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Byron Motley (pictured below) wrote a

biography of his father, Bob, a former

Negro leagues umpire (above).

Filmmaker to Share Stories, History of Negro Leagues

Providence, R.I. -- Byron Motley, a filmmaker and photographer whose father was an umpire in the Negro baseball leagues, will give a multi-media presentation about the leagues on Thursday, February 16, at Providence College.

Motley’s lecture, “The Negro Baseball League: An American Legacy,” will begin at 7 p.m. in the Ryan Concert Hall in the Smith Center for the Arts. The event, which is free and open to the public, will include a PowerPoint presentation and a 12-minute film clip from a documentary Motley is producing about the Negro leagues.

Motley’s appearance is part of PC’s SPORT:ART celebration, a two-month exploration of sport, art, and identity sponsored by the Department of Art and Art History and the Department of Athletics. Highlights include exhibits, lectures, a film series about women in sports, and the painting of a mural.

Motley’s lecture also is sponsored by the Balfour Office for Multicultural Activities (BOMA) as part of Black History Month.

Those attending the talk can view a lithograph exhibit about the Negro leagues that is on display in the Reilly Art Gallery in the Smith Center through March 22. The collection, titled Out at Home! The Negro Baseball League, is by Joe Norman, an art professor at the University of Georgia. 

Byron Motley, who grew up in Kansas City, Mo., and now lives in Los Angeles, is a singer, photographer, filmmaker, and lecturer. His father, Bob Motley, was an umpire in the Negro leagues from 1947 to 1958, when he watched such famous players as Satchel Paige, Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, and Willie Mays.

Negro league teams, renowned for the athleticism of their players -- who also considered themselves entertainers -- developed because African-Americans were banned from the major leagues from 1890 until Jackie Robinson signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. 

“The lecture by Byron Motley is not only about the history of the Negro baseball leagues, but about his father, Bob Motley,” said Elena T. Yee, BOMA director, who has heard Byron Motley speak previously. “I loved the personal aspect of his presentation and that it was more than a lecture.

“His multi-media presentation will contribute well to the SPORT:ART program through the power of film and photography.”

Inspired by Burns documentary

Motley said he was inspired to speak about the Negro leagues by the stories he heard from his father and by the Ken Burns documentary Baseball.

“I love the hour (Burns) spent on the Negro leagues, but I remembered that those weren’t the stories I heard growing up as a child,” said Motley. “I knew there was a lot more to tell, so I began to embark on a journey to tell the whole story of this incredible history.”

Motley is producing a documentary, The Negro Baseball Leagues: An American Legacy, for public television, and hopes to have it ready to air in February 2013.

He also wrote his father’s memoir, Ruling Over Monarchs, Giants and Stars: True Tales of Breaking Barriers, Umpiring Baseball Legends, and Wild Adventures in the Negro Leagues (Skyhorse/Sports Publishing), published in 2007, with a second edition this year.

Motley’s photographs have been displayed in galleries, boutiques, and museums in the United States and Europe. One of his exhibits, Viva Cuban Beisbol: A Photographic Journey into the Heart and Soul of Cuban Baseball, was on display for six months in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

He has a master’s degree in music from the University of Southern California and has performed with the Boston Pops under conductor John Williams and on Broadway as a singer in Patti LuPone on Broadway.

Motley is spending the month of February speaking at colleges throughout the country, from Wisconsin to Florida to New England.

--Vicki-Ann Downing

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