Celebrating Black History Month
Henry “Hank” Aaron was a famous baseball player that made history for being one of the first Black baseball players in Major League Baseball and breaking one of baseball’s greatest records. Aaron was born on February 5, 1934 in Mobile, Alabama. He was interested in baseball from the very beginning, however, his family’s socioeconomic status meant that he could not afford sports equipment. Despite this challenge, he still practiced his talent by tossing bottle caps in the air and using a broom handle as a bat.
His passion for baseball grew as he got older and joined an independent Negro League called the Indianapolis Clowns in his sophomore and junior years of high school. During his time in the Negro League, his talent caused people to turn heads. This eventually led him to receive two offers from Major League Baseball teams, including the New York Giants and the Braves. During his time on the Braves, he faced many obstacles due to his race. Aaron would have to find his own housing accommodations while traveling, because many hotels would not allow him to stay with the rest of his team. He also faced numerous threats to his and his family’s lives. However, despite these challenges, he became one of the greatest players of all time and received the nickname “Hammerin’ Hank” because of his talent at hitting home runs. He also helped lead the Milwaukee Braves to win the World Series in 1957. To this day, many believe that his only rival in talent is the legendary Babe Ruth, whose all-time home run record he broke in 1973 as an Atlanta Brave.
Aaron recently passed away, however, his impact still lives on today. He was also a long-time supporter of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
Changemakers of Our Time
Kamala Harris is the 49th Vice President of the United States. She serves within President Joe Biden’s administration. She is the first person of color to hold this position and is the highest elected woman official in the history of the United States. She has played prominent roles in multiple sectors of the U.S. government. Some of these prior roles included serving as a U.S. Senator from California and as California’s attorney general.
Vice President Harris studied political science at Howard University in the late 1980’s and earned her law degree shortly after at Hastings College. Through her law degree, she became a prosecutor in Oakland, California. She rose in her field and quickly set a name for herself after becoming the first woman of color to serve as California’s attorney general. She also later became the first Indian American elected into the Senate in 2017.
Amanda Gorman is a 22-year-old poet who has recently gained national recognition following her reading at President Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony. Prior to her recent recognition she made a name for herself with both her poetry and her activism. She was born on March 7, 1998 in Los Angeles, California and in 2017 at the age of 19 made history by being appointed the first National Youth Poet Laureate of the United States. Before that, she was the youth poet laureate of Los Angeles. Her writing focuses on a variety of topics related to activism, including race, feminism, and oppression. She is an accomplished author of several poetry collections and is the founder of One Pen One Page, an organization that focuses on bringing free creative writing programs to disadvantaged youth.
Gary Brackett is a former NFL linebacker for the Indianapolis Colts, a former sports commentator, a Humanitarian Award winner, an author, and the founder of Gary Brackett’s Impact Foundation. Born and raised in Glassboro, New Jersey, he attended Glassboro High School where he became a two-time All South Jersey selection, a two-time All-Group I Choice, and a two-time All-Tri-County Conference choice, due to his success in football. He later joined the football team at Rutgers University and left as the captain of the defensive team and recipient of the MVP honor. In 2003, he joined the Indianapolis Colts as a free agent and eventually became captain of the defensive team in 2006. In 2007, he started in their Super Bowl win against the Chicago Bears.
Beyond his success in football, Brackett has frequently given back to the community. Some of his biggest accomplishments involve his foundation, named Gary Brackett’s Impact Foundation. The foundation’s work centers around chronically ill children and at-risk youth. His programs help to support these children and give them valuable resources to help improve their lives. Since its inception, his foundation has helped more than 200,000 families.
Our Club members had the honor of speaking to Gary Brackett through Zoom to discuss both his football and his humanitarian efforts. Brackett also gifted our Club members a signed copy of his book, “Winning: From Walk-On to Captain, in Football and Life.” This meeting gave our Club members a valuable experience learning from a local, successful individual. We thank Gary Brackett for taking the time to speak to our Club members and learn more about our organization. Check out the collage below to see our Club kids’ meeting with Gary!
John Lewis was a Civil Rights leader and U.S. Representative who was at the forefront of the movement for racial equality. Lewis, born in 1940 in Troy, Alabama, grew up in a time of racial segregation in America. He was heavily inspired by the work and teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. and the 1955-1956 Montgomery bus boycott; the boycott against the policy of racial segregation on the public transit system in the city of Montgomery, Alabama.
In 1957, Lewis left his home to attend a seminar about nonviolent protests. From this, he began to help organize and execute several nonviolent protests, including sit-in protests at segregated lunch counters. Although these nonviolent protests led to his arrest, he was still heavily involved in the Civil Rights movement. In fact, he became a Freedom Rider in 1961, became a chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in 1963, and participated in multiple nonviolent protests, including the March on Washington and the March from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. Both of these protests led to significant change for the Civil Rights movement, including the implementation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
He later became the director of the Voter Education Project, a project that helped to register millions of Black and minority citizens to vote. He was also elected into the House of Representatives in 1986 where he fought for reform in healthcare, education, and poverty. Up until his death, he took part in a multitude of projects and political strategies to help enrich minority communities and advocate for racial equality. Although he passed in July of 2020, John Lewis is still considered to be one of the most influential people in the Civil Rights movement.
MLK Day of Service Event
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a day that inspires Americans. Since Congress designated MLK Day as a day of service in 1994, hundreds of thousands of Americans have participated in volunteer acts to commemorate Dr. King’s vision of a better world. According to the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, “The MLK Day of Service empowers individuals, strengthens communities, bridges barriers, creates solutions to social problems, and moves us closer to Dr. King’s vision of a ‘Beloved Community.’”
This MLK Day, our Club members performed an act of service for the elderly citizens in our Gloucester County community. They created care packages and letters for nursing home residents in an effort to learn kindness and compassion and to support these vulnerable communities. With the COVID-19 pandemic, we believe that it is even more crucial to show generosity during these trying times. Stay tuned for photos of the event!
Our mission is to enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens.
We recognize the impact of systemic racism on the lives of youth, and we believe young people should feel safe, have access to opportunities and feel valued not just at the Club, but everywhere in our society.
Statement of Support
For 160 years, Boys & Girls Clubs have enabled young people to achieve great futures through our mission: to enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential. This mission and our core beliefs fuel Boys & Girls Clubs’ commitment to promoting safe, positive and inclusive environments for all – regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation, ability, socio-economic status or religion.
As the leading youth development organization, serving 4.6 million youth annually at 4,700 Clubs in communities across the country, Boys & Girls Clubs stand in service to our mission and in partnership with the youth we serve, in our assertion that Black Lives Matter. It is our responsibility to commit to equity in clear, bold ways and to eradicate anything standing in the way of realizing our mission. Against the backdrop of recent incidents, we must acknowledge that opportunities are not equal for all, and that significant and sustained change is required. To advance our mission for youth, we must take action to advance racial equity for the Black youth, families and communities we serve.
Our use of Black Lives Matter is not an endorsement of an organization, personality, policy or political party, nor is it an exclusionary statement. We say Black Lives Matter to refute notions of racial hierarchy and affirm our commitment to equity for Black people, in service to our mission to enable opportunities for every young person.