Wednesday. The one day each week Sammy Lee and other “colored” boys are permitted to swim in the Pasadena pool. Afterwards, the pool’s drained before the white children swim on Thursday.
Bigotry and discrimination are very much alive in 1930s California. But Sammy conquers these threats in 1948 when he becomes the first Asian-American man to win an Olympic gold medal. Barred from public pools, Sammy practices diving over sand pits. This gives him strong leg muscles, helping him perfectly execute his dives. After Sammy earns gold, the segregated pool in Pasadena changes its policy, and welcomes everyone.
It’s the 1950s. As a child, Wilma Mankiller and her family relocate from Oklahoma to San Francisco in search of a better life. Sadly, they suffer discrimination and financial hardship due to broken promises made by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Eager to better Native American lives, Wilma takes action. She works as a tribal planner and program developer for the Cherokee Nation. And in 1985, Wilma becomes the tribe’s first female principal chief. Wilma’s noble efforts improve the lives of Native American women through education and political activism, and continue to shape Government-to-Government relations with Native American tribes today.
Have you heard of The Matrix ? The Wachowski sisters, Lana and Lilly, are writers, directors and producers, most famously known for directing and co-writing this groundbreaking sci-fi feature. But Lana and Lilly’s identities stretch far beyond film. The siblings are both transgender women.
In 2016, news media threatens to reveal Lilly’s gender identity. She delivers an eloquent statement about the pain and suicidal tendencies transgender individuals face when publicly “outed.” The Wachowski sisters sacrifice their private lives to highlight the significant obstacles facing transgender Americans, sparking a national conversation about gender identity.
It’s 1973. Roberto Enrique Clemente Walker is inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame – the first Latin American and Caribbean player to be enshrined. But Clemente’s legacy extends far beyond baseball. He seizes his career as an opportunity to encourage Latin Americans, specifically underprivileged Puerto Ricans, to make better lives for themselves.
Always yearning to help those in need, Clemente holds baseball clinics for kids in low- income families. Clemente’s life exemplifies that of an extraordinary citizen, athlete, and philanthropist, and makes him a “Hero of the Americas and the World.”
Imagine living your life without arms or legs. Now imagine climbing a mountain. Motivational speaker and athlete Kyle Maynard is the first quadruple amputee to summit Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Aconcagua without prosthetics.
Born in 1986 with the rare condition, Congenital Amputation, Kyle chooses to embrace life without the aid of prosthetics. Thriving on physical challenges, he learns at a young age to live independently. His “No Excuses” philosophy travels with him around the globe, inspiring people to stay optimistic and overcome all levels of adversity.
It’s 1866. The Civil War has just ended. Matthew Henson is born to freeborn black sharecroppers and is an orphan by age 12. After traveling the globe as a cabin boy, Matthew meets explorer Robert Edwin Peary. Years of exploration culminate in the two becoming the first explorers to discover the North Pole.
Leading up to the 1909 expedition, Matthew befriends the local Eskimos, the only explorer to learn their language and their invaluable Arctic survival skills. Celebrated by the black community at the time, today we all can revel in his fearless contributions to polar exploration.
Would you have the courage to compete in the Olympics? Marla Runyan is a two-time Olympian who participates in national marathons and heptathlons. Her impressive athletic accomplishments leap off the charts when you consider the fact that Marla is legally blind.
In 1978 at age 9, Marla learns she has a degenerative disease causing progressive vision loss. But she remains optimistic! Marla trains hard, overcoming unimaginable obstacles to build her inspirational track career. To this day, Marla is the only American athlete to compete in both the Paralympic and the Olympic Games.
Would you have the courage to be yourself in the face of ridicule? Congressman Dalip Singh Saund is the first Sikh American and first Asian American elected to Congress. But his journey isn’t easy. Dalip battles resentment and discrimination for years, especially over his controversial turban.
In 1956, Dalip wins over a district in California with few ethnic voters. He does this while maintaining his culture and his religion. His assimilation into American culture while honoring his heritage, makes Dalip a symbol of hope for not only the Sikh community, but all minorities in America.