W ith the presidential election over and a new administration in office, we are seeing in many ways that despite President Donald J. Trump’s statements of hate, this is a country with a wonderful mix of people. We aren’t all native born but we have learned to celebrate each other as a wonderful expression of humanity. I experienced this when visiting with a good friend, Father Joseph Corley.
Father Corley has been a fan of my writings and photography for many years. I was visiting him one day when I saw the photo I had taken of him feeding a sheep at the zoo. He stated that he loves the photo and looks at it every day to remind him that his job is to take care of his parishioners. He then showed me another photo he loves; a black and white photograph of Willie Mays stealing home. He told me I needed to write a piece about the photo.
I asked him what he sees in the photo and why he likes it so much. He said what he saw was the winning of the race; the fact that in 1951 Mays broke the color barrier by being hired by the New York Giants. The photo is the moment Mays hit “the shot heard around the world” helping the Giants to a victory over the Dodgers.
It was that admiration and gentle prodding that made me take a second look at the photo. Willie Mays knew that his victory wasn’t just about himself; it was a victory on so many levels – he proved that his abilities more than qualified him to be allowed to play with White males. Many athletes of all races still face that battle every day if they are trying to excel in a field that hasn’t accepted them. Many have tried to steal the sweetness of those victories from Black athletes by saying that they are genetically predisposed to winning athletics simply because their bodies are more remarkable than their brains.
However, they disprove that every day to the world by those who succeed and prosper in fields f a r from the pl ayground – corpor a t e boardrooms, financial empires and other seats of power.
What I saw in the photo of May’s victory was a look of pure joy as he beat the ball to get on base. It was a victory for him personally of having beaten a peer to the base, but it was also a victory for thousands of others at a time when to look “wrong” at a White person could get you lynched. But who knows, for Mays it might simply have been the sweetness of knowing he could beat a fellow athlete who took for granted his “superiority” over Mays simply because the color of his skin was White and Mays was “just another colored man.”
I am encouraged to see so many people coming together to let the new administration know that despite its efforts to separate this country, America is made up of more people than those who attended Trump’s rallies. We will need to organize on the street level, neighborhoods, cities and states to prevent the loss of many rights we took for granted that this administration is determined to take from us. There is so much work to be done; let us all get busy!
By Beatrice Joyner