Profile of Cannon Street YMCA's Eugene Graves in Liz Foster's Lowcountry Legacy column in Faith and Values section.
The 1955 Cannon Street YMCA All-Stars didn't get to play in the Little League World Series, but they are hoping to get enough attention from a slickly produced YouTube video to snag an invitation to the White House. Gus Holt, the longtime public relations crusader for Charleston's pioneering group of black Little Leaguers, believes the surviving players are overdue for an audience with President Barack Obama.
So he conceived the nostalgic three-minute appeal, "Baseball Dreams Deferred." Directed by Charleston independent film producer Carminski Latten, the video features James Simons Elementary School students wearing replica 1955 Charleston Little League jerseys.
"If people can't relate to that, I just don't know what to do," Holt said.
The original Cannon Street All-Stars advanced through local, state and regional 1955 Little League tournaments by forfeit when adults running white teams refused to allow their players to participate. The Cannon Street team appeared at the 1955 Little League World Series but did not play because of a rule barring teams from taking part if they advanced by forfeit.
The James Simons kids sing from lyrics Holt wrote, with a tip of the cap to Hall of Fame center fielder Willie Mays (aka "The Say Hey Kid") and the late Langston Hughes, author of the poem, "A Dream Deferred."
"In '55, we wanted to play but we had to wait for another day
In Charleston, we wanted to play but we had to wait for another day .
Rome, Georgia, say we cannot play but they didn't want us anyway .
The White House maybe on the way as Willie Mays say, 'Hey'
In 'Dream Deferred' as Langston say, do we still have to wait for another day?"
Wings of Charleston assisted with the production. The video was shot over two days at Hampton Park and also includes vintage photos of the 1955 team, newspaper clippings and recent photos and videos of the Cannon Street players.
"I think it went well," Latten said. "As a director, you're always your strongest critic. I kind of wish I had more other things to put in the video, but with what I had to work with, I'm happy about it."
Holt hopes "Baseball Dreams Deferred" will catch on, and catch the attention of someone at the White House.
"We hope to connect with the NAACP or Major League Baseball or some other organization," Holt said. "We just need someone to champion our cause."
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff
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