Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of Jon Lesane
Meet The NFL Players Who Are Getting Stamps While Giving Back
Travel is definitely the new wave. However, it seems that the number of Black women traveling is much greater than Black men. This isn’t to say that Black men don’t travel but many find that other circumstances take priority and travel gets pushed to the back.
Recently a group of former and current professional athletes teamed up to launch a project called Through Our Eyes, to show that Black men do travel and that they know how to give back while doing so.
Brandon Marshall (Oakland Raiders), Tony Carter (New England Patriots), Duke Ihenacho (Denver Broncos), William Gay (Pittsburgh Steelers), PJ Williams (New Orleans Saints), Mike Adams (Carolina Panthers), BW Webb (Cincinnati Bengals), and Omar Bolden (Denver Broncos) are among the men that are apart of this group.
We had a chance to speak with Duke Ihenacho and Jon Lesane, who is helping to lead the project, to learn more about their experiences and what’s next.
Travel Noire: What inspired you all to create and start this project?
Duke Ihenacho: We were inspired to create Through Our Eyes because we enjoyed traveling and seeing the world. We would have all this fun and be excited to tell people about it, but they never quite understood why we were so enthusiastic about our experiences. So we decided to start documenting everything from our vantage point so people could feel like they were traveling the world with us.
TN: In your opinion, why do you feel that more Black men don’t set out to see the world?
Duke: I think many black men never set out to travel because of circumstances. It’s hard finding the desire to travel when you feel like you’re not in the position to financially. Then, there are so many other things we’re fighting with as black men, so the last thing we’re thinking about is travel. Family, our neighborhood, drugs, gangs, violence, police brutality. All these things we have to navigate and survive through.
For a lot of us, we think of travel as a vacation, and we just don’t have the luxury to vacation. But I think if we start thinking of travel as more of a learning experience, we’ll be more inclined to because we’d actually feel like we’re getting something out of it. Another part of it is unfamiliarity. We don’t know any better because we weren’t taught any better. It’s relatively easy to travel. It just takes planning and some saving.
TN: How has this project along with the influence of being professional athletes allowed you all to change this?
Duke: This project gives us the opportunity to show others exactly what we see. Actually seeing us in these places, talking to kids, helping families, enjoying the world– it motivates people to do the same. We can speak about it all we want but giving people actual visuals is what gets people to mobilize. We also make it fun. We have a blast when we travel. It’s important for us to show that so people can think outside the box and expand their horizons.
TN: Where has this project taken you so far?
Jon Lesane: So far, we’ve been to Cape Town, South Africa and Montego Bay, Jamaica.
TN: Tell us about your service projects and how you decide on them for different countries.
Jon: We feel it’s important to connect with the youth through sports and education, so we always aim to give back at a school and an orphanage on each trip. After we decide on the country we’re going to visit, we identify schools and organizations that align with our mission. In South Africa, we spoke to students at Silikamva High School and visited the Abaphumeleli Home of Safety to donate toiletries, cash, and goodies for the kids. In Jamaica, we hosted a Fitness & Fun Day for the students at Granville All-Age School and also donated books, shoes, and toys during our visit to the Blossom Gardens Children’s Home.
TN: What’s next for Through Our Eyes?
Jon: Our goal is to visit a new country in the African diaspora each year. In 2020, we are visiting Brazil to teach American football to Brazilian youth and learn more about the culture. We chose Brazil because it is the country with the largest African Diaspora population and many Brazilians struggle with poverty due to lack of resources. We feel we can make a lasting impact there.
TN: Where can we follow more of your journey?