Taking a Week Off
After a week of visiting and traveling to, with, and from kids and grandkids, I need a week off! Thanks for understanding! See you next Tuesday.
And Here’s to You, Rachel Robinson
There was no sport the nineteen-year-old [Jackie Robinson] did not excel in, making him a hero to many minority youths in Pasadena.
from 42 Is Not Just a Number: The Odyssey of
Jackie Robinson, American Hero
written by Doreen Rappaport
Candlewick Press, 2017
There’s always one kid who is last to get picked to be on a team. When it came to choosing sides in sports, that kid was me. Kickball, field hockey, dodgeball, you name it, and I was last. I was okay with that, pretty much. I knew sports were not my best thing at school. I liked spelling bees and grammar challenges, but that’s a different story.
As bad as I was at sports, Jackie Robinson was good. He set records in basketball, track, football, and even tennis in Junior High, High School, and Pasadena Junior College. At UCLA he competed in baseball, basketball, football, and track and field where he was a four-sport star.
Jackie met his future wife, Rachel Isum, at UCLA where she was studying nursing. They were married after she graduated, just one year before Jackie broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball.
After his honorable discharge from the Army in 1944, Jackie continued playing sports, but until April 15, 1947, American Major League Baseball was segregated. As good as he was, as an outstanding athlete and as an outstanding person, he was shunned because of the color of his skin. When he played for the Kansas City Monarchs, a team in the American Negro League, Jackie caught the attention of Branch Rickey, president and general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers.
He said of Jackie, “There was never a man in the game who could put mind and muscle together quicker and with better judgment than (Jackie) Robinson.”
Ricky approached Jackie with a deal: They would integrate American baseball by putting Jackie on the Dodger’s team, but Jackie would have to accept the taunts, slurs, and outright abuse Ricky knew Jackie would have to face if he accepted the offer. The abuse was so awful that at one point, Jackie wanted to quit baseball. But he stayed, much to his credit and much to the support of his wife, Rachel.
Baseball celebrates Jackie Robinson Day every year on April 15. It commemorates the date in 1947 when Jackie made history in Major League Baseball with his debut game with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
In 1997, the League retired Jackie’s number, 42, throughout the Majors, and since 2009, all on-field personnel honor his legacy by wearing 42 during scheduled games.
As stated on jackierobinson.org, “Since her husband’s premature death, Mrs. Robinson has used her ability and his legacy to further the causes they so ardently supported.” Together with Jackie, they provided young, black people with housing and opportunities through education. They were tireless in their social action.
Rachel has also won many accolades in her own name. After earning a Master’s Degree in psychiatric nursing, she became a researcher at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine’s Department of Social and Community Psychiatry. She was a researcher at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine’s Department of Social and Community Psychiatry, then became Director of Nursing for the Connecticut Mental Health Center and an Assistant Professor of Nursing at Yale University.
A year after Jackie’s untimely death from a heart attack and complications of diabetes, Rachel created the Jackie Robinson Foundation, a non-profit that provides college scholarships and leadership training. Through the Foundation, she’s able to continue encouraging young people and continue her social action work.
In 1996, she wrote a biography of her famous husband called Jackie Robinson: An Intimate Portrait. She has been awarded many achievement awards and eight honorary doctorate degrees from prestigious colleges and universities.
A week from today, July 26, 2022, the Jackie Robinson Museum will open in New York City. Here's a list of the festivities featuring live music, a documentary screening, and a celebrity panel discussion.
The museum’s three-fold mission:
“To educate visitors about Jackie Robinson, the athlete, activist,
patriot, entrepreneur, and family man.
To inspire those interested in the history of social change and
the prescription for greater progress.
To challenge people of all ages to pursue a life of achievement
will be achieved through 20,000 square feet of permanent and changing exhibits, artifacts, historical images and over 450 hours of broadcast quality video footage.
Over 1,000 supporters, both large and small donors, have helped The Jackie Robinson Foundation (JRF) and Mrs. Robinson’s campaign raise over $34 million.
By opening the museum, the JRF “will [continue to] educate and inspire the general public around the ideals embodied in the life of its namesake.”
And today is Rachel Robinson’s 100th birthday. Happy Birthday, Rachel Robinson! Many happy returns!
-—Be curious! (and play ball)
For the Love of Chocolate
John scraped up a small piece of egg and put it into his mouth. It immediately became chocolate—chocolate white and chocolate yolk. Both lovely, lovely chocolate. “Mmm!” John mumbled. “Chocolate egg!” In almost no time he had finished every scrap of egg on his plate. Then he tried the bacon. The bacon turned to chocolate, too.
John had never before enjoyed his breakfast so much.
from The Chocolate Touch
by Patrick Skene Catling
newly illustrated by Margot Apple
(originally published William Morrow Publishers, 1957)
Today, July 12, 2022, would have been my dad’s 105th birthday. We always celebrated with chocolate cake covered in chocolate frosting, and topped off with a scoop (or two) of chocolate ice cream. Dad loved chocolate.
His favorite was milk chocolate. Mine, too. But I also like those little semi-sweet chips that give chocolate chip cookies their name. I like hot cocoa, cold chocolate milk, and a crisp chocolate bar. I like creamy chocolate and gooey chocolate-covered caramel. Chocolate-dipped strawberries, marshmallows, cashews…mmm. I got sick once after I ate the chocolate-covered graham crackers my mom sent with my lunch at camp. I think I was coming down with the flu, but, ever since then I avoid those.
Last Thursday, July 7, was World Chocolate Day. It occurs every year on the same date. It’s been suggested that July 7, 1550, was the date that chocolate was introduced to Europe. I couldn't verify that, though. The Aztecs and Mayans were the first to use the cacao bean in food products. Evidence of cocoa-based food dates back many thousand of years.
Shortly after Columbus’s adventures in the 1490s, stories about lands that flourished with flora, fauna, and golden riches tempted Spanish Conquistadors to cross the ocean to see for themselves. They plundered the land and the people in their quest to conquer, and by the way, discovered the cacao tree and its bean.
Cacao beans were cultivated and used by Mesoamerican civilizations who predated the Mayans. The beans were removed from their pods, fermented in containers and laid out to dry. Then they were ground, mixed with water and various other ingredients like chile peppers, flowers, vanilla, and honey and stirred into a thick, bitter, and foamy drink.
Although the Aztecs enjoyed a cold version of a similar drink, they mostly used the cacao beans as currency.
In 1519, when the explorer and Conquistador, Hernán Cortés arrived in Mexico, he captured the Aztec capital city of Tenochtitlan, and defeated Montezuma. Fighting continued for several years until the Aztecs who were much diminished by the Spanish, finally succumbed to smallpox.
But their chocolate lived on.
Cortés returned to Spain with cacao and the formula to turn it into the rich beverage. He built cacao plantations in the new colonies of the conquered Mexican lands and produced beans for trade that brought prosperity to Spain.
The Spaniards liked a sweeter drink with fewer spices. It was enjoyed in secret by the aristocracy for several decades before they shared it with the rest of Europe. The French and Italians changed the recipe again.
It took the onset of the Industrial Revolution, with its development of steam-powered machines, to make the production of cocoa powder affordable. In 1850, Joseph Fry added cacao butter to cocoa power and formed a solid mass. Solid chocolate became wildly popular.
The US is the world’s largest producer of chocolate and Hershey’s is our country’s largest producer of chocolate candy. The Hershey Chocolate Company was established in 1894. Six years later, they sold their first candy bar. On a visit to Hershey, Pennsylvania, you can enjoy the main street with its Hershey Kiss-shaped street lights, peruse the gift shop, and tour the factory, which is not at all like Willy Wonka's!
By 2019, about two-thirds of the world’s cocoa supply came from West Africa where child labor is the norm. Kids as young as ten-years-old are prohibited from going to school and forced to harvest cacao.
Chocolate industry leaders worldwide pledged in 2001, under pressure from the U.S. Congress, to eradicate “the worst forms of child labor” from their West African cocoa suppliers. It was a goal companies agreed to reach in four years.
Twenty-one years later, the practice continues. Nestle, Mars, and Hershey are working to encourage farmers to improve their working conditions and eliminate child labor, but the only way to make sure your chocolate is sourced ethically is to look for the fair trade certification label.
Chocolate, especially dark chocolate, is touted as a health food. It very well may be. For me, though, the best chocolate experience is laced with butter, plenty of sugar, and a few nuts, caramel, or a creamy center.
Life really is like a box of chocolates. Enjoy your inevitable surprises.
-—Be curious! (and lick up every luscious drop!)
A Reason to Keep Celebrating
The idea for today’s post came quickly. As soon as I saw an article on World Chocolate Day, I had to find out more. Unfortunately, during (and after) a wonderful whirlwind week with my grandsons and their family, the research never got done. Please come back next week to find out what I found out about chocolate.
--Be curious! (and discover something delicious)
I'm a children's writer and poet intent on observing the world and nurturing those I find in my small space .