Protestors in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, on 3 May 1963, being hit by a high-pressure water hose being used to disperse people during a civil rights protest. See Birmingham campaign. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Fifty years ago today in America, thousands of African-American elementary and high school children left classrooms, went to 16th Street Baptist Church, gathered at Ingram Kelly Park, forgot fear, faced fire hoses, and met the dogs and demons of hatred on their fight for freedom. Starting on May 2, 1963, the Children’s March moved civil rights from being Birmingham, Alabama’s little secret to gaining worldwide attention.
Children embraced a challenge. They went to jail for a cause. They raised the level of awareness about the awful state of trying to let freedom ring in Alabama. They changed segregation’s course.
Children made a difference in civil rights fifty years ago. That difference inspires today’s broader human rights movement. Children did something. What are you doing?
Protest observer (Walter Gadsden) in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, on 3 May 1963, being attacked by police dogs during a civil rights protest. See Birmingham campaign. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There are several great resources to learn more about the Children’s March. A good start is a tool produced by the Southern Poverty Law Center used to teach tolerance, “Mighty Times: The Children’s March.” The 2005 Academy Award-winning film documents the story of the 1963 march.
Jackie Robinson swinging a bat in Dodgers uniform, 1954. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Today is Jackie Robinson Day. Since 1997, when former Brooklyn Dodger Jackie Robinson’s number 42 was retired from Major League Baseball, players across the country wear the number on this day in honor of the man who broke baseball’s color barrier. On April 15, 1947, when Jackie Robinson, age 28, played his first game at Ebbets Field for the Brooklyn Dodgers, he became the first African-American to play with the Majors. He integrated a sport that had been segregated for more than 50 years. Fifty years later, his number became the first-ever retired by all teams in the league.
What did it take then for Jackie Robinson to make a difference in the world? What did it take then for him to be a change agent? It took the same thing then as it takes now: courage, innovative thinking, collaboration, talent and commitment.
Robinson embraced a certain courage in the face of overwhelming racial discrimination from players and fans against a backdrop of historic Jim Crow laws. Change happened at the time because of innovative thinking and insight from another change agent, Branch Rickey, the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers who was determined to transform baseball for business and idealistic reasons. The collaboration between two strong-willed change agents imbued with unwavering courage and commitment, set in motion a new era of baseball. Together, Jackie Robinson’s extraordinary talent as a person and player and Branch Rickey’s talent to see beyond color resulted in them making a difference in baseball and beyond.
With courage, talent, thinking beyond the box, commitment and collaboration, anyone can improve things for the greater good whether working in sports, in Congress, in a classroom, or for a corporation. Think Jackie Robinson, Branch Rickey, and countless unknown individuals who paved paths for each of us to continue pushing toward progress.