#EverydayBlackHistory: Rivero the Flash and the Cuban Stars

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We all have a story to tell. Perhaps we’ve heard that mantra so much that we have begun to take it for granted, and that’s such a shame. Because what is the use of all these social media if we cannot unearth personal stories of lives lived successfully – maybe they didn’t make a lot of money, maybe they weren’t the most famous, but they were real lives, and true moments in what we’re calling #EverydayBlackHistory. (A solid example in film of our philosophy here is a story like “Small Man” by Mariel Brown, a short documentary we featured recently for Caribbean Heritage Month, you can watch that here) That short is a true testament to the sentiment that a simple life can contribute just as much to humanity as an extravagant one, all you need is respect for what you do and to do what you love.

We want to find and feature all these stories here on the blog, and we want your help telling them. Tell us about that uncle who was the first in your family to graduate from college or university; or share the story of that aunt who made the best jars of peaches you ever tasted, and was the first in her town to turn a hobby into a successful local business. What may seem as casual moments are part of history too, and they should be shared as #EverydayBlackHistory moments! If you have pictures, or even audio recordings, maybe some documents, and definitely a moving tale, we’ll feature it here on the blog and across our social media conversation.

A young Manuel Rivero in his football gear.
A young Manuel Rivero in his football gear.

This all struck me as we heard the news that one of our board members, the magnificent and always supportive Marita Rivero, has been named the new chair of the National Trust for Historic Preservation (http://www.preservationnation.org/). A well-earned position indeed, we extend many heartfelt congratulations to her. Beyond the great work she has done with us through the years, telling stories of the Black experience that would otherwise go ignored, Marita Rivero has been invested in the preservation of historic sites across the nation, including her work with the Museum of African American History in Boston. Reading about her new position I caught a glimpse of her motivation. She is the daughter of Manuel Rivero, a well-known Cuban American football and baseball player who had a brief run with the Cuban Stars in 1933, and went on to found the Department of Health, Recreation and Physical Education at Lincoln University.

Talk about some #EverydayBlackHistory that needs to be shared!

Cuban Stars
Manuel Rivero (third from right) with the Cuban Stars team.

“The Cuban All Stars. I have an old photo too” Ms. Rivero recalls of her father. “They played under several similar names. He said that the team members often used to eat at their place, and I wonder now that I’ve been to the island whether my grandmother hadn’t set up the sort of house restaurant one sees in Cuba. (She was one heck of a great cook.)”

Manuel Rivero
A young Manuel Rivero striking his best quarterback pose!

“In high school Dad was a NY All-City football and baseball star.” Ms. Rivero continues, “not sure what that means exactly except that he was good. The adult Cuban baseball players took him along in the summer so that he could make some money for college. Barnstorming he called it, and he also said that while it was lots of fun to be on the road he can’t remember coming home with much cash. Fortunately Columbia [University] found out who he was and changed his status as ‘a student’ to ‘athletic scholarship student’ and urged him to join their teams. He did, had those charcoal drawings in the NY city papers’ sports pages…Rivero The Golden Flash, etc., and the Columbia University 1934 football team went on to win the Rose Bowl. [He] played star baseball there too.”

“His favorite memory of barnstorming with the League was the shadow ball games they would put on for entertainment,” Ms. Rivero remembers, “a pretend game with an invisible ball. When Ken Burns was traveling the country to events with Buck Owens of the Negro League promoting his multi-part PBS series on baseball, I went to the WGBH gathering at Fenway. Buck Owens drew surprised breath, gave me a big hug and said giving the name a Spanish accent, ‘Manuel’s Daughter!!!’ An old Black sportswriter there also pinned me down with stories ‘about your father…he could play ball.’ “

A wonderful recollection of a life well lived, and a great example of why we all need to keep sharing our stories with each other! For more on Manuel Rivero check out these profiles of Ivy Leaguers. You can even contribute to the preservation work the National Trust does by helping them save a Negro League baseball park here. And remember if you have someone you want us to feature just send us a tweet using #EverydayBlackHistory, or reach out to us on Facebook with your story.

Happy sharing!