaving the Black League, playing in the White League was a great day in many respects, but it was catastrophe for the Black League. It spelled the end of said league. This experience can be duplicated in many areas, i.e., education, business, etc. When it was Black or during segregation, Black enterprises gave employment an opportunity to countless people of African Ancestry. When integration came, which never became a pervasive reality, it was Black submersed in whiteness. This ended up in another form of segregation even more prosperous and secure for whites. It does seem, sometimes, that the more we fight and make what seemed to be progress, others, benefit more than we do.
So, it was on this day in 1946, we kids journeyed from our inner cities houses and hangouts to the outer bounties of Jersey City to see Jackie Robinson play baseball in Roosevelt Stadium. It was in the same stadium that the SEQ CHAPTER \h \r 1eminent Sugar Ray Robinson fought Joey Maxim for the light heavyweight crown. Robinson already had won the Welter and the middleweight titles. He was going after an unprecedented third crown. Significantly outweighed but not out classed, he did his usual ring magic. Finally, suffocating heat exhausted him. He took one final, wild, frantic swing, missed and fell out on the canvas. He never got up. It was a sad night in the Black world.
To be continued
Save the date Dar-fur Benefit
May 5, 2007 – 6 p.m. (film showing and update on Dar-Fur); 7-10 p.m.
At Medgar Evers College
Randy Weston, Lilias White, and others
Saturday, May 12 from 4-7 p.m.
Musical Tribute to the deceased son of
Featuring Randy Weston and othersSunday, May 20, 2007, 5-8 p.m.
An Evening with the famous Jazz musical
Jimmy HeathOrganizing Meeting on Dar-fur
Each Thursday: noon to 2:00 p.m.
At The House of the Lord Church, 415 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY