ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY, MD — Thursday marks the 74th anniversary of when Jackie Robinson became the first Black player in MLB history. One Anne Arundel County leader looked back at what Robinson meant to a divided country. That official thinks we can still learn from Robinson today, applying what he taught as an athlete, entrepreneur and activist.
Patch recently partnered with several local organizations to bring you their latest news. This guest contribution comes from the Anne Arundel Chamber of Commerce. Here’s what President and CEO Mark Kleinschmidt wrote about Robinson:
“On April 15th[,] all the teams in Major League Baseball wear the number 42 to recognize and honor Jackie Robinson. We celebrate the significant contributions he made, not only to the game of baseball, but to the advancement of fairness, equal treatment and endless opportunity that should always be part of America. The way he played the game and lived his life was an inspiration to millions.
When he broke the “color barrier” in 1947[,] he was told he could not fight back. But he did fight back with superstar skills and the way he lived his life with grace, dignity, and perseverance.
He had the ability to shake things up during a game with his base running (stealing home in the World Series was the best). His achievement on the field earned him recognition as the Most Valuable Player, selection to six all-star teams and the first Black [player] elected to the Hall of Fame. He also shook things up to advance civil rights with the simple eloquence of his example and with his never give up attitude in his fight against prejudice and racism.
After he retired from baseball, Jackie had a very successful business career. He was one of the first African Americans to hold a high-profile position with a major American corporation, the Chock Full o’Nuts coffee company. They were a big deal in the 50’s and 60’s, way before Starbucks. He was also the founder of the Freedom National Bank and established a construction company to build affordable housing for low-income families.
Throughout his business career[,] Jackie was always focused on advancing the cause of African Americans in business and within major corporations. Jackie also made time to support political candidates he felt championed the civil rights movement. It is interesting to note some were Democrats and some were Republicans.
After all the strife and indignities, he endured as the first Black man playing Major League Baseball, he was still able to breakdown racial barriers and create many opportunities for other Black ball players. He also made great strides as an advocate for civil rights which makes me wonder what Jackie Robinson would say about the new wave of voter suppression laws and the Black Lives Matter movement? I have a feeling that he would lead by the power of his example and get into the game and shake things up once again.
Every now and then in American history, a person of great significance and character comes along to accomplish great things and leave a lesson or legacy for all of us to learn from. Jackie Robinson was one of these rare and special people. We can certainly learn from him today.
Several CEOs from large companies have and are stepping up to speak out against voter suppression laws and supporting the relocation of the All-Star Game from Atlanta. I am sure Jackie would be right there supporting their efforts and pushing them forward.
Small business, corporate America, elected officials, and every day citizens are engaged in a new debate about civil rights and equality. Perhaps they should all reflect on the remarkable life of Jackie Robinson and consider his comments when asked about his legacy. He said, “I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me … all I ask is that you respect me as a human being”.
Jackie’s own words say a lot. But I think there is more. While attempts have been made to capture the essence of Jackie Robinson in movies, songs and books[,] I think to words of Jesse Jackson at Jackie’s funeral are very appropriate.
“Jackie’s body was a temple of God, an instrument of peace that had no commitment to fame and materialism and empty awards and cheap trophies. Jackie, as a figure in history, was a rock in the water, creating concentric circles and ripples of new possibility. He was immunized by God from catching the disease he fought.
When Jackie took the field, something within us reminded us of our birthright to be free. And somebody without reminded us that it could be attained. He didn’t integrate baseball for himself. He infiltrated baseball for all of us, seeking and looking for more oxygen for Black survival, and looking for new possibility.
In his last dash, Jackie stole home. Pain, misery, and travail have lost. Jackie is saved. His enemies can leave him alone. His body will rest, but his spirit and his mind and his impact are perpetual and as affixed to human progress as are the stars in the heavens, the shine in the sun and the glow in the moon. His mind, his mission CAN NOT BE HELD DOWN!”
We could sure use a little more 42 now.
Mark Kleinschmidt is the President/CEO of the Anne Arundel Chamber of Commerce located in Annapolis, MD.“
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