Honoring a legend who meant a great deal not just to sports and Brooklyn, but America.
Jackie Robinson, the first African-American to play in Major League Baseball when he made his debut on April 15, 1947 for the Brooklyn Dodgers, was honored the day before the 71st anniversary of having broken the color barrier on the street he once called home.
On Saturday, April 14, MacDonough Street between Ralph and Patchen Avenues, was co-named Jackie Robinson Way during a ceremony which was attended by elected officials, local residents, advocates and more. The City Council unanimously approved the co-naming back in February.
“Jackie Robinson once lived with his wife and baby on MacDonough Street,” said Valerie Oliver-Durrah, president and CEO of one of the day’s sponsors, the Neighborhood Technical Assistance Clinic (NTAC).
The timing, she added, was perfect. The block recently celebrated, “Over 60 years of annual block parties and also the anniversary of the 500 Macdonough Street Association,” Oliver-Durrah explained, adding, “We thought that we would co-name the block after one of our famous neighbors and Jackie was the one who everyone was excited about.
“The City Council is taking the time to build community and cultural pride in neighborhoods by renaming streets after people that lived in that area at one time,” Oliver-Durrah went on. “This is a great thing for Bedford-Stuyvesant.”
Among those who spoke were Public Speaker Letitia James.
“As we continue the process of fighting for equality and representation, it is important to remember the struggles that people like Jackie Robinson faced to get us to where we are today and to ensure that our younger generations know this history too,” she said. “And I know this street will serve as a constant reminder of him and his life’s work.”
“It was a beautiful day in the village of Bedford-Stuyvesant with the 500 Block MacDonough Street Association, as they unveiled a historic block co-naming for our former neighbor, Jackie Robinson,” added Borough President Eric Adams. “Thank you, #42, for everything you have done for Brooklyn and all Americans.”
“Today is #JackieRobinsonDay marking 71 years since #42 broke baseball’s color barrier in his debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers,” tweeted Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez. “Yesterday, I was honored to take part in renaming the block where he lived…’Jackie Robinson Way.’”
Youth leader 14-year-old Esai Ellis, opened up the program.
“Everybody who came to the mic talked about needing to see more of our young people engaged in our community, activities and events and congratulating MacDonough Street bringing a young person to talk about an African American giant in such a time as this,” Oliver-Durrah said. “Fifty years from now, he’ll remember this day. And he will also remember the quote from Jackie that a life is not important except the impact it has on others. Now he’s saying he wants to grow up, get a good job, but also help people like Mr. Robinson did.”
A former neighbor of the late baseball great also spoke.
“We had a family member on the block by the name of Judge Larry D. Martin and he was five years old when Jackie came to the block,” he said as he shared stories of Robinson. “He would always bring a bag home and have candy that he would give to all the children to the block. He cared about the community.”
The co-naming is more than just a sign for the neighborhood; it is also a symbol, Oliver-Durrah stressed.
“There’s a question that is often asked,” she said. “Can anything good come out of Bedford-Stuyvesant? And the answer is yes. Jackie Robinson was a young man who was abandoned by his father in California. You never know when you’re going to find a jewel. He rose and made his family proud. For Bed-Stuy, he leaves a legacy of good character.”
Among the sponsors of the celebration were National Grid, the Jackie Robinson Foundation and the New York Mets. Participants in the celebration included the Black Cowboys.