Spiritual Lessons from the Jessie Owens Biopic movie “Race”
By, Cassandra George Sturges
The movie Race gave an overview of the political, racial, and ethnic inequality issues surrounding Jesse Owen’s winning four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. What I found to be most interesting about Jesse Owens’ success was not the four gold medals that he won at the Olympics, but the personal choices he made that led to him becoming a world-class winner. In this article, I will discuss four spiritual lessons that I learned from this movie.
Spiritual Lesson # 1: Ignore the Background Noise
Some of my favorite scenes in the movie are when Jesse Owen’s character played by Stephan James is verbally attacked with racial slurs by his teammates in the locker room or on the field; his coach, Larry Snyder, played by Jason Sudeikis tells him to ignore them because it is only noise. I think even when the leader from the NAACP asked Owens not to participate in the Olympics to make a political statement against Hitler’s regime against the Jews—was just background noise. I am learning that when you are blessed with a gift or talent, your primary duty on this planet is to own, hone, and share it.
The more you listen to voices outside of your head, such as your family, teachers, friends, social media,… you become disconnected from your own truth. So, when you have an important decision to make, or people are teasing you, or trying to tell you what to do. Silence the background noise and listen to the small quiet voice within your spirit. You are the only person on this planet who knows the best course of action for your life goals.
Spiritual Lesson # 2:
Chose a Mate who Loves You with or without Money or Fame
In the movie Race, Jessie Owens had broken several records and was becoming a celebrity. One night he was out at a club with his friends and a glamorous woman whom his friends thought was out of their league; came over to the table and asked Jesse to dance with her. Of course, one thing led to another; they became a brief couple and word got back to his girlfriend after a photo of Jesse Owens and the glamorous woman together was released in the newspaper.
Before Jesse Owens became famous, he had promised his childhood girlfriend, who was also the mother of his child that he would marry her someday. When his childhood girlfriend learns about his affair with the glamorous woman, she broke off their relationship and threatened to sue him for breach of contract. Jesse ended his relationship with the glamorous woman and begged his childhood girlfriend, Minnie Ruth Solomon to marry him. They were married for 45-years until his death in 1980.
I believe that marrying his childhood girlfriend grounded his spirit because she loved him unconditionally. She loved him whether or not he won a race. She loved him with or without money. Sometimes when people acquire a certain level of success they date and marry people who would have never given them the time of day if they were not wealthy or famous. These new people—love the persona of who you have become—but not who you are. And because they don’t really know or love the real you; when it’s time to make the biggest decisions in your life their voices become a part of the background noise.
After Jesse married Ruth, he went to the Olympics and won four gold medals. But one of the reasons, I think he was able to focus on the Olympics and silence the racial hatred during this time period is because he know the real gold was already at home… his wife who had admired his since middle school.
Spiritual Lesson # 3: You are Your Actions
One of things that Jesse’s character said is that, when he was on the field running, he did not feel like his race mattered for those seconds because he felt alive. Whenever I am engaged in a task that I love, I feel immortal. I feel like I am one with creation.
When you are in alignment with your divine purpose, your race, gender, or sex will not be what people will remember for generations to come—people will remember the essence of you, the footprints of your soul on the timeline of human history.
Spiritual Lesson # 4: The Back Door is for the Brave
After Jesse Owens won the four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics, a dinner was held in his honor back home in the United States. The door attendant told Jesse that he could not allow him to enter the Hotel where the celebratory dinner was being held through the front door because he was black. Four-time Olympian Gold, Medalist, Jesse and his wife, Ruth were force to enter the hotel through the back door.
In my opinion, the front door can be over rated. It’s guarded by mainstream society’s ideals, values, and beliefs. It is symbolic of maintaining the status quo. However, the back door represents people who have found their own unique path to their dreams. Harriett Tubman took the back door all the way to the Underground Railroad.
In the movie, a young white boy, asked for Jesse’s autograph, at the back door. This could have been a Hollywood spin, but the point was that entering the backdoor did not dilute or diminish Jesse Owen’s accomplishments.
When you know who you are-- and why you are here-- take which ever door is open that will take you to your dreams.