Lately there have been many conversations regarding the Jackie Robinson West Little League Team. While listening to the radio, I heard one host ask the question, “What makes the Jackie Robinson West Team so great?”
Just about every person who called in had insightful answers, 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 for me was the old 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 with excellence. Mr. Robinson was a steward of the game he loved and a statesmen 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 came to his baseball games. I believe that naming the team after such a great African American 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 name 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 Mayor Jane Byrne Circle Interchange, the Michael Bilandic Building and the Willis Tower. We now have Mandela Road thanks to the efforts of state Rep. LaShawn 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 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. Reverend 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 West Side, cannot have a monument in his honor? I just named a few, but I would be remiss if I did not mention James Deanes, the West Side activist for education. Mr. Deanes has been credited as the architect of the Local School Council 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, “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.
Malcolm Crawford is executive director of the Austin African American Business Networking Association.