Lately, there have been many conversations regarding the Jackie Robinson West Little League Team.
While listening to the radio, I heard the radio host ask the question,” What makes the Jackie Robinson West Team so great?”
Just about every person who called in had insightful answers to the question, such as family support, community support, God- given talent, discipline, humility, etc.
I began to think about what other reason could be given for their success? One thing that stood out to me was the saying “What’s in a name?” I would contend that the name Jackie Robinson in itself played a part in the team’s success.
Jackie Robinson, by all accounts, played the game of baseball in excellence. Mr. Robinson was a steward of the game that he loved and a statesman on and off the field. – while, I might add, playing the game under the threat of death to himself and his family from people who can to his baseball games.
I believe that naming the team after such a great African-American man gave those kids something to aspire to.
Getting back to my point, what’s in a name? Why is it so important for people to names towns, roads and buildings after people? Like it or not, we are surrounded by places in Chicago that remind us of the Daley family contribution to Chicago, such as Daley Plaza and the Daley Center.
We also have the new Mayor Jane Byrne Circle Interchange, the Michael Bilandic Building and the Willis Tower. We know have Mandela road, thanks to the efforts of State Rep. La Shawn K. Ford.
Most landmarks in our city are named after people who have made some type of lasting contribution to our great city.
There is a saying which I have adopted, “Our kids cannot be what they cannot see.”
So is that why we have the Peace Corner and not the Nola Bright Peace Corner? Is that why we have the By the Hand Club and not the Dr. Rev. Sheldon Hall – By the Hand Club? Is that why Austin has the New Moms Building on Chicago Avenue and not the Mary Perry New Moms Building? Why is it that someone like Ray Easley, who was an influential figure and, by every account, a champion for the Westside, cannot have a monument in his honor?
I just named a few, but I would be remiss if I did not mention Mr. James Deanes, the Westside activist for education. Mr. Deanes has been credited as the rchitect of the Local School Council Education Model.
I can remember just about a week or two before Mr. Deanes’ passing, he was at Sankofa Cultural Arts Center, wearing his breathing apparatus and carrying his oxygen tank. He was laboring quite a bit and did not look to be at his best.
I made the statement to him, “Come on in, you can’t stop now.” Mr. Deanes looked up at me and said, “I have no choice; our kids’ education is far too important.”
So why do we have the Henry W. Austin Library and the Chicago Avenue Library and not the James Deanes Public Library?
These are just a few names of everyday community heroes who have graced our path and I know that there are many more who deserve to be recognized for their devotion to our people and to our community
So I ask the question again: “What’s in a Name?”
Greatness, honor and a vision for our children to be what they can see in their community.
Great piece Malcolm. The problem, as you have always noted, is the fact that as a community we do not teach our child about the contributions of local heroes such as Leola Spann, Edward Bailey, Nola Bright, James Deanes, etc.
The schools and our churches are obvious places to start. I do not think it would be a problem to use February 2015 as a launch date to begin teaching our children about the contributions of our local leaders in addition to the contributions of international figures like Jackie Robinson and Nelson Mandela.
We need to have in-depth conversations with high school students about the why of our history and the positive impact on our communities.
Finally, I attended the Wednesday Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners and asked them point blank for a waiver in waiting a year to rename the new baseball field at Columbus Park after James Deanes. If the mayor can ignore the law/rules and name a proposed new high school for upper middle-class near north residents after a live sitting president, why not honor a man who was one of the architects of the establishment of Local School Councils, and positively impacted the lives of thousand of children and their families.