Cleon Jones is an Alabama Bright Light going to bat for Africatown
The memorabilia collection is one clue that Cleon Jones is a pretty famous fellow.
In other words, Jones has every reason to stay in New York and live the glamorous life of a former major-league star. However, Jones elected to come back to his hometown of Africatown in Alabama and pay it forward by helping the community.
“My family and I have always wanted to give back to Africatown. I have always been conscious of the fact that there are still kids in my community who need help,” Jones said. “Then, when I retired, I wanted to come back to Africatown.”
Africatown is a historic community 3 miles north of downtown Mobile. Thirty-two West Africans, who in 1860 were included in the last known illegal shipment of slaves to the United States, formed the settlement that exists to this day.
“We are in the process of building a museum and welcome center for Africatown, and it would display the story of the Clotilda and the slaves that were brought here,” Jones said.
Jones works on building much-needed houses, restoring dilapidated ones, helping the elderly, sheltering the homeless and feeding the poor in the area.
“With all of these things we are working on, it takes more than just me or my family. It takes an entire community to make these things happen. We are working hard as a community to make sure that in a year we are no longer a food desert,” Jones said.
In addition to working with food programs and youth camps, Jones is involved with the Mobile County Training School, which has been in Africatown since 1880.
“During the years I was playing baseball in New York, I would come back here to be around family and to share my success with the community. My main goal now is to let people know that what happened to Cleon Jones can happen to anybody from Africatown,” he said.
Staying in New York might have been easier than doing all this service work in Africatown, but what Jones has accomplished speaks to the kind of man who would do the necessary, as opposed to the easy.
Alabama Bright Lights captures the stories, through words, pictures and video, of some of our state’s brightest lights who are working to make Alabama an even better place to live, work and play. Award-winning journalist Karim Shamsi-Basha tells their inspiring stories. Email him comments, as well as suggestions on people to profile, at email@example.com.
(Courtesy of Alabama News Center)