The plaque was built in 2001 to honor Robinson’s beginnings in Grady County, Georgia. But after community members discovered the plaque sprayed with bullets in late February last year, it served as a reminder of what this nation never wants to own up to. It’s violent past and the persistent abhorrent treatment of Black people that continues to this day.
That the defacing occurred amidst the ongoing global pandemic which has impacted minorities disproportionately, and in the wake of the summer of a supposed racial reckoning is sort of ironic.
“It’s terrible,” said Linda Walden, Robinson’s third cousin. “This should not be happening. Why do something like that? It just doesn’t make sense. It’s really sad in this year and time. Look, our people came here in 1619 and we have endured so much, our ancestors, and to come to now, 2022, and you still have a mess like this going on? It’s sad. It’s very sad, but I pray for these people.”
President of the museum Bob Kendrick said on Twitter that the marker will “remind us of the courage [Robinson] demonstrated 75 years ago when he broke the MLB’s color barrier.”
Defaced marker honoring Jackie Robinson coming home to the NLBM to remind us of the courage he demonstrated 75 yrs ago when he broke @MLB’s color barrier. MLB replaced the damaged marker. @Jposnanski @vgregorian @KSHB41 @kmbc @KCTV5 @fox4kc @Royals RT https://t.co/0KFTi3U2kP
— Bob Kendrick (@nlbmprez) January 29, 2022
The vice president and museum curator, Ray Doswell, said the defaced marker is not an item that they would typically seek. But in conversations with the Georgia Historical Society, he decided displaying the vandalized sign was an opportunity to teach and combat hate.
This isn’t the first Robinson memorial that has been vandalized.
In 2013 outside of MCU park in Brooklyn, where the Brooklyn Cyclones play, swastikas and racial and anti-Semitic epithets were painted on a statue of Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese.
Some work still needs to be done before it is ready for viewing, according to Doswell.
“I have not physically seen the damaged sign yet,” Doswell said.
The marker is one of several other markers representing Black history that was damaged in Georgia last year. Once again, this nation tells on itself at every turn.
“The Robinson marker has the least amount, but the damage was still too deep to repair,” he said.
A case will be built, and spot secured in the museum before it’s exhibited. That should all take place around mid-April, when the museum celebrates the 75th anniversary of Robinson’s debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers. The sign is expected to be permanently loaned to the Kansas City Museum for regular display.
April Brown, M.L.B.’s vice president of social responsibility, told the New York Times that the effort to preserve Robinson’s memory will exist in perpetuity because “we want to make sure it’s something that stands forever.”
“Sometimes people do look at things as, ‘Oh, it’s just a physical signage,’” she said. “But what it represents is how we can empower the community and audiences around social justice, and to empower and lift up those who fought for rights for all.”
The NYT continued:
Brown called the defacing of Robinson’s marker and the others “incredibly heartbreaking.” But she also sees it as an opportunity to call attention to the fact that vandalism directed at minorities is still happening.
“It’s still an indication of how much further our country needs to go,” she said. “It’s very unfortunate that whoever the individual or individuals were, they felt they needed to take it out on something that’s so iconic and for a man who left such a legacy in baseball and in America.”
Born in Georgia, Robinson grew up in Pasadena, California, where his family relocated in 1920 when he was 18 months old. He was a four-sport star at UCLA and bounced around the country in the Army. He broke the Major League Baseball color barrier on April 15, 1947, with the Brooklyn Dodgers, for whom he played for 10 years.
He was a six-time All-Star, two-time stolen base leader, batting champion, Rookie of the Year, MVP, and World Series champion. His number 42 has been retired by every major league baseball team.
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