The Stevens Memorial Library in North Andover, MA has a wonderful 2016 summer sport film series which is free and open to the public. As part of my exploration in sport and development, I chose to watch the movie 42, for the first time which is a biographical portrayal about Jackie Robinson. Race and racism, unfortunately still exists in America today as we have seen by the repeated incidents of gun violence.
When I was a teenager in Saudi Arabia and India in the late 1980s and early 1990s, one did not know much of the struggles of Jackie Robinson and his role in the civil rights movement in the United States. Perhaps this was ignorance or because one was consumed by the political events in the Persian Gulf. Today, being a naturalized American of color, I am even more moved by the words “we shall overcome” and Jackie’s story of resilience and courage.
I have blogged about Khelshala, a sport-based youth development program in Chandigarh, India – founded by Coach Satinder Bajwa – the first person of color to be the Head Coach of Harvard Men’s and Women’s Squash – but I have not given much thought to how Khelshala and its mission fits with the wider world of sport.
It helps to understand the legacies of Jackie Robinson and more recently the passing of Mohammad Ali also known as the “The Greatest” and put squash -a minor sport – into context. James Zug, an American author of Squash: A History of the Game, which mostly discusses the sport in the United States of America is seen as the go-to-guy on writing books about squash. Zug acknowledges squash players of color (such as Anil Nayar of Harvard, Wendell Chestnut of Williams College and of course Hashim Khan, the legendary squash professional of the Khan squash dynasty) who like Jackie Robinson “squash barriers.”
“Squashing barriers” is the essence of Khelshala (an international affiliate of the National Urban Squash and Education Association) in India where social stratification is common. Just as Mahatma Gandhi served as a source of inspiration to Martin Luther King, perhaps Jackie Robinson’s story will serve as a source of inspiration to the children of Khelshala and many others around the world.