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DC plays host to forum for diversity, culture

Inaugural Culture + Code event features wide variety of panels, discussions
MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- Artists, entrepreneurs, athletes, experts and ready-to-learn attendants descended upon Washington D.C.'s Blind Whino Arts Club Saturday to celebrate culture in the nation's capital during MLB's inaugural "Culture + Code" event.

The panelists, emcees, artists and attendees that came to the Southwest corridor of D.C. were from different walks of life, backgrounds and belief systems, but all were united by one common bond: baseball.

WASHINGTON -- Artists, entrepreneurs, athletes, experts and ready-to-learn attendants descended upon Washington D.C.'s Blind Whino Arts Club Saturday to celebrate culture in the nation's capital during MLB's inaugural "Culture + Code" event.

The panelists, emcees, artists and attendees that came to the Southwest corridor of D.C. were from different walks of life, backgrounds and belief systems, but all were united by one common bond: baseball.

Bob Kendrick, a panelist at the event and president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, has always known the uniting powers of sport.

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"It has united us in ways this country has not seen," Kendrick said at the event. "Sports and music are the two greatest unifiers."

Culture + Code, which is put on by the company OpenNest and has toured several cities before coming to D.C. for All-Star Week, was a natural fit for the week's festivities, given recent MLB programs to spotlight diversity, said James Andrews, managing partner at OpenNest.

"We learned about MLB's initiative with diversity and inclusion and thought that pairing up Culture + Code and MLB was a smart thing to do," Andrews said. "It's about exposing MLB and exposing fans of sport to the wide diaspora of culture and business and things that go around the sport."

Kendrick was the first of numerous panelists at Blind Whino who were brought in to speak to an eager audience on Saturday. His session, entitled "The Love of the Game," was a discussion with him moderated by nationally syndicated radio host Sway Calloway.

Tweet from @MLBDiversity: Our first panel, The Love of the Game featuring Sway Calloway, host at Sirius XM and Bob Kendrick, President of the Negro Leagues Museum. pic.twitter.com/30ZaC02kal

Kendrick and Calloway discussed the history of African-Americans in baseball and the real-world impacts that Jackie Robinson, Satchel Paige, Mamie "Peanut" Johnson and Josh Gibson, among others, have had.

"[Jackie Robinson] was not part of the Civil Rights movement. [He] was the start," Kendrick said. "[Baseball] started the ball of social progress rolling in our country. Even though it was vilified for not allowing blacks in its door, the country followed suit."

"Baseball is our sport, and it reflects the diversity of America," Andrews added. "This [event] is about putting that back into cities. And it brings to light that baseball and cities go together."

Other panels at the event included a group of former athletes and managers discussing leaving their life in professional sports for other pursuits, as well as other panels on e-sports, fashion, sneaker culture and entrepreneurship.

The lower level of the Blind Whino facility contained a pop-up museum on African-Americans in baseball. The upper level housed a gaming studio, where attendants could play MLB video games before a tournament of the ever-popular Fortnite.

"That's what All-Star Week is about," Andrews said of the day's festivities. "It's the game, but also the culture around the game. I think MLB is getting a first-class sort of taste of what it means to be in D.C. for this."

Zachary Silver is a reporter for MLB.com based in Baltimore.

Washington Nationals