Atlanta premiere of "Race" kicks off Black History Month

By Arlinda Broady, Ryon Horne and Shelia Poole

What could be more fitting than kicking off Black History Month with a local screening of "Race," a film about a shining example of African-American triumph?

The film is about track legend Jesse Owens and his quest for gold at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Besides dealing with the overt racism at home, the young athlete faced Adolf Hitler’s vision of Aryan supremacy.

The double-meaning in the title opens the door for an exciting story about courage, determination, tolerance and friendship.

The film opens nationwide on Feb. 19.


Black History Month in Atlanta

Stars of the film, Stephan James and Shanice Banton,  walked the red carpet and greeted the hundreds of fans lined up at Regal Cinemas Atlantic Station. Three auditoriums were open to accommodate the crowd, which included students from Morehouse College, youths invited by the Ludacris Foundation, a nonprofit started by rapper/actor Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, and others.

Local celebrities and VIPs such as civil rights veteran and former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young; the Rev. Raphael Warnock, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church with his fianceé, Ouleye Ndoye; Ludacris with his wife Eudoxie; producer Will Packer; Kathleen Bertrand of the BronzeLens Film Festival; Maynard Jackson III and his wife, Wendy Eley Jackson, who are executive producers of the documentary film, "Maynard," about the life of former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson; media personalities Karyn Greer and Angela Robinson as well as host Kim Fields were also in attendance.

The actress, director, producer and most recent cast member of the reality show “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” pointed out how the cradle of the Civil Rights Movement was an obvious choice for premiering such a movie.

"This is a film about determination, courage, tolerance and friendship. Tonight we’ll go back in time and see how Jesse’s journey impacted the entire world,” she told the audience before the screening

She wasn’t the only one who appreciated the symbolism.

Andrew Young said his father once told him, ”White supremacy is a sickness, and you don’t let sick people get you upset.” And he used Jesse Owens as an example. "He said when Hitler got upset and walked out, Jesse didn’t lose his cool. He just went on and broke three more world records. So that was from the time I was four years old.

Stephan James, who plays the lead role of Owens said the films "Race" and "Selma" are "so much bigger than just black stories. These are world stories. To tell a story like “Selma,” (and) to tell a story like “Race,” it’s just an incredible opportunity for me to tell about legends, about heroes. People who are so great and powerful, who have really impacted the world over."

People can look at this film and think, “If Jesse Owens can do what he did at the time he did it, there’s no excuse for me to be able to accomplish great things," he said.

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About the Author

Shelia Poole
Shelia Poole
Shelia Poole has worked at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for more than two decades.