Exactly one week ago today the Pirates held their annual event at PNC Park celebrating the life and legacy of the man who shattered the color bar of MLB, the late great Jackie Robinson. When I was anticipating penning this column I had to really dig deep to bring something meaningful to you because I have written over one hundred articles on Jackie Robinson. I labored and thought about what I could say and out of the clear blue sky the lyrics from EWFs ‘Shining Star’ leaped on me like “white on rice.”
“When you wish upon a star, your dreams will take you very far, yeah. When you wish upon a dream, life ain’t always what it seems, oh yeah. Once you see your light so clear, hey in the sky so very dear. (EWF)” How many nights did Jackie Robinson gaze out of his window as a young “Negro” hoping and dreaming of playing MLB? But more importantly, how many times did African-Americans with shackles digging deep into their flesh dream about, fantasize about and pray about, freedom? Not the freedom to drink from the same water fountains, not the choice to ride in the front of the bus, but the right not be whipped, killed and brutalized by those who placed no value on their labor or their lives.
“You’re a shining star, no matter who you are. Shining bright to see what you can truly be.”
This year a young rising future journalism star shadowed me in the press box. His name is Durelle Ward. As a young African-American, the chances of him being granted access to a MLB press box at the age of fourteen is slim and none.
Durelle was “star struck” hangin’ out with Pirates All-Star center fielder Andrew McCutchen as well with the incredible view of the Pittsburgh skyline from the press box as we took our seats after leaving the field. I asked him a question and his mature and insightful answer amazed even me. I asked, “is there anything that you notice about the press box?” He answered, “All I see is three Black reporters.” A few minutes later I asked him a second question, “Is there anything else that jumps out at you?” His brow wrinkled for a second and this is the total truth boys and girls. He said, “Everyone seems to be working very hard.” At that moment my heart smiled because I knew that this young man “got it.” Robert Matthews, the father of my young “intern” stood proudly as I returned his son to him after an evening in the “box.” Jamila Nevels also spent an evening at the ballpark with her 21 month old son, Maureace who seemed to be having a ball.
“Born a man-child of the sun, yeah, yeah, saw my work had just begun. Yeah, found I had to stand alone, bless it now I got my own.”
There were no true role models for Robinson to emulate because he was the first. Oh, he might have recited Paul Robeson or thought about Jesse Owens to lift his spirit but there were very few forerunners that he could copy because he was the original. He was born a true man-child of RA, the Sun God, radiating and transmitting energy and spirit from the Sahara, the Nile and the plains of the Serengeti. He had to stand alone. He could only look upward to the heavens for strength and comfort. He was forced to face vile and angry people, acrid and volcanic-like saliva flying from perverted mouths delivering words of hate and degradation. So if you find yourself in need why don’t you listen to his words of heed. Be a tiny grain of sand words of wisdom, yes I can.
We must cease being economic and spiritual panhandlers. Stop looking for and expecting a blessing and bring a blessing. We have to “be” words of wisdom and tiny grains of sand. We do not have to be the “big cheese’s” to have a positive and lasting impact.
Jackie Robinson day, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. day, or any other Afro-centric days are great for superficial and temporary satisfaction but at the crack of dawn, how much real change will come with the first sunrise after the event is held?
The 2001 celebration was far more meaningful (at least for me) than the annual games of the recent past where the Pirates honored the Negro Leagues by donning Homestead Grays and Pittsburgh Crawford’s uniforms and then proceeded to go out and unceremoniously find a way to lose the ball game.
This game was about moving on. Someone and I cannot recall who said; “we spend each day either growing or dying” well at least something to that effect. Little Maureace had no clue who Jackie Robinson was because he was at the ballpark having a good time with his mother. The real stars are the ones that tuck in the children after a long day. The real stars are the ones who work two jobs for minimum wage just to feed, clothe and house their families. All we have to do is take a good look.
“Shining star for you to see, what your life can truly be. Shining star for you to see, what your life can truly be. Shining star for you to see, what your life can truly be.”
(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-583-6741.)