Black History Month is upon us and many use this time to honor African Americans for their contributions to American culture. I support Black History Month in its concerted effort to spotlight African Americans and their many significant accomplishments, however, while some might solely recognize Black history in February, our history is celebrated every day in my home.
My goal is to use African American history to help instill pride in my children, but to also celebrate diversity without perpetuating a divide. Our culture’s remarkable, rich and vibrant stories are crucial to America’s development and balance. My hope is that one day America will not need a designated month to focus on African-Americans’ place in history. Instead, our history will be taught as one with all of American history.
I take the responsibility of sharing with my sons the struggles, triumphs and feats of their fellow African Americans year-round. I recently took my two sons to watch Selma, a movie about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s campaign to secure equal voting rights and the historic marches from Selma to Montgomery. At the ages of 10 and 8, my sons have also seen Amistad, 42: The Jackie Robinson Story, Ali and other movies that address Black history. I expose them to literature, music and history in all forms so that they can see the beauty and strength of their culture’s background.
I am grateful that, personally and professionally, I have had the opportunity to impact people of all races and show them that hard work and dedication can produce greatness. I strive to be an example of how someone can overcome a challenging childhood and succeed regardless of obstacles or negative environments. Teaching our youth how to stay true to their values, embrace diversity and recognize their own gifts is vital to helping future generations achieve and promote racial equality. By using these measures in my early years, I was able to attain a confident mindset and not be afraid to accept help from outside their community.
I have had the privilege of serving as an Ambassador for WWE’s community and outreach initiatives in the U.S. and around the world. As an Ambassador, I’ve been a part of WWE’s campaign to promote literacy as well as its anti-bullying program, Be a STAR (Show Tolerance And Respect). I have also had the honor of being featured in the Ad Council and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Fatherhood campaign that encourage dads to recognize their critical role and give them the tools to help get more involved.
I recognize that I have become a role model to many during my time with the WWE. I, too, have role models who I look up to and who have deeply impacted my life. I have enjoyed learning about the past efforts of our global humanitarian leaders, like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Muhammad Ali and Reverend Jesse Jackson. They are legendary contributors to American history. Recently, I was honored as the 2014 Rainbow Push Coalition’s Humanitarian Awardee. This is of great relevance to me and a momentous blessing. Reverend Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition is dedicated to social equality, reading programs and job placement for our youth. It provides a vast array of beneficial programs to promote African Americans’ success and positive race relations. This is a distinction also given to Muhammad Ali, Maya Angelou and Jackie Robinson. Since being given that award, I have become friends with Rev. Jackson, a key figure of the Civil Rights Movement, who worked alongside Dr. King and many other courageous leaders. It was an indescribable moment, and it deepened my connection and appreciation for our culture’s history. That appreciation is something I hope to pass down to my children and the children I hope to inspire.
My greatest hope is that my words and actions help future generations see the light in themselves, regardless of their background, current circumstances or race. When I step into the ring for WWE, my purpose is to entertain and inspire everyone. I want children and adults to see me as an entertainer, one that they enjoy booing or cheering, based on my talents as a performer and not the color of my skin. Dreams can be accomplished by anyone with the courage to follow them. I do my best to inspire everyone to “reach for the moon because if they fail, they’ll land on the stars.”
America is one of the most diverse countries in the world, a true melting pot. People from all races, ethnicities, religions and beliefs made this country what it is today. The more educated we are about our people and cultures, the more understanding we possess and the more aware we are of how to improve ourselves. We must remember that “we were all humans until race disconnected us, religion separated us, politics divided us and wealth classified us.” Let’s use our differences to teach instead of divide. Let’s remember that we all share history as humans. So, in honor of Black History Month, this human will end this blog by saying it loud: “I am Black, and I am proud!”