When Jackie Robinson became the first African American to play major league baseball in 1947, he laid a framework of courage and social justice for all Americans that would continue to help shape the future of the country both on and off the field.
His daughter Sharon Robinson is an author and the vice chairperson of the Jackie Robinson Foundation. She was in town recently to present an award to Parkway Center High School student Jennifer Wayland. Wayland won a nationwide essay contest focused on applying the values of Jackie Robinson to break barriers in their own lives.
She's especially pleased with the recent biopic "42," that focuses on her dad's journey to breaking the color barrier, and how actor Chadwick Boseman was able to play to Robinson's will and determination to succeed.
"He did get the strength of character that allowed him to persevere in spite of the obstacles, and that's really what's important to me," she says.
Robinson's father continued to lead the fight in breaking barriers after leaving Major League Baseball in 1957 and became a political and civil rights activist. “The Civil Rights Movement was heating up when I was about 13, and my father had been going South. He came home from one of his trips and he said ‘As a family we’re going to have a mission – and that mission is going to be around social change,” she remembers. For their part, the family participated in the March on Washington and held a concert at their home to raise funds for those jailed on behalf of the movement. As an author and through her work in the Jackie Robinson Foundation, of which she is vice-chair, Sharon has made it a point to ensure that her father's legacy continues to carry on.
In presenting ninth grader Wayland with her award for her winning essay, which focused on body image, Robinson reflected on how her father's story translated to today's students and to society. "To me, the real testament to how his efforts - Jackie Robinson's efforts - affected all of us, is how she can take the same values that helped him be successful on and off the baseball field to help her understand her process of learning to love herself."