Board of Alderman
September 15, 2008
Allan Brison (G-10)
NOTE: every Board Of Aldermen meeting starts with one of the Alders
leading the board in something inspirational, otherwise known as Divine
Guidance. Since there are 30 alders and only 22 BOA meetings per year,
the opportunity doesn't come up very often, less than once per year.
This was what I did when it was my turn.
Thank you. Please be seated.
Many of us can look to special defining events or moments in our
childhood that have had a profound, inspirational, effect on the rest
of our lives.
For me that event occurred when I was nine years old.
It was baseball's opening day in Ebetts Field, Brooklyn,
NY, April 15th, 1947. That was the day that Dodger first-baseman,
Jackie Robinson, became the first black player in the history of Major
I was an avid fan of my beloved Brooklyn Dodgers. Jackie
quickly became my hero. I learned all about the tremendous obstacles
that he faced in those early years:
-how he had to withstand the constant verbal abuse from the
opposing dugouts where he was called every known racial slur in the
books, and many creative new ones as well,
-how he was thrown at on a daily basis by the opposing pitchers,
-how in St. Louis and even some northern cities, he had to be housed and fed segregated from the rest of the Brooklyn team,
-how many players threatened to strike against his playing,
including several of his own teammates. These threats, some very
serious, were only put down by vigorous and prompt actions of National
League president Ford Frick, Dodger manager Leo Durocher, and Branch
Rickey, the visionary General Manager of the Brooklyn team.
As a white kid in a northern all-white town, I had little
concept of racial problems in the US. Two years after Robinson broke
the color barrier, however, I spent the summer with my parents and
brother in the Jim Crow South.
The obvious poverty and the humiliating restrictions on black people were a shock.
I played baseball down there in Maplewood, Louisiana. One day
when my ball playing chums and I were huddled in a shed sitting out a
rainstorm, the conversation turned to Jackie. Only they didn't refer to
him by name, only by racial slurs. The consensus was that he was the
worse player ever to set foot in Major League baseball.
In fact, of course, he was one of the best, leading the league
in virtually every batting category at the time. I was much too shy and
intimidated to challenge my friends in this.
That night, however, I related the story to my family; and my
brother who was 15, very popular in the local teen scene, and not at
all shy, said he had heard the same crap from his friends, but he had
called them on it, told them they were full of s-h-i-t, that Robinson
was one of the very best players in baseball, and their inability to
see this showed that they were suffering from a huge case of sour
I was so proud of my brother. And he wasn't even a Dodger fan.
A few years later, in 1961, I returned to the South, this time
as a 3rd year student at Rice University in Houston Texas - the largest
segregated city in the country. There were no black students at Rice
A handful of us Rice students joined the fledgling Civil Rights
movement centered at Texas Southern U, the black school in Houston, and
I got a taste of justice southern style.
One night, for example, in the white section of the Houston
City Jail, I and my other white comrades were paraded up and down in
front of the other detainees while the jail guard, in marine drill
sergeant style, hurled invectives at us, degrading us with the worst
insult that one southern white person could bestow on another; a term
that I won't repeat, but which means one who loves black folks.
He then locked us up, each of us in a cell with 3 of the
detainees that he had just tried to incite to violence. To say I was
scared would be an understatement.
We were lucky that night. None of our respective cellmates
seemed to care what we had or had not just done. But a few nights later
one of the others had 2 teeth knocked out in a similar situation.
Jackie succeeded against what must have been among the most
enormous obstacles any Big League player has ever had to face. He did
it with dignity and grace. He went on to be elected into Baseball's
Hall of Fame.
The Jackie Robinson story has stayed with me and continued to inspire me throughout my entire life.