Galileo celebrates black history month with speaker


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It was one, two, three strikes you’re out, for the students at Galileo Magnet High School on Friday as they were visited by Derrick Jones, a retired educator, administrator and baseball enthusiast who spoke to the group about the history of the Negro Baseball League.

“This is something I do for the fun of it,” Jones said. “This allows me to tell the history of the country through the eyes of these ball players based on the experiences they had. If you look at each one of the stories, each one resonates with the fact that they had to overcome lots of hurdles, and they did. I enjoy the fact that when you look at the story of someone like Monte Irvin, who took the time to help the great Willie Mays, that resonates and I enjoy those stories.”

A special education teacher for 17 years and an administrator for 16 years, Jones introduced students to players like John Henry ‘Pop’ Lloyd, Leroy ‘Satchel’ Paige, James ‘Cool Papa’ Bell, and William ‘Judy’ Johnson while students donning their jerseys to share their biographies aloud to the group.

“You can’t appreciate where you are now unless you understand where you come from,” Jones said. “These students have grandparents and their grandparents can sit down and tell them little bits and pieces and they might say ‘yeah, yeah, yeah’ but when they hear it from someone telling them based on research or based on what they know was fact hopefully it will open their eyes. I really think with this generation that they have to take a deeper appreciation for what they have and the best way for them to take a deeper appreciation is to understand what people did prior to them to pave the way from them.”

From famous First Basemen Buck Leonard, who boasted he could dig in the dirt to catch any throw, to Pitcher Satchel Paige who said he could throw a strike “anywhere, anytime”, students listened as their classmates shared the stories of men who shaped the history of baseball.

“I hope in their case they have a broader perspective of what Major League Baseball was prior to Jackie Robinson going in,” Jones said.  “Back during that time period, the 40s and 50s, there was still a lot of love between African-Americans and whites, however, because they only hear bits and pieces, there is nothing wrong with understanding history from all kinds of perspectives because, the truth of the matter is, that most of our historical perspective can be slated one-sided and that is not always the case.”

After the presentation students got to browse through hundreds of pieces of memorabilia from the time period including cards, figurines painted by Jones, pictures, and news articles, getting a first-hand look at a time gone by.

“People love the game, that’s not to say everyone loves baseball, but there is nothing like going out to a ballpark in the summer time and seeing a Major League Baseball game,” Jones said. “Some people will argue saying they would rather see football or basketball but in my case I would rather go to a baseball game.”

And a baseball game is what the Galileo students got as their classmates got in formation after the presentation to play a mock East-West All-Star game as the player whose story they shared. The great Willie Mays, played by Senior Reggie Jeffries, was up to bat first with Superintendent of Danville Public Schools Dr. Stanley Jones taking the second at bat.

“I think this was very unique and this is special because he is an educator doing this. There are lots of black history month activities on music and other topics but this is sort of covert history,” Dr. Stanley Jones said. “Not a lot of folks know about the Negro Leagues. Baseball is America’s great pastime so this taught us about the origin of it.”

Jones left the students with several items for thought as he ended the presentation including a quote by Roy Campanella, “You have to have a lot of little boy in you to play baseball for a living”, encouraging them not to rush through their childhood.

“You can’t buy anything at the store with hurt feelings,” Jones also told the group, encouraging them to listen to their teachers and other adults when they correct them as they have wisdom to share.

“We appreciate Mr. Jones coming to Galileo to share stories with our students about the Negro Baseball League.   These players are the ones that paved the way for Jackie Robinson to break baseball’s color barrier and they laid the groundwork for the current generation of African-American, Latino, and Asian players that play Major League Baseball today,” Principal at Galileo Magnet High School Jay Lancaster said. “As an avid baseball fan I was interested to learn more about the history of the game and Mr. Jones has been so gracious sharing his knowledge about this time period. I know our students enjoyed Mr. Jones’ interactive presentation.”

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