Jackie Robinson commemoration brings Pasadena community together

PASADENA — Part nostalgia, part reality, Hollywood and Pasadena came together Friday morning at ArcLight Cinema in Paseo Colorado for a celebration of Legendary Pictures’ release of “42,” a biography on the early life and playing career of civil rights icon and Brooklyn Dodgers star Jackie Robinson.

Pasadena City College hosted the light breakfast and screening to commemorate the school’s “most famous alumnus,” inviting civic and school leaders along with members of the Robinson Family.

“This is a celebration of Jackie Robinson. As you all know, his older brother [1936 Olympic silver medalist] Mack Robinson also made history,” said Pasadena City College President Mark Rocha, a Brooklyn native. “Mack Robinson made Jessie Owens possible, because he ran Jessie Owens around that track. You all know that story.

“Look at what these two men did. Mack Robinson and the Olympics and Jackie Robinson changing the course of American history – PCC alumns.”

Two such members of the Robinson family tree present at the celebration were Delano Robinson, Jackie’s sister-in-law and wife of Mack Robinson, and her daughter Sachi Hamilton.

Delano Robinson arrived shortly after opening remarks from Rocha, the event’s master of ceremonies, and from Dodgers historian Mark Langill, both a South Pasadena High and PCC alumnus.

Delano Robinson, who will turn 80 in July, gave a thumbs up to the film.

“The movie is educational and shows the strives the boys went through with the segregation and how it was in those times as opposed to today,” said Delano Robinson, who was wearing a warm-up jacket used by Jackie Robinson, also a John Muir High alumnus. “It was really a hardship what they endured.”

After opening with conditions in the United States post-World War II, the film segued with the beginning of Robinson’s professional career as a member of the Kansas City Monarchs, a Negro League team.

The biggest cheer from the crowd didn’t come through the trials and tribulations endured by Robinson, but rather when Robinson made a call to his wife, Rachel Robinson (portrayed by Nicole Beharie), while in Brooklyn to inform her of a meeting with Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey (played by Harrison Ford).

As Rachel walked to answer the phone, the city title of Pasadena was superimposed in the lower center of the screen, much to the applause and enjoyment of the crowd.

Those ties to Robinson and Pasadena were clearly present Friday.

Pasadena City Council District 3 candidate John J. Kennedy claimed his family’s history with the Robinsons went back decades.

“Jackie’s family and I went to high school together and I think this is extraordinary in terms of just recognizing the importance of an American icon and what he represents in terms of leveling the playing field, if you will,” Kennedy said. “I’m happy to be here.”

While dignitaries included former PCC athletic director Skip Robinson, current track coach Larry Wade and men’s basketball coach Mike Swanegan among some familiar Lancers faces, past and present, the largest contingent of movie-goers was comprised of the PCC baseball team.

“To celebrate this man’s life at this event is long overdue,” PCC baseball Coach Evan O’Meara. “The brutality that he faced, not only early in his career, but as a young man growing up in a racist society, to overcome all that and to leave us a legacy that’s he’s left us is remarkable. I want to make sure our players know that.”

The squad handed out movie posters as the school’s band played and then welcomed guests into the theater’s’ main lobby, where Jackie Robinson photos and memorabilia were on display.

For even non-local players on the team, such as 19-year-old Portland, Ore., native Juwan Robins, there’s an indoctrination to Pasadena that includes Jackie Robinson.

“It’s an honor to be out here with my teammates,” Robins said. “Before I came to PCC, I knew that Jackie Robinson was an alumni, but I didn’t realize how much he meant to the college. When I joined the team I realized how much of an honor it was for me to play for the same school and to play on the field that was dedicated to him.

“Without him, the world would be a different place.”

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