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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Charlie Rice-Minoso: Building his own legacy locally
by Ross Forman, Windy City Times
2014-07-19

This article shared 10666 times since Sat Jul 19, 2014
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Charlie Rice-Minoso is an award-winning LGBT activist with a public relations past, yet it's his name that quickly catches many people's attention in Chicago.

Sure, it's hyphenated, but it's the Minoso portion that has an amazing legacy, particularly here and also in Latin American countries.

Rice-Minoso is the son of baseball legend Minnie Minoso, who played in the major leagues from 1949-1980—and his lore continued through 2003, when he drew a walk in a Northern League game, thus becoming the only player to appear professionally in seven different decades. Minoso was a nine-time All-Star whose uniform number ( 9 ) has been retired by the White Sox. Now 88, he still serves as a goodwill/community relations ambassador for the team.

Being the son of a local icon "certainly was a factor that made my childhood unique, and my brother and sisters would all agree that it was both a blessing and a curse," Rice-Minoso said. "Although our father found so much success in his career and ensured that we were all very comfortable, there were many sacrifices that we all had to make because of his career. It was much harder for my siblings in the sense that our father was away from them playing baseball during most of their childhoods.

"By the time I was born, my father had retired and transitioned into more of an ambassador type role with the White Sox. Even though I never got to see him play, he has always been active professionally. My mother did an amazing job instilling balance in our household and if it weren't for her doing so, she and I would not have seen my dad as much as we did when I was younger. My dad traveled all over for business when I was younger, and my mom and I were able to join him. By the time I was 13, we had been to the majority of the countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. Most of our family vacations were his work trips that we extended."

Born in Cuba, Minoso played in the Negro Leagues before breaking into the majors in 1949 with the Cleveland Indians. He also briefly played for the St. Louis Cardinals and Washington Senators, but it was with the White Sox where Minoso shined brightest and longest.

"We've been able to go to some amazing places and meet some fantastic people through my dad's work," Rice-Minoso said. "I frequently forget about his personage, but am quickly reminded when I hear stories about his encounters and friendships with accomplished individuals, like former presidents and elected officials."

Last summer, for instance, Minoso and other Negro League pioneers were honored by President Obama for their contributions to civil rights and American culture. "As incredible as that is, to me he will always be my dad," said Rice-Minoso, 25, who lives in East Lakeview—the neighborhood he was born and raised in. He came out at age 16.

Rice-Minoso admitted that it was "difficult at first" being the gay son of a local legend "in the sense that there has always been a cultural and generational barrier between us.

"He's much older than my mother, and therefore a great deal older than [me]. When I came out, he knew I was the same person I had always been, but he simply just didn't understand at first. We all question the unfamiliar, so it's only human for him to have done so in this regard. He grew up in Cuba during the Great Depression and has always lived his life in a very machismo culture within a hyper-masculine industry. Between my mother, my sisters and I, we were able to educate him further on the [LGBT] community and where I fit into it.

"I'm also fortunate in the sense that my dad has always been so supportive of all of his children and our different endeavors. Nobody's perfect; and despite him not being a traditional father, he does the best he can and is still a great dad."

Rice-Minoso said his mom has become an even stronger ally every year, and she marched in her first Chicago Pride Parade with her son this past June. ( The Rice part of his last name is his mom's maiden name. )

Rice-Minoso said he has countless childhood memories involving his dad and the White Sox—and that bond "has been such a huge influence in our life in the sense that those we've befriended in the organization have always been like family," he said. "From the organization's owners, to the front-office [staff], to the many players that have worn a Sox uniform. Dad has been with the team for over six decades; it's been amazing to see how that relationship has evolved and grown stronger over the years. And to see the high regard that he is still held in by the organization, the city of Chicago, and by the general public makes me so happy for him."

The White Sox erected a life-sized bronze statue of Minoso at U.S. Cellular Field in 2004. He was surrounded by his entire family and his closest friends for that once-in-a-lifetime moment.

Rice-Minoso was named to the Windy City Times' 15th annual 30 Under 30 in late June, which he tagged as "a huge honor."

"It's so humbling that a dork like myself would be recognized like this," he said, laughing. "All of my fellow honorees have been through so much and are making real, lasting change within our community and in their respective industries. So, for me to be considered one of their peers is truly humbling and such a positive validation.

"After graduating school, I never would have expected that my career would have taken me where it has, and there is nothing wrong with that. Just because something might be unexpected doesn't mean that it can't be great."

Rice-Minoso worked at several global public relations agencies supporting large consumer brands, primarily working with food commodities and packed goods. He has left the PR world, at least for the time being.

He interned at Equality Illinois in 2010 for the "Vote Naked Illinois" get out the vote campaign and have been involved ever since. After his internship, he was recruited to join the Gala Planning Committee.

In 2013, a field outreach position opened, and he accepted it.

"Aside from [promoting same-sex] marriage, I also oversaw a financial literacy program. We partnered with the Chicago City Treasurer's Office and Chase Bank to hold workshops on banking basics for at-risk members of the community," he said. "I also used my family's relationship with the White Sox to spearhead the "Out at the Sox" event, which is an LGBT Pride night at U.S. Cellular Field, benefiting Equality Illinois. We had over 100 pro-equality fans last year, and I'm sure this year's event on August 16 will be just as popular."

Through the Illinois Unites for Marriage Coalition, Rice-Minoso developed and implemented community outreach strategies that placed supportive voters who favored the marriage equality legislation in touch with their elected officials and urged their representatives to vote for SB10. Tactics included phone banks, petition drives, in-district meetings with representatives and their constituents, protests and rallies, as well as mass lobby days in Springfield.

"I also traveled the state to key districts to inform the community on campaign progress and opportunities to get involved," he said. "We worked with companies, colleges, high schools, associations, and faith communities on a variety of volunteer initiatives. By utilizing my skills in public relations, I also worked with the campaign's communications team and made suggestions on our messaging that supported our field outreach efforts by emphasizing to our members that it was time for them to volunteer."

Rice-Minoso also is active with After School Matters and Firsthand Aid to Cuba, though both are new affiliations for him. Still, he said, "I love the work that each organization accomplishes."

After School Matters provide life-changing opportunities to Chicago's most at-risk teens, giving them productive outlets that develop their individual strengths and interests, which direct them out of harm's way and into a much brighter future. He is part of ASM's Gala Arrangements Committee, which selects the fundraiser's menu, theme, aesthetics, entertainment, and helps with ticket sales.

First Hand Aid to Cuba provides direct relief to the most impoverished citizens of Havana. FHA places medicines and medical supplies directly into the hands of hospitals and their patients, as well as meals for seniors.


This article shared 10666 times since Sat Jul 19, 2014
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