Jackie and Jimmy – my two best buddies – live out a simple truth that we are all equal and that the dignity of the individual is paramount in a healthy world. – Carl Erskine
Very powerful words from a smart, accomplished, kind, and generous man. We know him as Carl Erskine, friend of The Arc of Indiana, and the Brooklyn/LA Dodger pitcher in the 1940s and 1950s. He was one of the most effective pitchers in baseball for several years and even tossed a couple no-hitters during a particularly dominant stretch.
Jimmy is Carl’s son and Jackie is Jackie Robinson. On this date (April 15), MLB recognizes Jackie’s accomplishments through league-wide celebrations that serve as a reminder of the many things that he was able to overcome and then accomplish during his baseball career. For Carl, Jimmy and Jackie hold a special place because of the impact they have had and continue to have on his life. Jackie’s story speaks for itself, and there are thousands of articles and books that provide an explanation of his greatness. Until Carl’s book, The Parallel, Jimmy’s story was untold and his greatness and impact unrealized to most of us. In this book, Carl shares his perspective regarding the similarities between Jackie Robinson’s struggle to break into baseball, and Jimmy’s struggle to fit into a world in which people with Down syndrome were not always viewed as equal and had to fight for every opportunity. For people with disabilities…living, working, and participating in the community was difficult in the 1960s; Carl effectively explained the parallels between overcoming racial biases in the 40s and 50s and breaking through the ignorance and biases that people with intellectual disabilities faced in the 1950s and 1960s.
I mentioned Carl’s relationship with The Arc of Indiana in the first paragraph. For decades, Carl has worked with The Arc to help advocate for equal rights and opportunities for people with disabilities. Specifically, Carl’s interest in advocating for community employment opportunities for people with disabilities has been critical to our work on that issue. Because of that work, a few years ago The Arc of Indiana Foundation decided to honor Carl by naming our training institute the Erskine Green Training Institute. In just a few short years, that program has impacted almost 200 people with disabilities and provided them with the training and education they need to work successfully in the community. 82% of the individuals that we have trained have been able to secure community employment.
Jimmy’s story is a great one, and his ability to overcome is inspirational. He continues to work and contribute to his community every day. I encourage you to read more about Carl, Jimmy, and Jackie in Carl’s book. If you are interested in purchasing an autographed copy, it can be ordered through EGTI at: Order The Parallel, by Carl Erskine
On this day, we should remember the amazing things that Jackie accomplished…we should also pause to reflect on the great things that the Erskine family have done for people with disabilities. Their contributions have been significant, and for that I say thank you for reminding us that equality and dignity should be at the center of our ongoing advocacy efforts.
The Arc of Indiana Foundation