*The magnificent sculptures of trailblazing athletes Jackie Robinson and Mack Robinson across the street from City Hall in Pasadena, California are breathtaking reminders that that African-American history is American history. The massive metal effigies are covered with inscriptions trumpeting the Robinson brothers’ stellar achievements in sports and in life. With all of their heroism on the athletic field, it is the personal dedication reflected on the Robison monument that is the most inspiring of all.
JACKIE ROBINSON BEATS THE STREETS
As a teenager in Pasadena back in the 1930s, legendary athlete Jackie got caught up in thug life almost became another statistic of the streets. But with guidance from father figures (his real dad abandoned the family when he was a baby) including his revered big brother, Mack, Jackie started making better, wiser choices and he put his life back on the road toward the greatness for which he had been born.
Robinson frequently referenced his youthful struggles in an effort to inspire other kids facing difficult, seemingly hopeless circumstances. While reflecting on his extraordinary, pioneering career in Major League Baseball, Robinson spoke the words which, today, are etched onto his bronze portrait in downtown Pasadena:
“…if this can happen to a guy from a broken home, whose mother worked from sun up to sundown, if this can happen to someone who was a delinquent and who learned he had to change his life, then it can happen to you out there who think life is against you!”
That motivating message from Jackie Robinson reflects the resourceful, conquering, “never say die” spirit that has enabled African-Americans to triumph over centuries of brutal, calculating and entrenched racism. It is the spirit that empowers us to meet the challenges of the present age, to seize the opportunities made possible by our forebears and to achieve greatness today – during Black History Month, and every month!
MACK ROBINSON’S QUIET HEROISM
As a student at John Muir High School in Pasadena, California back in the late 1970s and early ‘80s, I often saw the kind, elderly gentleman on campus. He was a humble, quiet man of great warmth who always had a word of advice, encouragement or expectation for us kids. He was frequently found on the athletic field, particularly during track and field season…
How amazed I was to discover that this unassuming, aged gentleman was a living legend! He was Mack Robinson, silver medal champion sprinter at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, older brother of Jackie Robinson and a lifelong supporter of young people and justice here in Pasadena…
Just goes to show that sometimes we have no idea when we’re in the presence of greatness! We see our elders but rarely do we contemplate the extraordinary lives that they have lived. In so doing, we fail to extend to them the honor that they have earned and we deprive ourselves of the empowering benefits of their vast experience. For, whether or not their accomplishments are recorded in the history books, our elders – through their wisdom, dedication, courage and, most of all, their love — have guided the generations.
Look closely at Mack Robinson’s sculpted image across the street from Pasadena City Hall and you’ll find his personal mission statement inscribed: “My desire was to bring about a drastic change in education and the attitudes of America’s youth.”
That’s the commitment that so many of our forebears – the renowned and the unsung – have lived by! So, let us continue to celebrate, learn from and be empowered by them! This is the greatness that we celebrate during Black History Month and the whole year through!
Thanks for listening. I’m Cameron Turner and that’s my two cents.