- “Race” starring Stephan James, as American track and field athlete and four-time Olympic gold medalist Jesse Owens, will be nominated for several Academy Awards later this year, including Best Actor and possibly Best Picture.
Of course, this is merely a prediction. However, given that the 2016 Oscar ceremony is being boycotted by several prominent African-American entertainers, including Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith and Spike Lee, to name a few, the Academy would do well to take heed.
Here is a phenomenal film that spotlights the astounding achievements of a man of color.
James’ performance as Owens is impeccable, with an authenticity that is heart-warming and much welcomed, yet which doesn’t distract from telling the Owens story.
At 22, James has managed to achieve a level of excellence that oftentimes takes a lifetime to reach. Through James, director Stephen Hopkins has managed to demonstrate his own brilliance, making him one of those extraordinary professionals who can present a story that lingers for more than a moment in the minds of moviegoers.
- Black History Month is almost over. So there is no better time than now to learn about one of the greatest athletes of all time.
It was historian Carter G. Woodson who, back in 1926, first put forth the idea of formally teaching the history of Black Americans as part of the curriculum in public schools. Subsequently, the second week of February was designated “Negro History Week”; fifty years later, Black History Month would become officially recognized by the U.S. Government.
Today schools, libraries and museums continue to lead the way, empowering youth with opportunities to explore the history and culture of African-Americans and to keep this topic at the forefront.
Among the many educational outlets available is the Smithsonian’s Heritage Teaching Resources, which includes a Black History section. Easily accessible on a computer, this comprehensive overview offers an “African American History Virtual Tour” that is sure to provide both young and old with added insight and knowledge…exactly as the film “Race” does.
- It’s a movie about a great athlete. It’s a movie about a great coach.
Most importantly, it’s a movie about the relationship between the two of them.
For every successful athlete, there is (at least) one vital coach who merits mention.
Would Owens have achieved all he did had he never met Lawrence (Larry) Snyder at Ohio State University? As the head track coach at OSU from 1932 until 1965, Snyder (superbly played by actor Jason Sudeikis) coached Owens, as well as three other National Track and Field Hall of Fame athletes: Dave Albritton, Glenn Davis and Mal Whitfield. In total, Snyder’s athletes won eight Olympic gold medals, set 14 world records and won 52 All-American certificates.
Yet in 1936, as Owens readied himself to head off to Berlin for the Olympic games via ship, Snyder was nearly left behind. His request to accompany Owens had been turned down by the already-in-place Olympic coaches.
How differently might things have transpired in Berlin–with Adolf Hitler amongst the 100,000+ spectators in the Olympic Stadium–had Snyder backed down and remained stateside?
To witness the relationship between Owens and Snyder–one black man and one white man–at a time when racial bigotry was rampant, is to realize, indeed, that all things are possible.
When Owens breaks a record previously set by Snyder himself, the latter man laughs delightedly.
Who does that?
A coach watching his athlete succeed.
- If it’s true history repeats itself, this movie is an augury; it can help predict the fate of mankind if hatred and prejudice prevail.
The story of Nazi Germany is a story of mankind.
Unleashed, all of our base human characteristics inevitably lead to destruction.
More than 60 million people died in World War II.
In 1940, that was 3% of the entire world’s population.
Of those 60 million people, more than half were civilians.
Among those who died, as a direct result of their military engagement during the war, was Luz Long, the German Olympic long-jumper who competed against Owens in 1936, lost to him, and subsequently became Owens’ friend.
- This movie is an affirmation to aspire.
Owens deeply hurt the woman he loved the most.
Snyder befriended booze.
Yet with all our frailties, when we rise up, and continue to never give up, therein lies victory.
“Race” is a reminder that all of us have within our reach a new opportunity to begin again… To strive for our highest goals…Those same goals that many may mock.
Whether it is by using tools such as the “RACE” Faith Guide developed by Pastor Marion Sailor in conjunction with this film, or by participating in programs such as Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, or by utilizing the thousands of other resources developed by people who aspire for something better, the human race is proof perfect that hope and faith and love can see us through.