Sunday, April 28, 2013

42

Number 42 had never meant anything to me before but after seeing the movie, "42," it means something now. That was the number Jackie Robinson wore when he went to play with the Brooklyn Dodgers, thus the name of the movie.  One brave man with dignity and class with the strength of character to withstand the onslaught of prejudice, insults, threats, and actual verbal and physical attacks. Astonishing.

This was not the first time I had encountered Jackie Robinson's story since I had taught his story a couple of years back when I taught ELL students exclusively.  Their textbook had a moving account about Jackie Robinson which clearly spoke about his challenges but never into such detail.  I had no idea that much of the racism he first encountered in his breaking the color barrier was right here in my backyard so to say.  Sanford, Deland, and Daytona Florida are no more than 20, 25, and 40 minutes away respectively,  from my house by car.   I placidly thought the  prejudice he experienced was light years away.   So it seemed until last year with the death of Trayvon Martin,  that same old racism lifted its ugly head again in Sanford.  Sanford the town with its lovely marina, Lake Monroe and the Central Florida Zoo.  Sanford, Florida.

You would think people would know better. 

The movie surprised me with that historical information and with the use of the "n" word in its full ugly utterance of hate.  It is about time the younger generation of whites and blacks realize this isn't a greeting and friendly colloquial term.  Many of them, both white and African Americans,  could use seeing the example that Jackie Robinson was.  A well dressed gentleman who loved and respected his wife,  who was a loving father to his child, and with self discipline fought for what was right before even Martin Luther King led this country to a non violent revolution.  
This is what the movie does; it makes you think and perhaps relive the past.

At around two this afternoon, at Regal Theatres in Waterford Lakes this is what happened.  Just after the previews the movie was starting and it was a bit dark when an African American family came in.  There were about five people in the group. A mother with her two children and an elderly couple.  The younger woman was helping her fragile mother, perhaps in her 70s to her seat in the dark.  You knew she was making a huge effort to be there.  They got seated a couple of rows down from me.  It was then that is hit me.  She had lived through segregation. This was not just a movie for her.  This was a story of a hero perhaps as big as Martin Luther King and she was not going to miss it.  You don't understand.  If you are in your sixties, seventies or up, you are part of this story.  You either were on the side of pain or on the side of shame.  And you were young and caught on a side you had no control over except how you felt about what was going on.

It made me remember.

I was only six or seven when I looked across a fence to see a shanty part of town where the "colored folks" lived.  There was a slimy slippery creek that ran through it.  It is all built up now, but it was there in Little Creek, Norfolk, Virginia.  I could see shiny cars next to run down houses and it confused me. Some times I heard laughter and music.  Other times I heard screaming and arguments on the other side while my side was mellow.  Why?  How could I know there was something wrong with that rusted cyclone fence?

This is what this movie does to you.  It makes you think.  If you don't like to think, don't go.  But if you are a person who wants to see something good done right and end right.  Go!

It might make you think, but that is okay.

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