The legacy of Jesse Owens, the celebrated track star of the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, is being honored and memorialized by The Overtown Youth Center.
During the months of February and March, the students participated in a series of educational and artistic activities culminating into a full size mural on the back wall of The Center. Students at The Center collaborated to design the mural, based on their interpretation of Owens’s story. The mural design was brought to life by The Center’s resident artist, Johnnie Bess. Mr. Bess guided his students in awakening their imagination to create a mural that reflected both the ideas of Owens’s struggle and his ultimate triumph. Through video and verbal teaching, Owens’s story came alive and was captured by the collaborative design.
The son of a sharecropper and grandson of a slave, Jesse Owens’s stunning achievement of winning four gold medals at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, Germany made him an unforgettable part of world history. The Games were being held in Nazi Germany, where dictator Adolf Hitler posited that German “Aryan” people were the dominant race. But the outcome of the Games told another story: Jesse Owens became the first American track and field athlete to win four gold medals in a single Olympiad. During a time of deep-rooted segregation, he affirmed that individual excellence – rather than race or nation – distinguishes an individual. The entire world took note of his remarkable achievement, one which remains without precedent. His record number of gold medal wins stood for 48 years.
Of the collaboration, Tina Brown, Executive Director of the Overtown Youth Center, has said: “It’s an honor to have a Jesse Owens Mural in a historically acclaimed community! In the midst of an ever-changing community, this mural would serve as one reminder of the many great accomplishments of African Americans. Thus providing OYC an opportunity to teach young people growing up in an area in which obstacles seem ever present; that anything is possible once gifts and talents are discovered and cultivated. “
The completed mural will be revealed, Monday, March 30th at 4:00PM, at the Overtown Youth Center, 450 NW 14th Street, Miami, FL 33136, with a ribbon cutting ceremony attended by the City of Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado. Mayor Regalado will present the Overtown Youth Center with a salute from the city for furthering black history education in the community.