Tears well up in my eyes every time I see a close up of one of the boys playing for Chicago’s Jackie Robinson West team. My heart swells with emotion…my breath comes in short bursts…and my conscious mind wonders why in the world is my body reacting this way to the pride of the South Side, heretofore recognized as the pride of the Western world.
As a Chicago resident, I’m pretty familiar with the Jackie Robinson Little League teams. Baseball wasn’t my sport of choice, but I had a ton of friends that played in this league in particular. A best friend that should’ve went pro…and about two dozen of my adult friends who tell everybody that they could have. My father loves to reminisce about his prowess on the diamond, and I think back to my childhood years when he would hit pop ups to friends and sometimes sending them 100 feet beyond where we were standing just to prove his point. He held greatness in his swing. There was greatness in this sport. And there’s probably not enough tall tales from children and adults alike that can compare to just how great an impact black people playing baseball had on a country that was taught to believe that, in every way on every day, Black people were less than.
I suppose when my conscious mind looks for the reasons behind my emotional state, it finds that, just as with Jackie Robinson himself, this 2014 Little League team is redirecting the conversation by putting a stake in the ground as it relates to Black children and the communities from which they hail…be it Chicago, Philadelphia or anywhere else in the world where we reside.
What they’ve told you about us isn’t true. And when given the opportunity to prove it, we will do just that. Poverty may break a person. Racism may drive one to hate. Life experience will cloud one’s ability to dream. But the bright eyes, open hearts, and unbridled ability of a young person, succeeding as God intended for them to do….it will make your eyes well up with tears. It will make your heart swell with pride. It will give you purpose in going through your daily tasks. It will give you a reason and a season to live out your truth…and to play out your dreams.
Congratulations, Jackie Robinson West, for all that you accomplished! You are a living representation of the hopes and dreams of us all.