Welcome back, we are in Day 3 of our historical journey!
#nsaba #xylaturner #blackhistorymonth #everymonth
Third Stop: Jackie Robinson!
He had actually come back. Half of me wished he did while the other half wished I had not thought about him at all.
That was a name that suited him. He could definitely pass for a Jared. Whatever that meant. I dressed up yesterday, but that was because I wanted to look nice. I was an okay looking sistah and there was nothing wrong with looking the part once in a while. It wasn’t because of Jared. I know that.
Who was I fooling?
Anyway, as I reflected on yesterday and learned more about Frederick Douglass, I thought about the rights and privileges that I had been afforded. Mr. Douglass was prohibited from reading and writing, yet we had schools all over the country where students thought it was an option to attend. Then to top that off, some adults don’t make it a priority. Not necessarily in schooling, but knowledge. Mr. Douglass needed to read and write in order to understand and be understood. Then we wonder why we have no power.
Don’t get me started on my podium about attitudes towards education in American and amongst the impoverished communities.
When I entered the bookstore, Jared and David were already there and I was fifteen minutes early. They were talking with some guy that had locs down his back. He was drop dead gorgeous with small eyes, a hard look on his face as he listened. David was talking when I approached.
Jared was standing next to the guy with locs while David sat on the stool talking away.
“So, when your ready Kane, I can be here,” David said.
“I’ll check it out, Dave. Just need to get my lady up to speed, but we’ll definitely join you,” the guy answered.
Ah, he was taken. He now looked less cute, which I was glad I was one of those women. For some, the fact that he was involved was like a magnet. That wasn’t me.
“Sounds good, man. I’ll see you soon.”
“Y’all have a good one,” Kane saluted us and went behind the counter.
“Who’s that?” I asked David.
“Kane, the owner of this fine store. He’s a good man.” David nodded.
“Will he be joining us?” I followed up.
“Why?” Jared asked with something in his tone.
It wasn’t clear what it was but I turned towards him and asked, “Why am I asking or why would he be joining us?”
“Both?” He turned so his shoulders were square with mine.
“I believe I was talking to David,” I decided not to banter with him today.
My mood was great and I did not want anything including Jared to ruin it.
“Did you hear he was taken?”
At that, David stood up. “Well, I think…”
“Really?” I interjected. “You believe I’m that type of person?”
I could not believe him. What was he trying to imply? I did not like people who did that as I was one that was cheated on and it was not a good feeling. There would be no way, I’d condone or even entertain being the other woman. I just met Jared two days ago, so I knew that he would not know that. However, something about him thinking of me like that, hurt.
More deeply that I anticipated.
“No, I just…” Jared started to say.
“Okay, troops.” David stood between the two of us. “Let’s head on out.”
We didn’t walk, saunter or move. Just a moment later and we were in the bleachers at a baseball game.
At the home plate, there was a black man and the crowd was, at least, ninety-five percent white with very few black people that were on the other side and they were mostly huddled together.
I knew the feeling.
There was even a book written, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria by Beverly Daniel Tatum.
On the other dugout, there was a man dressed in a uniform, but his was different. He looked like he was calling the shots for the team, but at the same time screaming at the man on base.
“What are you doing nigger? You know you don’t belong here. Go ahead and go back to your ghetto so we can play a man’s game without this shit called integration. You think they’re with you? You’re wrong!” He yelled. “You better watch your back and that pretty little wife of yours too. You got kids? Eh?”
Oh my God.
The man on base was a dark-skinned man with the numbers forty-two on his blue and white shirt. His face was visibly tight, his body was coiled as the bat was raised over his shoulder as he stood with one foot in front of the other getting ready to strike.
“Come on nigger, you wasting our time at bat too. You’ve done enough, wouldn’t ya say?” The other man yelled as the crowd laughed and cheered on the heckler.
This was bullying and harassment at its finest and nobody stood up to say a damned thing about it. This reminded me of the injustice that was done and how Stokely set about to do something about it. So did Frederick Douglass. Yet, this man just stood on the base and said nothing.
The pitcher threw the ball, hitting the batter in the arm. The crowd cheered, except the black people who booed but their voices were drowned out.
The referee didn’t call a foul ball, but a strike. Everyone on the guy’s team shouted in outrage at the blatantly wrong call. A man who appeared to be the coach was about to leave the dugout, but he was stopped by other players.
“See, I told you, nigger. You’ll never win at my game.” The other guy shouted at him.
“Call a fair game,” someone from the black guy’s team shouted.
He, on the other hand, remained quiet, walked off the pain and circled back to the base. Then, if I wasn’t mistaken, he winked at the pitcher.
The pitcher nodded his head and sailed a curve ball so fast, I barely could keep up with it. The crazy part was it was right over home plate. The black guy swung and missed it.
“STREEE-IKE TWO!” The referee yelled.
The batter’s nodded his head at the pitcher and this time, I know I saw it. He winked at him. That could have been interpreted in many different ways, but I took it at that moment, to be a challenge. Almost a dare. Give me a fair shake, if you aren’t scared.
The pitcher shook his head, then nodded it once.
This time, the ball seemed a lot faster than the last pitch. It flew to the home base and I thought it was over until the crack of the bat and ball was heard around the stadium. Number forty-two bent down, gently placed the bat on the home plate in front of the referee and strolled around the bases.
A smile broke out over my face and in my peripheral vision, I could see Jared’s smile as well. This was a win, then the overwhelming feeling of the fact that he had to prove himself over and over again just to shut those people up. This seemed unfair.
“Jackie Robinson?” Jared nodded at David.
“That is correct.”
“Why this scene?” Jared continued to ask him.
“You didn’t want to hear just gloom and doom, so here was a great ending.”
“Yeah, but look at everything he had to endure. I mean, this was crazy and he did nothing.”
“That is correct also.”
“But why?” I asked, chiming into the conversation.
“Jackie was hired to help with the integration of the league and one of the deals, I would imagine, was to keep a lid on his mouth and keep his reactions under wrap. This is not even the greatest battle he faced, his own teammates were opposed to him joining. His family’s life was endangered and the man was talented beyond anyone’s imagination. Jackie Robinson was an athlete’s athlete.”
“But this is what they always say. My mom raised me up with this same model. I have to be ten times better than their better to even get a chance. This is what he had to do. Grin it and bear it.”
“Some call it, picking your battles,” Jared added.
“Some call it, cowardice,” I sniped back.
“Okay, so let’s say he gets into a fight with the coach of that other team. For arguments sake, Jackie beats the hell out of him. Who’s getting thrown out the league? Who’s going to have his back? Who was the crowd rooting for? It wasn’t Jackie and if people like him didn’t do what needed to be done at the time, the racially-integrated sports that we have would not look like this.” David’s shoulders were hunched, his mouth tight and his words cut through the air like a Samurai’s sword. He spoke as if he knew from experience. “It’s easy to be a hot-head, but sacrificing your pride and ego for the greater good is what it takes to be on this journey.”
“It’s humiliating,” I snapped at David as I felt my blood run hot.
The older man looked at me with sad eyes and said, “It’s called sacrifice and somebody had to do it. He’s who he is because of the public and humiliating sacrifice that so many others were unwilling to make. Do you think he was known for being a coward, Toni? Absolutely not. He was known for displaying great strength in the midst of adversity. When people write my name in the books, I want to be recognized for that. To be a captain of a ship, it is not in who can pummel the other, it is who can keep a clear head and get the others through the storm.” He sighed. “Don’t you get it? It’s not about you. It was about the people coming after him.”
“Trailblazers,” Jared nodded with a pensive look, yet sad look. “I get it.”
We were all quiet for a moment, as the weight of the words lingered in the air.
“My fear,” Jared looked at me. “Is that I don’t have what it takes to be that type of person.”
At first, I didn’t know what to say. He was addressing me without a barb or snarky comment. It wasn’t the time for that and on some level, I knew we had come to an unspoken understanding and moved past that.
“Yeah.” I stared back at him. “I think that’s mine too.”
David looked between the two of us, then his shoulders relaxed. “You guys have shown tremendous courage by even taking this journey. So I would not sell myself short of what is a good foundation to start with the making of advocates and trailblazers of our future.”
We looked at him, acknowledging that he spoke, but we both knew it took more than this.
Thank you for experiencing Jackie Robinson with us! We hope you stay tuned as we continue to explore various figures during this month and that you’ll take this snippet and learn more about Mr. Robinson and his various writings.
- What will Jared and Toni’s next steps include? Will they continue the journey?
- Experience the next historical figure, Rosa Parks, a civil rights activist
- Find out who Day 5 will feature