Sixty nine years ago today the Brooklyn Dodgers broke the color line at Ebbets Field when Jackie Robinson took the field, playing first base. The door was opened and it was the beginning of the en…
When I taught, I used a social justice activity. Most of the junior high students knew about Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa, but few had heard about Jackie Robinson. He was important for some students who did not connect until they understood athletes were part of social change.
Jackie Robinson had a Canadian connection. He played his AAA baseball for the Montreal Royals. This point led to talking about Willie O’Ree who broke the colour barrier in hockey. He may not have seemed as impactful Jackie Robinson, but many black NHL players refer to Willie O’Ree as a role model and he remains an ambassador for the game.
Furthermore, it is not enough that those who want to break through a barrier do so alone. For Jackie Robinson and Willie O’Ree, white players gradually (perhaps it was glacial) realized how good these guys were. In Montreal, fans cheered Jackie Robinson because he was a great ball player. Colour seemed overlooked in that environment. I admire Jackie Robinson, Willie O’Ree, Rosa Parks, etc. for their contributions, but community becomes important in sustaining real change and seeing beyond colour, gender, religious, etc. If we could do that, what a difference it would make in the world.