On Nov. 2, 1983 former President Ronald Regan signed a bill making Martin Luther King Day a federal holiday effective 1986. Twenty-five years later from that date, Dr. King’s legacy lives on during a time the country is desperate for peace and freedom of speech.
King’s famous speech “I Have A Dream” was the most compelling of our lifetime. Due to his efforts as a Civil Rights leader, we as American people, understand the power of nonviolence and our right to vote. Oakland A’s shortstop, Marcus Semien reflects on this special day.
“MKL Day is important to the African American community, and for all American people,” said Semien. “He was somebody who stepped up, at a time where nobody expected an African American to do so. In our sports community, he reminds me of Jackie Robinson. In tough times, not everybody wants to do it, and he was that man for us, even today in 2020 his name will always be somebody special, especial to African American people.”
Major League baseball honors April 15th as Jackie Robinson Day. This day Robinson made his major league debut as the first African American player, who broke the sports color barrier after decades of segregation. All 30 wear the number 42 on their uniform. Hall of Famer and former Yankees closer Mariano Rivera was the last player to wear #42 after he retired in 2013.
“It’s one thing to be the first African American Major League baseball player but to be an MVP and play at the level he played, speaks volumes to how much adversity he went through and how present his performance was through all of that. I can’t even imagine what he went through and to play that well under that type of discrimination is just amazing.”
The A’s have done a phenomenal job of becoming more involved in the community and honoring all cultures during the season. Various celebrations, events, special guests and good food. There’s not one person and/or fan who will attend an Oakland A’s game and feel unwelcomed.
“A great job by the by the front office,” Semien continued. “Once Dave Kaval came in, you started to see more focus in the community. When new players come to Oakland from other cities, they immediately notice how diverse it is here. It’s a strong culture, and it feels great to be part of this organization.”
Semien can’t thank his parents enough, for the sacrifices they made in allowing him to play baseball despite the cost for equipment and fees. Baseball is a sport that requires patience and focus.
“You need somebody to throw to you, you need somebody to hit you ground balls,” said Semien. “It takes a lot more than just yourself to get better and for that reason the community aspect is most important.”
Semien wants to do more than reach out to kids and tell them, ‘why don’t you try this, you have a lot of potential, pick up a bat and let’s see what you can do’. There needs to be more done in the community to show African American kids, baseball is a fun sport. While he participates in giving back through the A’s. Semien wants to focus more on giving back where he grew up.
“I want to do more. I want to organize a free camp because its expensive to play baseball and that’s going to take sacrifice for everyone involved. I want to give back to my high School [St. Mary’s College High School] and where I played baseball.”
We observe this holiday and reflect on the work that still needs to be done for racial equality. Martin Luther King never stopped spreading his message of non-violent protest against racial injustice. King’s selfless devotion and personal sacrifice changed the course of American history. His achievements and influence as an American civil rights leader will always be remembered on the third Monday of January.
The “I Have A Dream” speech impacted us all because as individuals we want to create a better path for those who come behind us just like Martin Luther King did.