Rev. Daughtry's weekly article that appears in the NY Daily Challenge every Wednesday and Friday.

Jackie, Imus and Rappers - Part VI

I can’t remember whether we really appreciated the moment. We had the opportunity to witness what relatively few can claim – history unfolding before our very eyes. I doubt if we, at our age, could grasps what was happening. Even old folk, or most folk, seldom can discern an important moment in history.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used to talk about Rip Van Winkle sleeping for forty years. When Rip went to sleep King George ruled America. When he woke up, George Washington was the president. Rip had slept through a revolution. Dr. King, in his unique way would weave the thrust of his message. Many people, he would say, sleep through great moments of history. Perhaps it was all right for Rip to sleep forty years but, the irreplaceable lost was he slept through a revolution. Many people even with their eyes open are sleeping through revolutions.

We cross the fields where houses sit now, ran across the highway, hasten through the turnstiles, some paid, some didn’t, scrambling for the best seats in the park as though we had paid the proper amount, and started calling Jackie’s name. It didn’t matter that day, what your favorite team was, everybody rooted for Jackie.

It is understandable when Jackie played every Black person watched the game. For many it was the first time they had ever seen or heard a baseball game. It really wasn’t so much the game that concerned the people. It was Jackie Robinson. Kids would stand around the television set and become ecstatic every time Jackie moved. If he kicked the dirt, it was a major event. If he turned around, it was earth shaking for kids, but not only for kids, for grandmamas too. My grandmamma would become furious when the other team was winning. She would scream at the television, “Let Jackie pitched or let Jackie hit or let Jackie run or let Jackie catch the ball.” It didn’t matter whether it was Jackie’s turn to bat or which team was on the field, nothing mattered but Jackie Robinson. And he had the power to make everything right.

In those days, there was a limited circle of teams we rooted for. In college football, (professional football hadn’t hit its stride yet) it was Army, Navy, or Notre Dame (N. D.). I rooted for N. D. Back then, the quarterback was Angelo Bertelli who was rifling the football across the Gridiron and Creighton Miller was running wild from his halfback position. As I was putting pictures of my favorite football players on the wall, my oldest brother asked me, why I had no Black football players among my collection. I looked and he was right. I never thought about it before. After searching the colleges’ rosters, I found Levi Jackson, who played at Yale University. I have been looking for Blacks ever since. It should be instructed to all guardians, parents and teachers of youths a simply question can create a life long revolution in the mind.

In baseball we rooted for the New York Giants. They played at the Polo Grounds in Harlem or the Brooklyn Dodges playing in Ebberts Field or the New York Yankees in the Bronx. There was one friend who said he rooted for the St. Louis Cardinals. We dismissed him as a psycho case. I was a Yankee fan. I had rooted for the Yankees as far back as I could remember – back in the days when Bill Dickey was behind the plate and old reliable Tommy Henrich was in right field and King Kong Keller in left field and Jolting Joe DiMaggio was in center field. During those years, in Savannah Georgia, after reading the Savannah evening newspaper, seeing pictures of baseball players, I went out into the yard with a broomstick. I gathered a pile of small rocks or pebbles, created an imaginary ballpark, with fences, bleachers, people and baseball players. Then I would start hitting the rocks as though they were baseballs in my imaginary baseball game. I would do this for hours. Years later, my grandmother informed me that they could always keep up with me from the sound of the rocks. Once the sound of the rocks died down they knew I had slipped away. I could never figure how they could always catch up with me when I thought I had successfully stolen away from the house. Yes, during those lonely days, I created many games to play by myself. Years later, I am certain it contributed to my extraordinary athletic skills and to the lively imagination, which I still possess today.

Yes, it was hard to change teams but I made the switch. After the Yankees defeated the Dodgers in the 1947 World Series, I knew I had to make a change. I couldn’t celebrate the Yankees’ victory. I cried when the Dodgers lost. Or when Jackie Robinson lost. There was a bit of consolation, Jackie did win the rookie of the year award. Perhaps, geography in addition to race helped shaped my decision. I lived on Dean Street between Saratoga and Howard. We could walk to Ebberts Field. I guess I’ve been crying for the Jackie Robinson’s ever since. Interestingly enough, Jackie wasn’t the best player in the Negro league but he had the special quality that fitted him for the job to be done. There is a powerful lesson, which should be written across the sky, talent does not always land you where you want to go. There are other qualities you have to possess. Jackie, had talent but he had those special qualities too. Jackie Robinson, Joe Louis, they were sports figures but they were bigger than sports figures. To us conscious Black folk, hurting, deprived, indignant, in search of heroes and heroines, Jackie and Joe Louis and others were bigger than life.

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
Randy Weston
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