During the month of February, Americans amplify the in-depth look of African-American history. From celebrations to demonstrations, Black History Month is a designated 28 days (sometimes 29) to reflect on the amazing contributions we have made to this world.
Some names stick out further than others like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and Malcolm X. Growing up, when we talked about great Black athletes, there was no way educators did not mention the heroics and hurdles of Jesse Owens.
The story of the great Olympian is chronologically outlined in “Race”. Starring Stephan James and Jason Sudeikis, the film shows Jesse Owens’ own “race” from Ohio State University to the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
Stephan James, who you may remember as civil rights activist and politician John Lewis in “Selma” (2014), is spectacular. He seems to work well in historical adaptions as he is both substantial and strong. James’ screen presence is irrefutably captivating as Jesse Owens.
One thing the film taught me that school did not is that Jesse Owens had his own share of races on and off of the track. He faced the constant ridicule and discrimination from White athletes and coaches, specifically at Ohio State University.
But, Jesse Owens faced some shade from his own people. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) asked Jesse Owens not to attend the 1936 Olympic Games as stance for the mistreatment of Blacks in the United States.
What if he had not gone? He would have never won 4 gold medals.
Here’s some modern day connections: what Black leaders were asking Jesse Owens to do in 1936 is the same thing Black celebrities are asking of Chris Rock as host of this year’s Academy Awards.
The 1936 Olympics is our 2016 Oscars. Sports and entertainment have been overshadowed with politics and race relations. Jesse Owens was given a global platform to perform as the World was on the brink of World War II. Even Adolph Hitler watched as Jesse Owens swept every track and field match he competed in.
It is wrong for people to ask others to abandon their talents for the greater good of a cause. While the Academy needs to strategically work on its diversity amongst members, Chris Rock, who I am sure will creatively address these issues, has the right to host the awards show.
“Race” is the perfect movie for this month as we reflect on the contributions of all African Americans—a lesson that will serve to last a lifetime.
The movie is in theaters February 19. The 88th Academy Awards will air Sunday, February 28 at 7PM on ABC.