CALUMET HEIGHTS — More than 100 students from Hoyne Elementary School participated in a memorial wreath-laying ceremony to honor Olympic legend Jesse Owens over the weekend.
The group of seventh- and eighth-graders first attended a screening of “Race,” the biopic that highlights the life and accomplishments of the African-American athlete.
James Cleveland “Jesse" Owens was an American track and field athlete. He won a record-breaking four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. He died in 1980.
Ald. Michelle Harris (8th) joined the students at the Chatham 14 Studio Movie Grill.
“Jesse Owens was such a giant figure in the black history of Chicago, the United States, and indeed the world, that I felt it important to help ensure that all young students be aware of his important legacy,” Harris said in a statement.
After the movie, the students took buses over to Jesse Owens Park, 2032 E. 88th St. where state Sen. Donne E. Trotter (D-17th) joined them.
Trotter, who didn’t see the film but knows Owens’ story, said he had an “I can do it” spirit, which he hoped the students picked up on.
“It’s our intention and our hope that these students embrace that spirit as they go through life because there are so many challenges, and there’s so many people who say you cannot, and you have to have that spirit within you to succeed,” he said.
Many of the students said they found Owens’ story “inspiring.”
“I thought it was very inspiring,” Janiya Williams, 13, said of the film. “It taught us not to give up and that we can do anything, even if we mess up or fail, we can pick back up from it.”
She said what the park’s advisory council is doing is “cool and awesome.”
Janiya’s classmate, Alex Smith, said she understood the movie’s lessons.
She liked when Owen’s coach told him to block out the negative comments people made about him.
“He said to just block it out and focus,” Alex said.
Jesse Owens Advisory Council member Frank Horton said the panel is working on getting a statue of Owens built. The group is in the process of starting a GoFundMe page to help raise money.
This year is the 80th anniversary of Jesse Owens' historic 1936 Gold Medal win by a black American at the Olympics in Germany.
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: