Friday, September 4, 2009

A Speech From Another Voice On The Stoop

(On behalf of the organization We Are All Brooklyn, my pal CJ presented an award and gave the very graceful speech below to the Jackie Robinson Foundation during the Brooklyn Cyclones game at KeySpan Park two nights ago. I'm sure he was very honored to be part of such an occasion. It would be like if the Sons of Italy asked me to give an award to Justice Scalia-I would be equally as thrilled. In all seriousness, Jackie Robinson is a Brooklyn Stoop Hall of Famer in my book and CJ should take pride in being able to honor Robinson in such a unique way: on a baseball field, in a stadium in our beloved Brooklyn.)

Hello Friends,

My name is Chris Johnson and it is a great honor to present this award to the Jackie Robinson Foundation on behalf of We Are All Brooklyn. Since I was a young boy Jackie Robinson embodied the terms star and hero. This is because Jackie Robinson was a hall of fame player when baseball was the most important game in America, and because he was a hall of fame person throughout his life as is his wife Rachel Robinson.

When Jackie broke the color barrier in 1947 he changed not only our national pastime but also helped change the nation itself. I say this because before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, before Martin Luther King let the world know about his “Dream” and before President Johnson signed the Civil Rights legislation that would began transforming our country, Jackie Robinson was destroying racial myths with his play between the lines and his grace and dignity outside of them.

On the playing field Jackie was an inspiration to the millions of African-Americans who felt he represented them with his every at bat but also to millions of Brooklynites of all races who did not want to wait till next year anymore.

Because Jackie was such a strong capable man he was able to shoulder all those dreams and hopes. He did this by becoming the first black man to win an MVP when he took the NL honors in 1949, and when he helping the Dodgers win their only World Series in Brooklyn in 1955. He did this while constantly taking the high road when opponents to fairness and opportunity took the low road.

Jackie and Rachel Robinson were symbols of the new diversity that made Brooklyn, New York, and America such rich special places. They were champions of equality and our nation owes them a great debt, and though they were from California they were Brooklynites and we will forever love them with all our hearts.

In the 40’s and 50’s when racism was an extremely serious problem in our nation, Jackie inspired trust and love in one of the purest territories in our nation which was in the hearts and minds of our children. This could be seen in a generation of young people both black and white who tried to run like Jackie and have their hats fly off their heads as they rounded first. But it could also be seen in the fathers and sons of Brooklyn who rested their hopes of finally beating the hated Yankees on the shoulders of black and white men equally.

When I was a teenager I traveled the city with four friends searching playgrounds far and wide for the best game of basketball. To outsiders we were a mix of black and white players and many of them couldn’t see past that, but we saw ourselves as ballplayers looking for a game with little regard for anyone’s race. While on the court we trusted and counted on each other and eventually we took those lessons off the court. This is a testament to what Jackie accomplished on a small scale a thousand times over.

On a larger scale Jackie and Rachel Robinson impact is embodied in this quote from Jackie when he said “The right of every American to first class citizenship is one of the most important issues of our time”. Jackie lived his life furthering this belief and his fight continues through the Jackie Robinson Foundation. For this reason it is a great honor that I present this award to Valaida Wynn and Stephen Lynch who are here on behalf the Jackie Robinson Foundation. Thank you for your work in furthering educational opportunities for our young people and for building strong leaders.


Anonymous said...

Beautiful speech Chris.

Anonymous said...

I think that this speech is characteristic of the Chris Johnson I've known for many years. It reflects his humanistic nature. He is a standup guy