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CONCUSSION and the American Dream: An Exploration of Repeated Brain Trauma and Sports

I am an immigrant from Kenya and my husband is Puerto Rican. We are both Muslim and met 14 years ago when we were introduced by a friend after Friday prayers. It's a challenging time to raise my three children, I never know which part of their identity will be under scrutiny in that night's news cycle. In fact, it was in the middle of a new storm of troubling rhetoric that I was invited to watch an advanced screening of CONCUSSION.

CONCUSSION stars Will Smith (whose performance is truly reason enough to see this movie) and explores the work of Dr. Bennet Omalu, a nuero-pathologist and an immigrant from Nigeria who has dedicated so much of himself to raise awareness on the effects of repeated head trauma in sports.

The movie struck a deep chord with me. Like Dr Omalu, I have intense faith in our ability to be agents of transformational change. I have worked on outreach for the Affordable Care Act and am proud to support the critical work that MomsRising does on issues such as paid family leave and food security.

I'm a mom, in a small town in Connecticut. The advocacy work I do is sandwiched between soccer matches and helping out with school plays, yet I've never doubted this work was mine to do. I saw in Dr Omalu's work the same unshakable faith I have in the possibility of change. It was incredibly affirming to see how much can be achieved. To see how much Dr Omalu has been able to change the national narrative through his dedication and his commitment to work past what many would see as insurmountable challenges.

Dr Omalu's story started when he was examining the body of 'Iron Mike' Webster. Iron Mike was a Hall of Fame Football player who had four Super Bowl rings. He had died at the age of 50 after exhibiting troubling behavior during his retirement. Dr Omalu suspected that his behavior and his death was caused by the trauma his brain underwent when he played football. The brain is not attached to the skull, it is suspended in a jelly like substance  and a hard knock can send the brain crashing against the skull, the kinds of hard knocks experienced thousands of times in a football career.

CONCUSSION follows Dr Omalu's journey to prove his theory and to bring it to the attention of the country. The movie is breathtaking, not only for the important information it shares on sports and brain trauma, but also in its detailing of the personal cost and commitment Dr Omalu and his wife put into this important work.

Dr Omalu and by extension, the movie, tackles a very difficult topic, one that explores the safety of our national pastime. As a mother, it raised critical questions that I need to explore as my children start to consider competitive sports. As Dr Omalu stated in a question period after the screening, ultimately this information is not about dictating what our choices should be, but rather it's about making sure we have complete information in order to make informed decisions for our children.

Despite the challenging subject material, CONCUSSION is an uplifting movie. It is an important narrative for these times, that one of the most important contributions we bring as immigrants is hope. We come to the United States with a strong belief in our ability to carve out a better life for ourselves and that commitment extends to our community and country. Like Dr Omalu, I understand that our nation has many unique challenges and like him, I believe in us and am committed to being an agent of positive change.

I highly recommend the movie and will be going to see it again with my husband and friends.

CONCUSSION releases everywhere on December 25th.

For more information on how to get involved go to: http://www.concussion-movie.com/GameChangers/.

 

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