Marian Anderson Recreation Center team taught lessons of sport’s greats
Steve Bandura, program director at the Marian Anderson Recreation Center in South Philadelphia, believes it is important to teach Black baseball history to the kids in his program.
Baseball has become a key sport at the recreation center. Bandura holds a weekly class on Friday nights to educate the kids on the history of baseball as it connects to African-American history.
The class is in preparation for its “Anderson Monarch Barnstorming Tour.”
Since 1997 – the 50th Anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the Major League Baseball “color line” playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers – the Anderson Monarchs have toured across the country to play local youth teens in addition to visiting various historic sites. The Monarchs are scheduled to tour again this summer.
“In order to put the Negro Leagues and Jackie Robinson's historic accomplishment in context, the kids need to understand everything that led up to those points in history,” Bandura said. “Just teaching about Jackie doesn't give them an idea of why circumstances were the way they were and why it was such a great achievement.”
Bandura prepares each class with the goal to cover a particular period of time. The group gathers each week sitting in rows of chairs in a large room at the recreation center.
Bandura shows a presentation that consists of facts, video clips, pictures and various documentaries. He presents Ken Burns’ Documentary “Baseball” as a good guideline to his team.
Each week, the parents alternate, which one or two of them will collaborate to provide food and drinks for the kids.
Of those parents is Donna Deramus, mother of 10-year-old Demetrius who plays for the Monarchs. Deramus is pleased with the history class and feels her son is gaining a lot from the class.
“I really think for the kids it’s a great opportunity for them to go back and see how it actually started,” she said. “I think it will make them better for playing the game.”
Deramus noted the parents all have a close relationship with one another. The team works as a second family and she feels the class is excellent for their education.
Demetrius attends Independence Charter School and Deramus believes his involvement at Marian Anderson has helped him stay focused with his academics.
The first classes began with uncovering the history of baseball in the 19th Century and the first pioneers of the game.
The class provides opportunity for discussions such as the hypocrisy of the North pushing for civil rights in the South, while still refusing the Black team the Philadelphia Pythians, participation in their league, according to Bandura.
As Bandura went through his presentation he posed questions in the form of a trivia game to keep his team entertained. Hands raised eagerly as the kids competed to answer the questions to what they’ve learned.
In the future, Bandura plans to engage the kids with more films as they enter the era of the 20’s and 30’s and will introduce famous players such as Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Buck O’Neil, Satchell Paige and Josh Gibson.
As they enter the era of World War II, Bandura will show films The Tuskegee Airmen and The Court Martial of Jackie Robinson.
Bandura and the team at Marian Anderson believe knowing one’s history is essential to excelling.
“By the time we embark on our tour in July and visit the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City and meet former Negro League players, the kids will have a solid database of knowledge to draw from,” he said.