The Fresh Prince of Harlem

 By: Brittany Elsner

Royalty.   We Americans have a never-ending fascination with aristocracy, both real (e.g. Britisy Royal family) and fictional (e.g. Downton Abbey and Disney Princesses).  We see them as something loftier than we are, as if because they have a crest, everything they touch is covered in gold dust.  So it is nice to see a member of that class – in this case, Prince Harry – doing something to give back.

One of the things that made the great Princess Diana so beloved is that she helped make royalty more accessible.  Her commitment to the causes she believed in (as can be seen from her anti-AIDS and her anti-mine legacies), was genuine, and people loved her for it.

Her sons, William and Harry, are carrying out an even stronger, more durable version of her fairy tale by through their continued efforts to connect with ordinary folks.  William, of course, famously married a commoner in Kate Middleton, while Harry has been a relatable and awesome kid himself.  Seriously, I dare you to show me someone who doesn’t think Prince Harry, despite some of the suffering and scrutiny he has been forced to endure, has an awesome life.   There are many who have suffered similarly without all the positives that come along with his identity as royalty.  I, for one, also can’t seem to keep the paparazzi away– so Prince Harry I feel for you.

 Part of the reason we love Harry is because he shows the same devotion to the people that Princess Diana did.  This can be seen in incredibly varied activities – he is known for representing the Crown in the Caribbean in celebration of his grandmother’s Diamond Jubilee as well as for fighting on the front lines in Afghanistan as a crew member of an apache attack helicopter.  He’s the epitome of work hard, play hard. (click here to see video of Harry “racing” Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest man)

The “spare to the heir” (or Prince Harry to those of you not up on the royal lingo) recently paid a trip to the East Coast of the United States, the place where I am lucky enough to call home.  During his trip, he visited New Jersey to show support during the Hurricane Sandy re-building, played in a polo match in Connecticut and, most awesomely (totally unapologetic baseball nerd here), went up to Harlem to visit Major League Baseball’s Harlem RBI field.

The RBI Program (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) is a nationwide youth outreach program devoted to making sure kids everywhere are getting the opportunity to play baseball.  According to MLBcommunity.org, the mission is to “increase participation and interest in baseball and softball among underserved youth, encourage academic participation and achievement, increase the number of talented athletes prepared to play in college and minor leagues, promote greater inclusion of minorities into the mainstream of the game and teach the value of teamwork.”  So far, RBI has affected the lives of over 200,000 boys and girls and has resulted in 170 RBI participants getting drafted by MLB.

Prince Harry and the aforementioned royals must be as impressed as I am with the RBI Program since the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry have partnered with Harlem RBI.  To celebrate this amazing union, he spent the afternoon playing baseball with a group of Harlem RBI participants as well as New York Yankee Mark Teixeira (Teixiera himself has, in addition to donating one million dollars to Harlem RBI, partnered with them to create Dream Team 25, a charter school initiative that has raised over another million dollars to build a new school on the bottom floor of an affordable housing building on 104th St. in Harlem).

Despite being more of a cricket player thana baseball player (silly Brits), Harry went 3 for 3 and perhaps has begun a new chapter in his life titled, “Prince Harry:  Baseball, Hot Dogs and the 4th of July.”

I’ve always been a big believer in the difference that sports and athletes can make in the community.  These athletes and teams can be a symbol for good for so many who have little to root for – they can stand for the proposition that hard work and determination can lead to success.  It is amazing to think that all of this can result from some people’s exceptional ability to play a game.

That power can be used for good or wasted, and it is nice to see that Prince Harry and athletes like Mark Teixiera are using their positions of power to do good, as they have the means and the will to make this world a better place.  And that’s something that I’ll cheer about from the rooftops (or the keyboard) anytime.

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BrittanyEBrittany Elsner is a native Long Islander jumping ship just like your New York Islanders.  She’s a newly dubbed Master of Sports Management according to St. John’s University although she’s still waiting for her scepter.