Olympic icon Jesse Owens and his wife, Ruth Owens, return home from the Olympics in Berlin on August 24, 1936. The son of a sharecropper and grandson of slaves, the Oakville, Alabama-born Mr. Owens won a record 4 gold medals at the 1936 games, annihilating the racist myth of white superiority in the presence of Adolph Hitler. Mr. Owens stated after his victories, “When I came back to my native country, after all the stories about Hitler, I couldn’t ride in the front of the bus. I had to go to the back door. I couldn’t live where I wanted. I wasn’t invited to shake hands with Hitler, but I wasn’t invited to the White House to shake hands with the President, either.” Mr. and Mrs. Owens had three daughters and were married for 45 years before he died in 1980 at the age of 66 of lung cancer. Photo: by Joseph Costa/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images.
Dominic Bracco and Jeremy Relph make their living by telling tough stories.
The journalists have reported together from two of the most violent cities on earth: San Pedro Sula, Honduras and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. Dominic’s photography spans several continents and brings to life everything from the plight of traditional fishermen in the overfished Sea of Cortez to the effects of gun violence in Washington, D.C. Jeremy has written dispatches from field hospitals in Misurata, Libya and expat watering holes in Kabul, Afghanistan.
So when we scheduled a full week of D.C. education outreach with both Dominic and Jeremy around their Pulitzer Center project “Aqui Vivimos,” which examines the culture and politics behind Honduras’s astonishing rates of violence, we made sure to consider carefully how they would present that work to young people.
But Dominic and Jeremy guided the conversations by doing what they already do so well as journalists: dissecting complex scenarios to find their root causes.
“You guys probably know that there are some bad guys doing bad things,” Dominic said in his opening to fourth-graders at Powell Bilingual Elementary School. “Do you know why people might do bad things?” Hands shot up. For money, students responded, maybe for food if they needed it, or for revenge. “When you get bullied, you might turn into a bully too,” observed a student in the following session.
Dominic, based in Mexico City, spoke with students in Spanish and English throughout the week. Both he and Jeremy – based in Toronto – explained in straightforward terms the complex forces that have swelled the numbers of Honduran immigrants to the United States since a military coup ousted President Manuel Zelaya in 2009.
The journalists spoke with nearly twenty classes in those five days. They also gave an evening talk at the Pulitzer Center with fellow New Yorker contributor and Pulitzer Center grantee Mattathias Schwartz.