Jackie Robinson lived an extraordinary life that involved breaking through baseball’s color lines and being active in the civil rights movement. As the first African American to play in the major leagues in the modern era, Robinson strove for perfection not only on the baseball field but also in his family life.
Robinson and his wife, Rachel, had three children, and although one son died at the age of 24, his other two children continue to work to keep his legacy alive. But one is doing it in a very nontraditional way. In a new short documentary from Spike Lee, you’ll come to meet Robinson’s youngest son, David. When you look at David Robinson, you’ll see his father’s eyes, but you may also smell the scent of coffee—the same aroma Jackie Robinson carried with him after his baseball retirement while working for Chock Full O’Nuts.
In the 17-minute documentary, David Robinson is described by his sister, Sharon, and mother as a “free spirit,” who at a young age had a fondness for black culture and a desire to live in an African country. David Robinson dropped out of Stanford after one year, headed back to the Motherland and has been living in Tanzania for the last 30 years on a 40-acre coffee farm that he owns.
“I was blessed to have gone to Tanzania when I was 15, in the company of my mother; went back at 19; settled there in 1984,” he said in a 2005 Washington Post article. “I went to be involved in international economics. Coffee is the largest foreign-exchange earner for Tanzania. America is the largest consumer of coffee in the world.”
Almost 10 years later, not only does David Robinson have his business to run, but he’s also helped others in Tanzania flourish by helping them with their own farms.
Although his mother and sister don’t get to see him often, the documentary shows David Robinson’s journey back to New York City to celebrate the 42nd anniversary of the Jackie Robinson Foundation.
“When David went to Africa, he went there in search of himself. Initially, it was a loss for me. But now it’s become an extension of my life,” Sharon Robinson states in the film.
“I hope African Americans can feel the strength of their broad identity. I hope we can understand who we are in the global sense. Because it’s only from that strength where we can develop. I’m good where I am,” David Robinson says about his life in Tanzania.
As the film closes, you see David Robinson playing baseball with his sons, the grandsons of Jackie Robinson, and somehow you get the sense that not only will their grandfather’s legacy live on—so will their father’s.