By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
AfricaTown is considered a dying municipality in Alabama that sits along the Gulf Coast and next to Mobile.
At its peak, Africatown had about 12,000 residents. Now, about 1,800 call it home. It is famous – or infamous – for the Clotilda, the last slave ship that landed in the United States in 1860.
It is the home of some of the last survivors of the transatlantic slave trade and the birthplace of legendary New York Mets outfielder Cleon Jones, who caught the final out in the 1969 World Series that clinched victory for the Miracle Mets.
Through their charitable “Last Out Community Foundation,” Jones and his wife of more than 50 years, Angela, help repair storm-damaged homes in Africatown and assist the small community in rebuilding efforts.
Jones, 78, actively participates in the efforts.
“Like I tell my wife, I’m old, but I’m not dead. I can walk up the ladder and do what needs to be done,” Jones remarked. “In my younger days, I could walk up the ladder, but I could jump off the house getting down. I can’t jump off the house anymore. Now I walk down the ladder. I have to be careful.”
The “Last Out Community Foundation” was formed to raise funds to refurbish and build affordable homes, combat blight, and provide positive youth programs in Africatown.
Growing up in the small community during the 1940s and 1950s left a mark on him, stated Jones, who credits greats like Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, and Billy Williams for helping to shape the person he became – one who, despite his success, never forgot his roots.
“We service the community by painting houses and restoring houses,” Jones told the New York Post.
“And since the storms (Hurricanes Sally and Zeta), we’ve had a lot of roof problems in which the storms blew the roof off.
“When I grew up in this community, we had 12- to 14,000 people. Now we are looking at 1,800. That says we are a dying community. I know I can’t replicate the community, but we can still fight to restore it as best we can and preserve the history of the community.”
Jones is best remembered as a vital member of the 1969 Mets.
During the 1960s, the Mets had a reputation for frequent losses, suffering a record 120 defeats in their debut year of 1962.
In their first six years, the Mets lost an average of 108 games. But, in 1969, the underdog Mets launched themselves into the 1969 World Series and the history books when against all odds, they miraculously defeated the mighty Baltimore Orioles.
Jones closed his glove on the final out, a flyball by the Orioles’ Davey Johnson that sent all of New York into a celebration.
Now, Jones wants to celebrate giving others in his beloved community a second chance.
“It takes money and manpower and materials, all of those things,” Jones said.
“What I’ve been doing is reaching out to businesses in the area seeking materials and help to do certain things. The people, they reach out to you — maybe not as much as you would like or hope, but they hear you. With the pandemic, it just adds fuel to the fire. You don’t get a chance to shake hands with people and reach out to them where you can make things happen.”