By Brigette White, Special to the AFRO
Just in time for the kickoff of All-Star Week (July 13-17), Major League Baseball unveiled a mural honoring the Negro Leagues, particularly trailblazing players Mamie “Peanut” Johnson and Josh Gibson, in the U Street corridor between the Lincoln Theatre and D.C.’s famous Ben’s Chili Bowl.
The colorful display, which was dedicated before an intimate crowd that included Little League World Series legend Mo’ne Davis and Gibson’s great grandson, Sean Gibson, was painted by D.C. artist Aniekan Udofia.
Udofia said that he likes to create art that is as realistic as possible using aerosol as a medium.
“I like doing portraits and capturing expressions.”
In the mural Udofia captures Johnson’s expression from a photo that was taken in 2013 when she visited the Washington, D.C. field that is named after her in Northeast, D.C.
Johnson, the first female pitcher in the Negro Leagues, joined the Indianapolis Clowns in 1953 and compiled a 33-8 record during her three-year career. Johnson began her semi-pro playing career with the all-male, Alexandria All-Stars and St. Cyprian’s, which played on Banneker Field in D.C. Johnson was one of three female players to ever play in the Negro Leagues and previously honored at the White House by President Bill Clinton.
Josh Gibson, a 12-time Negro Leagues All-Star, was a power-hitting catcher signed by the Homestead Grays in 1930. The Grays played home games in Griffith Stadium in D.C. In 1972, Gibson became the second Negro Leagues player to be inducted in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Sean Gibson, the legendary baseball player’s great-grandson, presented remarks for the unveiling which is displayed near other murals of well-respected luminaries along Ben’s Chili Bowl’s wall, including but not limited to, President Barack Obama and Former First Lady Michelle Obama, Muhammad Ali, legendary D.C. anchor Jim Vance and Prince.
Sean Gibson, who is the head of the Pittsburgh-based Josh Gibson Foundation, expressed hope that Udofia’s latest mural, inspires others to learn about Johnson, Gibson and the Negro Leagues.
“One thing I always teach is we have to keep our history alive,” Gibson said towards the end of his remarks at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.