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In Jackie Robinson's birthplace, a new generation draws inspiration
Aniyah Peters, 13, belongs to a Boys and Girls Club that was recently renamed to honor Jackie Robinson.
April 27th, 2013
09:00 AM ET

In Jackie Robinson's birthplace, a new generation draws inspiration

By Moni Basu, CNN

Cairo, Georgia  (CNN) – Aniyah Peters wishes her white teachers would talk about Jackie Robinson as much as her black teachers do. After all, Aniyah, 13, goes to school in Cairo, the small southwest Georgia city where Robinson was born in 1919.

Jackie Robinson

The man who broke modern-day baseball's color barrier could serve as inspiration for all children, Aniyah says. Just as he has inspired her.

This year, Aniyah came in second in a local essay contest on "How has the life of Jackie Robinson changed my life?"

"He showed the world that African-Americans can be just as good as Caucasians during the time of racial discrimination," Aniyah wrote. "Since I really love softball, he has shown me I can make it to the major leagues and become famous one day."

Aniyah has no shortage of ambition coursing through her veins. She wants to be a lawyer, an archaeologist and a fashion designer all at once.

She and her friends Destiny Tice, 14, and D.J. Donaldson, 14, hang out every day after school at the Grady County Boys and Girls Club, which was recently renamed to honor Robinson. On this warm afternoon, Aniyah says she is excited about going to see "42," the new Hollywood biopic about Robinson. Maybe over the weekend.

On the previous Friday, when the movie opened, the kids formed the number 42 on the baseball field and released red and blue balloons into the spring air.

"This place keeps us off the streets," Aniyah says with the wisdom of a mother. She talks about how Cairo is still a tough place for poor black kids to grow up. There's a lot of poverty and drugs and not much incentive to accomplish things in life.

"We recognize we don't have the same opportunities. Lots of kids drop out of school," she says.

Charles Renaud, 49, a former county commissioner who helped found the club and then name it after Robinson, said there are about 140 students who use the facility. It takes $215,000 a year to run the place.

Putting Robinson's name on the club was the best way to honor his legacy and spotlight the club at the same time, Renaud said. If one child learns the life skills to succeed, then Robinson would be proud. Of that, Renaud is sure.

At the Boys and Girls Club, Aniyah and her friends know that the younger kids are looking to them as role models. Aniyah says she never uses bad language or gets angry at the club.

She thinks it's cool that the club has now been named for Robinson. Kids need to know what it meant for him to become the first black player in the major leagues. It was especially important here, in this corner of Georgia, she thought, where many of her friends only know peripherally about the ugly days of segregation.

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soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. Kitty Pryde

    As a resident of Cairo, GA and having grown up in Atlanta, I am proud of all of our famous athletes. Jackie Robinson, Teresa Edwards, Willie C Harris are just a few. Cairo has a sense of community that rallies around our homegrown talent. We have two former Cairo High School students who have just been drafted into the NFL this weekend! We need more positive small towns out here to encourage our young people to follow their dreams.

    April 29, 2013 at 8:42 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Hometown

    Jackie Robinson was born in Cairo, GA and lived there for about a year before his mother moved them to California. Half of the town is named after Robinson and there is a lot of pride knowing he was born there. This author makes out Cairo to be a small racist town deep in the south. Yes, it's deep in the south but it's a friendly small town. Black kids have just as much if not more opportunity to make something of themselves than anyone else.

    April 29, 2013 at 8:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Hometown also

      Really????

      April 29, 2013 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
  3. AniyunweahCherokee

    I'm Cherokee and Irish...if you called me caucasion I certainly wouldn't hold my glass up and say Nostrovia to you.

    April 29, 2013 at 6:32 am | Report abuse |
  4. AniyunweahCherokee

    Stop calling all white people caucasions...get an education...Anglos are not from the Caucasus mountains of Russia Armenia Iran and Iraq. Caucasions are Slavic and Arabic speaking people from those mountains that border Europe and Asia. And can a Creole or jamacian American be just as proud? Not all black people are African.

    April 29, 2013 at 6:03 am | Report abuse |
    • AniyunweahCherokee

      Lots of black folks are also from India....can they be proud? I think its time we stop calling everything black and white and flush the one drop rule that racist whites and blacks seem to love soooo much...down the toilet.

      April 29, 2013 at 6:11 am | Report abuse |
  5. USA

    Jackie Robinson is a GREAT MAN.

    April 28, 2013 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • AniyunweahCherokee

      Agreed. So was crazy horse. Do you know about him?

      April 29, 2013 at 6:04 am | Report abuse |
    • AniyunweahCherokee

      George Washington Carver and Booker T Washington were also great american men...but since they didn't play with a ball...they don't get the recognition they deserve!

      April 29, 2013 at 6:07 am | Report abuse |
  6. ronjayaz

    In anticipation of not being published on the commentary page, let me say that the intransigence of Cairo, GA not to want to place a monument near the "War between the States" is indicative of the "secret" hate that lies in the hearts of the South. Let's burn Atlanta agen!

    April 28, 2013 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |