"We Are The Ship"

By Tiffany Blackmon - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC)- It's hard to imagine Major League Baseball without Hank Aaron, Ken Griffey Jr., or Jimmy Rollins, but long before their time, African Americans were prohibited from playing professional baseball, forced to create leagues of their own, and their story is now on display at Historic City Hall.

During a time of segregation, an unwritten rule kept baseball greats like Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, and other African American ball players from playing professional baseball.

Carol Anne Gayle, Exhibit and Program Specialist at Historic City Hall, stated, " They were very talented players and I think some of the owners of the major leagues saw that talent."

However, they could not see past race. In response to that rule, Negro Baseball Leagues were formed in the 1920's, and 13 years ago they inspired artist Kadir Nelson to share the story of this league with the stroke of his brush in his collection, "We Are The Ship."

Gayle continued, " The history comes through the paintings because they're so large in scale, the angles that the artist chose are right at ball playing level, you're right in there with the plays."

Together Kadir Nelson's paintings tell the story of a league unlike any other, but when separated, each painting holds a story of their own.

"Jackie Robinson sliding into home and the dust is kicked up, the umpire saying safe, and you feel that energy in the painting as if you're there with the team in the ball park, play by play, in the moment, it's great," said Gayle.

These larger than life paintings tell the stories of heroes on the field and pioneers off of it. "The We Are The ship Exhibit" will be on display through August 15, 2009.

(Copyright 2009 KPLC-TV. All rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)