Sam Acho

Host & Executive Producer – Latasha Morrison
Senior Producer – Lauren C. Brown
Producer, Editor & Music By – Travon Potts
Transcriber – Sarah Connatser

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Podcast link: https://podlink.to/BeTheBridge Social handles/links: Instagram: @LatashaMorrison  Twitter: @LatashaMorrison

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LatashaMMorrison/  Official Hashtag: #bethebridge

About Sam Acho

Sam Acho is a football player, humanitarian, public speaker, and committed Christian.

After playing college football at the University of Texas, he was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in 2011, and played four seasons as a linebacker with the team before signing with the Chicago Bears for the 2015-16 season. In 2016 and 2017, he was the Bears’ Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year nominee, the league’s only award that recognizes both civic and professional contributions. As a senior at the University of Texas, he received the Wuerffel Trophy for outstanding community service in addition to being named the Longhorns’ MVP.

Having grown up in Dallas with parents who emphasized scholastic achievement, Acho received the William V. Campbell Trophy for being college football’s top scholar-athlete. He was also named by Sporting News as one of the 20 smartest athletes in all of sports. Acho finished his MBA in 2015 at the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Glendale, AZ.

Every year he joins his family on medical missions trips to Nigeria. They recently built a hospital there through Living Hope Christian Ministries, an organization founded by Acho’s parents. As a public speaker, he enjoys opportunities to encourage and inspire others to fulfill their calling by following Christ and serving others.





The full episode transcript is below.

Narrator  0:01  

You are listening to the Be the Bridge podcast with Latasha Morrison. 

Latasha Morrison  0:06  

[Intro] How are you guys doing today? This is exciting!

Narrator  0:09  

Each week, Be the Bridge podcast tackles subjects related to race and culture with the goal of bringing understanding.

Latasha Morrison  0:16  

[Intro] …but I’m going to do it in the spirit of love.

Narrator  0:19  

We believe understanding can move us toward racial healing, racial equity, and racial unity. Latasha Morrison is the founder of Be the Bridge, which is an organization responding to racial brokenness and systemic injustice in our world. This podcast is an extension of our vision to make sure people are no longer conditioned by a racialized society, but grounded in truth. If you have not hit the subscribe button, please do so now. Without further ado, let’s begin today’s podcast. Oh, and stick around for some important information at the end.

Sam Acho  0:51  

[Audio Clip from News] NFLPA executive committee member Sam Acho join us on the show. Sam…

Unknown Speaker  0:59  

[Audio Clip from News] He’s the author of Let the World See You: How to Be Real in a World Full of Fakes. Oh my gosh. Sam Acho here on The Rich Eisen Show. Sam, you must not live in Los Angeles. (laughter)

Sam Acho  1:08  

[Audio Clip from News] Sam Acho, reelected NFLPA, his brother, of course, Emmanuel Acho is on speaker.

Unknown Speaker  1:10  

[Audio Clip from News] I’m here now joined by my big brother Sam Acho. The question Sam is… 

Latasha Morrison  1:18  

Sam Acho is a writer, motivational speaker, and humanitarian, and a committed Christian. He speaks widely at colleges, events, conferences, and churches. And he also co hosts The Home Team Podcast and The Athletes for Justice Podcast. He is a sports analyst for Stadium, NBC 5 Chicago, and Sportsnet Toronto. He played as a professional linebacker in the NFL for nine seasons, and recently hung up his cleats and picked up a microphone in 2020. Let’s welcome to the Be the Bridge podcast, Sam Acho.

[In Conversation] I am so glad to have you here, Sam. And just for the Be the Bridge audience, maybe a couple years ago, maybe last year actually, I saw that you follow me on Twitter. 

Sam Acho  2:18  

Yes.

Latasha Morrison  2:19  

And I was like, Oh, wait a minute. What, what! And I know we followed each other back. So we’ve been following each other for a little over a year now. And so I know you know a little bit about what we do with Be the Bridge, but I don’t know a lot about what you’re doing outside of football. And you’re so much more than football, and I wanted to introduce you and your work to our Be the Bridge audience. So I want you to introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about what you’re doing and who you are and just a little bit. Just pretend like they don’t know you at all. Okay? (laughter)

Sam Acho  2:56  

Awesome, awesome. Because y’all probably don’t. So this is me. I’m Sam Acho. I played nine years in the NFL, the National Football League, which was fun. It was great. I literally just, this COVID year was the first year I didn’t play. But, and I loved it. Right? But I think what’s more exciting is a lot of the stuff that I’ve been doing off the field. So like specifically, I just wrote a book called Let the World See You: How to Be Real in a World Full of Fakes. I know we’ll talk about that later. But also another cool thing that I’ve been able to do is, I played for the Chicago Bears, I was living in Chicago, and I have this heart and passion for seeing things that are wrong and trying to make them right. And about a year ago we got a chance to go to the west side of Chicago and we saw there was a food desert. And the long short of it is I got some teammates and some friends from different sports together, and we bought a liquor store and turned it into a food mart that the kids are running. So I do some of that stuff. And you know, started a nonprofit called Athletes for Justice, connecting athletes, pro athletes, collegiate athletes, everyday athletes, weekend warriors, anybody around justice causes in their communities. And so doing that. What else? Got my MBA from the Thunderbird School of Global Management. 

Latasha Morrison  4:10  

Oh my goodness!

Sam Acho  4:11  

Yeah, so anyways, that’s a little bit. I don’t know, I’m trying to think. I love doing stuff on TV like ESPN and Fox and so that’s that’s a little bit about me.

Latasha Morrison  4:18  

You see, you know what, he just made everybody that’s listening feel like a slacker. So, I mean, you’re doing all of this, playing football, starting grocery stores, you know, starting movements, like that’s incredible. And I’m so glad that our audience gets to see this because a lot of times they see people on the field and they don’t know the work that people are doing, athletes who are influencers are doing in their communities. And I love just the whole story around Athletes for Jesus because you’re just not engaged in the work – Athletes for Justice, I’m sorry – but you’re not just engaged in the work, you’re also engaging other people in the work. And that’s what we need. I mean, because the youth are looking, they’re watching, and they’re learning. And so, I am so glad that you created that. And so what shaped…I mean, because you just got a thread of justice throughout like, your life it seems like. What shaped this work of justice for you?

Sam Acho  5:22  

Yeah. Well, I gotta start from the beginning. And I love that. Yes, we’re Athletes for Justice, but Athletes for Jesus is just as good of a saying. (laughter) 

Latasha Morrison  5:29  

I was giving you a new one! (laughter)

Sam Acho  5:32  

We’re gonna be doing business as Athletes for Jesus. I love that. Yeah. So like, honestly, I have to start from the beginning. The thread of justice started with my dad.

Latasha Morrison  5:43  

Okay.

Sam Acho  5:44  

So my mom and dad were both born and raised in Nigeria. And some people who maybe follow or study history know there was a Nigerian Civil War. It’s called the Biafran war. My dad actually fought in this war. And essentially, the British were in so many ways kind of had taken over Nigeria and were kind of leaving but left it in disarray. And then there was cultural groups that were fighting against each other. And my dad’s cultural group was, in a lot of ways, like they had the smallest territory, but that larger territory was trying to kind of oppress them. And he was like, “No, I need to go fight, I need to go do something.” And so he did something. And you know, the war ended a few years later, but he still had this passion for like, helping people. And so he actually would teach and preach 17, 18, 19 years old, on top of buses to tell people about Jesus, right? But then also, that’s why the Athletes for Jesus does fit. But then also, he said, man, there’s got to be something more. He would see people die from little illnesses, like an insect bite would be a death sentence. Malnutrition. Dysentery. People drinking bad water. He would see that. Even though he had got an opportunity to come to America in his early 20s or so he came to America and started almost building this new life. He never forgot about his roots. And so he came to America would go back and forth. Some missionary saw him teaching the Word of God, they said, you got to come and teach us because we need whatever you have. So that was kind of how we first came here. He went back, he brought my mom, right, which was soon to be his wife, to America. But then every single summer, every year, they would go back to Nigeria for these medical missions trips. They would go to these different villages in Nigeria and give out free medical care. They go with doctors, American doctors, and nurses, surgeons, dentists, ophthalmologists, pharmacists, pediatricians. And they would go and just help people in need. And when I say people in need, it’s like, I’m not sure if anyone listening is familiar with this TV series called The Chosen. It’s pretty much talking about like, how Jesus chose his disciples. It’s awesome. It’s on, you know, it’s online, or whatever. But like these people couldn’t walk. These people were blind. These people had hernias. I mean, it was literally like, we would come and we’d remove hernias and remove cataracts. It got to a point where people would hear that we were coming. They would come wait in line for days. And we finally got there, they would sing dance for joys, but there were 1000s of people. And we couldn’t help everybody. So people were desperate, they would literally walk up to us and say, I need help, I need help. And they’d like pull open, like a man would pull up their shorts show this huge hernia, size of like a basketball, volleyball, “Help me.” And so like doctors would go and do surgery, and they would be healed. So like that heart has been in me and my family for years. I went on that trip for the first time I was 15 years old. That’s when my parents felt I was I was old enough to see and hear some of the stuff that was going on. And I remember even just me going there and being 15 years old and seeing this kid who probably would looked, village kid, who probably looked like he was eight or nine years old and, you know, he had a little soccer ball had some like a dingy cream colored tank top and some short blue shorts and some sandals that looked like he’d worn for years. And I said let me just go talk to this guy. So I went up to him and you know, we’re talking a little bit and we kick the soccer ball around and I say, “Hey man, what’s your name? What’s your name?” And he looks at me and he says, “My name is Samuel.” Mind you, my name is Samuel. So I’m like, okay, like, nice to meet you. And I say, “Hey, dude, how old are you?” Now remember I was 15, he looked like he was eight or nine. And I said, “How old are you?” He said, “I’m 15.” And I was like, wait, what is really going on? This dude is a third of my size. No food. No clothes. Same name. Same age. Yet for some reason I’m here and he’s there. Something’s not adding up. I have to do something. And so even then this idea of justice started to bubble up overseas. But not just overseas, in America as well. I went to a church in, I grew up in Dallas went to a church in South Oak Cliff, south part of Dallas called Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship, predominately Black.

Latasha Morrison  7:20  

Yeah, Okay. Okay.

Sam Acho  10:14  

So Tony Evans. Oak Cliff BF. So that’s like my family. But I went to school in North Dallas, a predominantly white school. And so even on like Sundays or Wednesday nights, we would go to church, we would go and let’s say you stopped to get gas or stop in the neighborhood and you would see like, man, like, how come in the north, where I go to school there’s healthy food, there’s organic food, there’s like there. But then on this neighborhood all you see your honeybuns and donuts. Something’s not adding up. Something’s not right. I think that kind of is what helps even spurned some of the stuff we’ve done recently in Chicago. Where a few days after George Floyd was murdered me and my teammates and friends wanted to do something. If we said something’s got to be done. We were ready to, we were gonna like, okay, let’s maybe we can protest. Let’s protest. Okay, then how about we go and post a tweet to the president? Like, let’s do something. We were ready. And so I said, Okay, hold on. Let me just call somebody in the community and see what she thinks. And I call this woman. Her name is Donnita Travis. She leads a nonprofit called The By the Hand Club for Kids. So I said, “Hey, what do you all need? Because we’re ready. Whatever you need, we are ready. Like I know, you lead these kids. We’ll march with them. We’ll put up signs. Whatever y’all need.” She said, “Sam. Honestly, these kids in our community, all they need is someone right now to listen to them.

Latasha Morrison  11:53  

Yes!

Sam Acho  11:55  

To listen. So I said, “But I want to, but I want to!” “Just listen.” And so, I said, alright. So I got together athletes from all the different teams in Chicago: the Bulls, the Cubs, the Blackhawks, the White Sox, the Chicago Sky, which is our WNBA team, even players who were in the NFL played at Northwestern, which was Chicago’s college team. And we just got together on the west side of Chicago, about 10 of us and we sat, and we listened. There were about 30 kids from both the south and the west side, and then about 10 or so police officers. And we sat, really we stood up, outside and COVID so pandemic socially distanced, masks on. And we stood in these things called peace circles, or listening circles. And we just kind of aired out our grievances. And some of the things that we heard for from the officers, right, they said, “Man, I feel like our job is to protect and serve, and many of our comrades have forgot about the serve part.” Some of the kids, you know, some of these Black kids in the community were saying, “How come all we see on TV are people who look like me getting killed? How come that’s all that’s on the news?” Even the athletes were saying, “Man, I thought I would be different when I got this success, or I had some kind of clout, yet I get treated the exact same way.” There’s a problem. And so after sitting and listening for an hour or so and talking, we decided to take a tour of the west side of Chicago. Many people, we live in these communities, but we don’t get close to the communities. We said let’s just get close. And so we hopped on a bus, some of the kids as well. They were our tour guides. And we took a tour of this neighborhood called Austin on the west side of Chicago. Because we wanted to see, like you saw on the news like looting and rioting. But what about Chicago? We said, let’s really see what’s going on. 

Latasha Morrison  13:49  

Exactly.

Sam Acho  13:50  

And we saw buildings boarded up. And yes, we saw places that had been broken into. But what was even more telling, as we took this tour, we were about 30 minutes in and I asked one of the guys Jason Heyward, he plays for the Chicago Cubs, All Star MLB All Star, I said, “Hey, Jason, even looking as we’ve been driving, like, how many grocery stores? Have you seen? We’ve been around driving around for 30 minutes. How many grocery stores have you seen on our 30 minute ride so far?” He said, “Maybe, maybe one.” I said, “Okay.” I said, “Okay, that makes sense. How many? How many liquor stores have you counted on our 20/30 minute drive?” He said, “Over 10.” That’s a problem. What if we could do something about it? And one of the kids, her name is Zarya Baker. 15 years old. She was 14 at the time, she was our tour guide. And she saw us as we were looking and observing and saying, “Whoa this is crazy,” and, “Oh no.” She stood up. She got up, got picked up her microphone, the little bus megaphone deal and she said, “Hey, I know a lot of y’all see this as a field trip. Come here, spend 30 minutes, an hour, and you leave. But I want you to remember that some of us choose to live here. We build families here. We call this place our home. There’s no going back for us. So I hope you’ll remember that as you leave.” And we did. So we left that tour, we exited the buses and kind of took another 10/20 minutes and said, guys, what if we could do something? What if we could do something? We have money. We have influence. We have followers. We have time, right? Sports were canceled. What if we could do something? What if we could maybe buy one of these liquor stores and turn it into a food mart? What if we could do something? And so we heard that idea. And then we said, okay, let’s run it by the kids first. Is this something they even want? And so we met with them the next week. Because you don’t want to come in and say, “Hey, we got this great idea. We’re gonna come and it’s already…” No.

Latasha Morrison  16:01  

Exactly.

Sam Acho  16:02  

So we actually sat down with them. We said, hey. I called that nonprofit leader Donnita and I said, “Hey, can we get some kids together and just hear from them?” So we sat down the next week. And I, we asked them, we said, “Hey, we have this idea. But we want to run it by you first. We’re thinking about trying to raise some money and buy a liquor store and build a food mart. But do y’all even need a food mart in your community?” We said, “Where do you get your food from?” And they said, “Oh, we get our food from McDonald’s or the gas station.” We said “No, no, like, I understand like fast food. I’ll eat McDonald’s from time to time, Chick Fil A or whatever. But like, no, where do you get your food?” They said, “The gas station is where we get our food.” So I said, “Okay, let me rephrase. Okay, let me let me just make it clear. Where do you get healthy food from? Right? Something healthy, something good for you, something organic?” They said, “Sam, we don’t have anything here.” I said, “No. What do you mean? Like come on, like organic.” They said, “Sam, if we want to get organic food, healthy food, we have to drive 45 minutes to the next city to find something organic. So yes, we do need healthy food in our community.” And so that started this journey and this process of these kids really leading the way and saying, okay, what would we want it to look like? What do we want it to feel like? What do you want it to smell like? What do we want, what do we want to call it? You know, and so while they were planning, they came up with this idea of of a food mart, a pop up mart, called Austin Harvest. It’s in the neighborhood called Austin. So Austin Harvest, and they want to they’re talking about building community through fresh food. And it wouldn’t just be this mart that like outside people come in. They wanted to run it, they wanted to manage it, they wanted to work there. And so it became this thing that was opened up Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays after school from two to six on the west side of Chicago. Right, me and some friends of mine, athletes, we raised about a half a million dollars, bought this liquor store and then tore down. We had a liquor store tear down party about four weeks, exactly four weeks after that first meeting, had a liquor store tear down party. And then I invited Roger Goodell, who’s the Commissioner of the NFL. He’s an acquaintance of mine, he showed up. I invited Lori Lightfoot, the mayor of Chicago, she’s friends with that nonprofit, she showed up. I invited David Brown, the superintendent of the Chicago Police Department, he showed up. And the kids and the athletes, and we had this liquor store tear down party. Tore it down and about seven, eight weeks later, we opened up this pop up mart, Austin Harvest that was open three days a week. And it was supposed to be kind of a temporary thing. Let’s just see how it goes. Because the kids are working there. Well, after about two or three months. The kids said what if we can make this permanent? Because you know, Chicago gets cold and wintertime. This was in June, right? So like by November, December was getting a little bit cold. And then even COVID kind of ticked up. So the government was closing things down. We said what if we could make it permanent? So then we started dreaming again of building a permanent facility. Started talking with some grocers in Illinois. And they said we’d love to help provide the food. Started talking with some other athletes and friends and people in business said, hey, we’d love to help build this thing. And so actually, on June 23 of this year, we’re doing a radiothon, a 24 hour radiothon that’s going to support the permanent building structure of Austin Harvest. The kids have been meeting, and I’ve, been meeting with an architect, we’re meeting with the city to see if we can make this permanent. So we have a drawing set up and we have it all set. Now we’re just raising the funds. And all this info is on athletesforjustice.org. You’ll see a tab, it says Austin Harvest if anyone wants to donate and help build that because we’re going to build it. It’s going to be permanent, long lasting, forever community through fresh food. And so to answer your question of where did this this thread of justice began, it began in the womb really, but then it’s going to follow me to the tomb.

Latasha Morrison  20:01  

Yes, I love it! Oh my goodness, that is, there’s so much in there. First of all, I’m imagining this, like I’m picturing, you know, this grocery store. And just the hope that is going to bring to those students, to know that you didn’t just come take a tour, and walk away but you’re investing in the community, you’re investing in them. And when communities have hope, that fuels change and transformation. When there’s hopelessness, it breeds lawlessness. And so these are the answers. These are the solutions. And this is the thing, our communities, we have the solutions. It’s not like we’re trying to figure out, okay, what can be done. The solutions are right there, they just need sometimes the opportunity, the access for it, and the resources, and a lot of times the financial resources. And so this is incredible. I want to come and take part. So those of you who are listening, and if you want to support this, you can go to Athletes for Justice, and find out more information. And so I’m really inspired by this work that you guys are doing. And this is incredible. So you mentioned a lot of your justice starting from the thread from the tomb, excuse me, from the… 

Sam Acho  21:23  

From birth really.

Latasha Morrison  21:23  

from birth. From your father and everything that he’s gone through, and how, he didn’t turn his back on his country. He came and he looked back. And I love that. And so he taught you to look back and to look forward and to be concerned about your neighbors around you. And you can see that in your in your life as early age. What is some of the, what is the greatest lesson that you think your parents taught you? Is it just to care about justice? What are some other things that your parents instilled in you that you will carry that on with your children, and hopefully they carry it on with their children just leaving in that type of legacy? 

Sam Acho  22:08  

Yeah, well, I’m not sure who our listeners are. But I gotta to be honest with you all. Like the lesson that will never leave me, and I remember hearing this in a village in Nigeria. My dad had built this compound, right, his father’s land. He came to America was successful, he went back and built a home for us in Nigeria. He said, “I don’t want y’all to forget about your roots.” And so we would go and we would sit in the living room, it was almost like this, you know, these steps that go down to this living room and we’d all sit, family and even some of the missionaries and parents and they would sing this song. And I’m going to sing it and the song goes, this is what I learned from my parents. It goes, “Prayer is the key. Prayer is the key. Prayer is the master key. Cause Jesus started with prayer and ended with prayer. Prayer is the master key.” 

Latasha Morrison  23:12  

Amen.

Sam Acho  23:13  

Like what I learned is that prayer is the key. Cause the Bible says, okay, justice is mine says the Lord, I will repay. So some people will say, Okay, well shoot, it’s not my job to go and get justice, God’s gonna figure it out. But also like Micah 6:8 says that we should seek justice, that we should love mercy, that we should walk humbly with God. And so it’s also our jobs to seek justice, in unison with others and in unison with God. Before we started this podcast, you and I were talking about some friends of ours in Chicago, you were like man, I can’t wait to go visit them like they’re doing work in the community. And I can’t wait to go and see what they’re doing. Right? You talked about when we just started how we followed each other on social media. I saw what you were doing. I said I need to find out about this woman. I saw you, I bought your book. I was like, there is something I need to learn from Tasha. Right? I learned that seeking justice isn’t something that you do in a vacuum. It’s not something that you do alone. The main thing that gets in the way of anyone trying to go after a goal when it comes to justice and making change, it’s logos and it’s egos. “It’s got to be my thing. I want my people. I want.” Its logos and egos. So I’ve learned man, if you strip away those logos, if you tear those down, if you don’t allow egos, you can make massive change. My dad was a pastor at Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship with Tony Evans, and a lot of people may maybe know who he is, for 20 years, 20 years. This dude loves teaching the Word of God. He’d go to Nigeria and like thousands will pack up to listen to him. Yet he only got a chance to teach or preach maybe four times a year at the church in Texas because there’s humility. 

Latasha Morrison  25:09  

Right.

Sam Acho  25:10  

You know? I’ve learned, prayer is the key. I’ve learned you’ve got to do it together. Be humble, no logos, no no egos. And then the most important thing that I’ve learned is that all you have to do is use what you have. Nothing more, nothing less. Living Hope Christian Ministries is the nonprofit that my parents started. They’ve been doing it for 30 years. And people ask, “Are they in the medical field?” My dad is a marriage counselor. He’s not a doctor. He’s not a surgeon. His PhD is in psychology. And he sees, you know, pro athletes to musicians, right, and he makes a great living doing that. But he uses what he has. He has a passion and a heart for people. When he goes and sees these people hurting, his heart breaks, and he says I have to do something. he loves. He’s super gregarious, so he brings people together. That’s his gift. My mom was a registered nurse and she went back to school became a nurse practitioner. Now she’s a doctor and nurse practitioner. So she’s always had that medical background. But they had a heart and they had relationships. So people from the church, “You’re a doctor! Come through. You’re a nurse, come through. I know this area, come with me, we’ll figure it out.” And they had a house, he built a house there. So come stay at my house. And all of a sudden, hundreds of thousands of people are being saved. They actually opened up a medical center, Living Hope Medical Center in Nigeria. We raised some money and built that. So now Nigerian doctors and nurses and surgeons are working there and feeding the people, helping the people. You don’t have to be a doctor or a nurse. You don’t have to have a book. You don’t have to have a podcast. You don’t have to have a follower. You have to have a heart. You have to bring what you have. And, I get excited about this, right? Because you know, Let the World See You. This is like, the book that I wrote talks a lot about this. But I’m writing another book that really pins down that point of justice. Change starts with you. The change that you want to see ain’t got to start with the person down the street, or the person on TV, or the person with the podcast. No, it starts with you. And it starts with those things that break your heart, those things that just don’t feel right and then doing something about it.

Tandria Potts  27:26  

[Voiceover] This is so good. Aren’t you loving this conversation? We’re gonna take a quick break, stay with us. We’ll be right back.

Latasha Morrison  27:37  

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Tandria Potts  29:18  

[Voiceover] Thanks for staying with us. Let’s get back to our conversation.

Latasha Morrison  29:21  

[In Conversation] And that’s what justice is about. Making things right and making things that are broken and the reordering of things, you know, that leads us to have a reconciled community. And so I think that is a beautiful thing when you start talking about that. And I always say that, if you’re breathing, you can do something. If you have breath in your body there is something that you can do. Sometimes I just tell people to do the next right thing. What is the next thing you know to do? Okay, do that thing. Because sometimes I think people are looking for a grand gesture or they don’t know where to begin, where to start. But the whole key is like to start somewhere. And I love that. Now we mentioned about Nigeria. And I want you to say your full name for everyone. And I want you to tell us a little bit about your Nigerian history and how your parents made sure that you didn’t forget, your parents made sure that you looked back and that they exposed you to your Nigerian culture. And I know you were born and raised in the States. But as we were talking before, your wife was born and raised in Nigeria. So I want to hear about that heritage. And I want to hear about how you met and what have been some of the cultural challenges you know, being brought up here in the States and your wife being raised in Nigeria.

Sam Acho  30:53  

Yeah, so my full name, my government name, and I’ll hit it with the accent too:  Samuel Onyedikachi Acho. So Sam, Samuel is my first name. It means heard by God. My parents came to America. They were praying for kids, right? God blessed. I have two older sisters, so they were so grateful. And they were praying man, we’d love to have a son because in Nigerian culture we need somebody to kind of take over like the household or whatever. So, God gave them a son. So Samuel, heard by God. Onyedikachi it means who is like unto God, another way to translate it means that there is nobody you can compare to God. Onyedikachi. Onyedi means who is, ka like, chi God, in Igbo, which is a Nigerian dialect. And so, that’s my name and growing up. You know it’s funny, like before we started…

Latasha Morrison  31:52  

That just brought chills! It’s like, just the power of names and why names are so important. And I’m like hold on to that history. Because as an African American, like, that’s something that I don’t have, you know? And it’s something that when I hear that the power and what your name means, that means something. And I’m so grateful that you have that and you embrace that and that you acknowledge that. That’s a beautiful thing. I’m sorry, go ahead.

Sam Acho  32:22  

No, you’re right. There’s so much power I mean, even even my wife, so we met in Nigeria. And her name is Ngozi, and Ngozi if you want to say it that way, it means blessing. And everywhere she goes, she’s a blessing. Even the way we met, the way we met she was a blessing. I told you when I was 15 I went on that trip for the first time. Well, right around that time my my dad was looking for someone to help take care of his mother who lived in Nigeria. So my grandmother was getting older, getting advanced in years, 80 something, and her health wasn’t great. And so he said, “Man, is there anybody who can help take care of her?” And so like there was a young girl who was helping with her, and I think that girl wasn’t a good fit. And so my grandma was like, you got to go. And so my dad’s was like we got to find somebody. She does not play. So my dad said, we got to find somebody. And so he called up one of his friends and said, “Hey, do you know anyone who could maybe help? Just for like Christmas break?” Because this was right around Christmas break. “Do you have anybody?” And at the time, Ngozi, this young girl was living in a city called Jos and there was a ton of turmoil. You know, in Nigeria the North is predominantly Muslim, the South is predominately Christian. And in the middle there’s a lot of turmoil. And Jos is in the middle. And she was living in Jos, because her dad had died when she was young. She had five other siblings, they didn’t have a lot. So she was staying with an auntie. And like there was kind of just, war in a lot of ways was kind of starting. And so she moved from the center of Nigeria to the south where my people grew up in, southeast. And her mom said, “Hey, can you just come for like two weeks? Just take care, a friend of mine take care of his mom.” So she said, great sure. So at 15 years old, she moved from the city she was living in into the village to help take care of my grandma. Well, right around that time was when I first came on that trip, and we would go you know, every Christmas and New Year’s to kind of see family and everything. And so like that’s when we first met but we didn’t talk. We didn’t talk and I remember there was this older lady came on this trip, where her name was Miss Alice, who’s from Tampa, Florida, probably about 60 something years old, maybe almost 70. And we were sitting, I was 15, and we’re sitting in that same like living room area and me and some of the people who came from America just sit and talking. And Miss Alice was sitting in her old rocking chair and just sitting and rockin and she looked at me and she said, “You know what, Sam?” I said, “Yes, Miss Alice.” She said, “You’re gonna make a great husband one day.” And I’m like, what is she talking about? What do you mean? I’m 15. What is she talking about. And she’s rockin as she says, “And you never know. The woman of your dreams might be right under this very roof.”

Latasha Morrison  35:17  

Oh, wow! Matchmaking. (laughter)

Sam Acho  35:20  

Matchmaking. As she says that Tasha, as she says that Ngozi walks by. (laughter) I’m like what is going on! But mind you, didn’t think too much of it. I’m like, what she talking about? Well, I would go every year and I would see her every year and I’m like who is this young woman? She was taking care of my grandmother and like, it was supposed to be a two week thing and my grandma’s like, “No, I need you to stay. Because I love you and you love me.” And so every year I would go and go and go. Finally I had just got drafted to the NFL. I was 22 years old, maybe 23, finished my first season, I went back for that medical missions trip. I brought one of my teammates. His name is Calais Campbell, plays for the Baltimore Ravens. He’s 6’8″ 300 pounds, but he’s the nicest guy in the world. He’s one of my best friends. He came with me on this trip and on the whole 14 hour flight we were talking about like relationships and girls like there’s a girl he had just met who he like was falling in love with and I was saying, man, I’d love to you know, just be married one day and all these things. And we land. And he sees her. He sees her. And he says, “Bro, who is that? Are y’all related? She’s beautiful.” And I’m like, “Bro, hold on. You just told me about this girl you’re in love with.” He’s like, “No, no, no, I’m not talking about for me. I’m talking about you. Like this is everything you’ve ever talked about. You always talked about wanting someone who understood the culture and understood Nigeria and understand your family and loved God. What are you waiting for?” And so he kind of like made that push. And more of the story, the full story is in Let the World See You, it’s in the book, so y’all can find it there. It’s actually $2.99 on Kindle right now, it got chosen as an Amazon thing. So, it’s $2.99. But anyways, um, that was the beginning of our relationship this seeing her year after year, but also… 

Latasha Morrison  35:53  

The friend giving you that nudge!

Sam Acho  37:18  

He gave me a nudge! It wasn’t me with the courage, like the friend pushed me. Like Tasha, like a couple days later, I still hadn’t even talked to her. It’s like a 10 day trip. We’re like four days. And I hadn’t even said a word. (laughter) I was scared. I was scared Tasha!

Latasha Morrison  37:30  

Oh my goodness, I love it.

Sam Acho  37:32  

So she actually, my wife actually, I think it was a Tuesday and I was hanging out with some of the kids in the community as we were waiting to help some of their parents and just laughing, joking. There’s two young girls. I was just laughing, they’re probably 10/12 years old. We’re just talking about life, whatever. And we’re just talking outside. And we’re talking and laughing. All of a sudden they see Ngozi walk from inside the building toward outside. And we’re talking about like, school and grades or whatever. And they stopped me they say, “Wow, who is that? She’s beautiful. Is that your wife?” I said, huh?

Latasha Morrison  38:09  

All the signs.

Sam Acho  38:10  

All the signs! So anyways, I said “No, I don’t.” I kind of looked up like to the sky. I don’t know God, is this a sign, like what do you mean? And so we had our first conversation. But the next day, she actually, Ngozi, because Calais and I were rooming together usually in the mornings we’ll wake up early and do like a devotion and then we’ll go to the mission field. So we’ll have someone do a wake up call. She came and knocked on the door for the wake up call. Usually she wasn’t the one who did it. But this time for whatever reason she did. “Hey, letting y’all know. We’re starting in about 30 minutes.” I said, “Okay, great. Thanks.” I’m closing the door. She stops. She says, “Oh, by the way, I’d love to talk to you some time today. If you have a chance.” And my wife is very introverted. And so I was like, I was kind of awkward, “Oh, yeah, we can talk.” I don’t know what to do. And Calais, my teammate is like, “Oh, she likes you!” Bro, are we in high school, what are we doing? (laughter) And so anyways, we find some time later on that day to talk. And it means honestly, like, we sat down. And I’m like, so what you want to talk about? I was being a little punk. I was so immature. I said, “What do you wanna talk about?” Tasha. She looks at me. She says, “I think I like you.” 

Latasha Morrison  38:10  

Oh, okay. Okay! 

Sam Acho  38:40  

So I started out, “I like you too. I like you too. Me, you, um, I don’t know.” And I said, “Well, I like you too. Now that that’s out there. What do you think we should do next?” And her response and I’ll end kind of here she said, “I think we should pray? I think we should pray.” And so like that’s when I knew and so. 

Latasha Morrison  39:37  

Wow! 

Sam Acho  39:38  

So anyways, that’s how we got together.

Latasha Morrison  39:41  

Wow. And what was the lady in the rocking chair? That wasn’t your grandmother. Miss Alice.

Sam Acho  39:48  

Miss Alice. Yeah. 

Latasha Morrison  39:49  

Miss Alice tried to tell you.

Sam Acho  39:49  

Who seven years before. She tried to tell me. And I didn’t want to listen, I didn’t want to listen. So I’m learning I could either listen to Miss Alice or wait seven, eight years to do what I know I’m supposed to do.

Latasha Morrison  40:00  

And then you had the nerve to say, “What we gonna talk about?” We gonna have to follow up with that. Come on now. Christian men. Come on now. Like she should have said, “You know what? I was just gonna talk to you about dinner.” (laughter) Just to see what you were gonna do.

Sam Acho  40:18  

I was such a punk. I was scared. I didn’t know you know. I mean people think, I don’t know who listens. But like, if there’s women listening like a lot of men, we love to portray courage. 

Latasha Morrison  40:31  

That’s good. 

Sam Acho  40:32  

But we can be so scary sometimes, of little things. That it’s like, it’s so easy. But sometimes our egos, we don’t want to bruise them. And if we put ourselves out there, it can be like, oh, man my ego was bruised. And so I think that’s why. So i’m not i’m not condoning it. You know, I’m saying like, man, like, I’m trying to find more man everybody. I’m trying to be more of a man who leads with love and leads with courage and leads with honesty and authenticity. Like who says, “Man, I’m in love with you. And I don’t know. I don’t know if you have any interest. But I just.” You know what I mean? Like my brother in law, my wife has a twin brother, his name is Emeka. And that’s the kind of man he is. He’s an American now, but he lives in Nigeria. And he, there’s a young woman who came actually on one of these trips with us. It’s not a matchmaking trip.

Latasha Morrison  41:27  

I’m like wait a minute, I might need to go on of these! (laughter)

Sam Acho  41:29  

You know what I’m saying! But the invitation is open. But he saw this woman and he was like, “Oh, that’s my wife. There’s something about you. And I’m not letting this go” and he just told her. And she was like, “Um, who are you? I don’t know you.” But there was something and so like, yeah, I want to be that kind of man, as opposed to the, who I was where I was like, “What do you want to talk about?” You know, it’s like, that’s not real manhood. That’s more cowardice.

Latasha Morrison  41:59  

Yeah. I love that. And I think, the other thing is leading with humility, because I think it takes great humility and vulnerability to admit where you were and where you are. And just to have insight and self awareness like that, to say, you know what I was immature, or it’s because I was afraid. I was scared. And so a lot of times people will not admit that, that, hey, you know what, I didn’t say anything, because I was afraid. I was afraid of rejection, or I was afraid that I wasn’t good enough for all those things. And I think sometimes when we’re honest with ourselves, we can be honest with other people. And so I love how this story turned out because I’m telling you were fighting it all the way. Like, this is a movie, right? Sam, this is a movie. This whole story is a movie and I know that you’ve written a book, Let the World See You. You described a little bit about what the book is about, and it’s on sale. So those who are listening, you can go get it. Well, probably by time we air it, I don’t know, if it is still be on sale.

Sam Acho  43:05  

Don’t worry, Tasha, it’s gonna be on sale. 

Latasha Morrison  43:06  

Go buy it anyway. It don’t have to be on sale. Go support. Go buy it. And in your book, you talk a lot about being your authentic self. And how do you see this as men, especially as Black men, do you feel like there’s this, the culture, our society puts this thing on you where you mask yourself where you’re not your authentic self? Or you have to portray that you’re stronger or you’re not vulnerable or you can’t cry? Or all of those things. How do you think our society does that, especially to men, but specifically, I’m talking about Black men, and how did you break through that?

Question of the century.

I know. 

Sam Acho  43:15  

In my mind it’s like ding, ding, ding, that’s the one. That’s the one because we’re taught to hide. As Black men, men in general sure, but then Black men you’re taught to, even if you want to be vulnerable, it’s like it’s frowned upon. Even if you want to be honest about how you feel about something, it’s laughed at. It’s frowned upon, not just by the Black community by all communities. And even people who look at you, I’m six foot three 260 pounds and people look at me and it’s automatic intimidation, and I’m Black, by the way. You know? And so…

Latasha Morrison  44:53  

I noticed you said that. I’m gonna just cut you off right here. And then I’m gonna bring you back in. Sorry for that. But I noticed something that you said when you described your friend that went with you that noticed your wife. And you described him as I think 6’8″ 300 pounds, and you said, but the nicest guy. And I just pinpoint that in my head. It’s like, you described him, but we you had to add, but the nicest guy because there is a stereotype that a person that size, and I’m assuming that he’s African American…

Sam Acho  45:31  

Yeah, he’s African American. Yes.

Latasha Morrison  45:32  

…you know, that he’s not friendly. And that because I do that to my brother all the time. I say, you know, my brother’s 6’4 1/2″ and a big guy but he’s the sweetest teddy bear. It’s like I have to give this disclaimer. Why do we do that? Go ahead and finish. We can come back to that. I just didn’t want to lose that.

Sam Acho  45:50  

We can stay there. Because you feel like you have to give this disclaimer of like, “No, he’s not going to hurt you. He’s not a threat.”

Latasha Morrison  45:57  

Yeah.

Sam Acho  45:58  

And whether it’s subconsciously, or maybe even overtly, it’s like, I have to. If I don’t say that about him or about me people already automatically assume I’m a threat just because of what they’ve been taught. I mean, I remember driving through the city of Dallas, even as a kid and seeing signs, it’s like, you know, wanted, you know, they have those big billboards or, you know, say for murder, and it’d be a Black dude. Every time, always a Black man. Turn on the news.

Tandria Potts  46:39  

[Audio Clips from News] …a black man from Indianapolis…you need not be a criminal profiler to draw a mental sketch of the killers who broke so many hearts, they are young Black men, likely in their teens, or in their early 20s….after the arrest of two Black men at this Philadelphia Starbucks on Thursday…Chicago’s South Side, these streets are home to some of the most dangerous gangs in America.

Sam Acho  47:02  

Always a Black black dude. And I’m like, so white people don’t kill people.

Latasha Morrison  47:06  

Right. 

Sam Acho  47:06  

Like, there’s I know. Okay, so if they do, how come the only thing I’m seeing on the news, the only thing I’m seeing an advertisement on a billboard is a Black guy. It’s programmed, whether you want to believe it or not it starts sticking in your head.

Latasha Morrison  47:30  

Yeah. It cues us.

Sam Acho  47:31  

It cues us to danger. And so I got, naturally, yes, I’m a competitor and all those things. But naturally, I’m a calm, gentle, loving, caring person. And I feel like I always have to lead with that so that I can be accepted. And if I don’t, then there’s a chance I could be an outcast. Yeah. So that’s, that’s kind of the internal and even sometimes external battle that I deal with, it’s like, okay, let me be extra nice so they don’t think otherwise.

Yeah. Or let me smile a lot.

Right.

Latasha Morrison  48:19  

Or let me appear less threatening, like, I make myself smaller in the room. And it’s like, you can’t do it, but it’s like, you do it in your mind. And just the psychological damage that that does. It’s like you’re trying to shrink yourself in a room where you can’t shrink yourself. But you’re lowering yourself so that you appear less threatening. And, I mean, there’s so much in that, and that really impacts you spiritually and emotionally. I think Langston Hughes has this, no wait a minute, Paul Laurence Dunbar. I think this was Paul Laurence Dunbar I’m sorry. But he has this poem, We Wear the Mask, and I see that so much of in our lives. And when I think about being your authentic self, one of the things that I said, you know, when I started being more predominately white spaces, I was like, if I’m going to be in this space and if God you’re calling me in this space, I’m going to be my full self. I’m going to walk 5’10” like I am and take all this dark chocolate in that space, and be who you authentically created me to be. And if people don’t like it, they’re just not gonna like it, you know? And so I can’t be someone that I’m not because I’m not being authentic. You know, I’m true to myself. And I think that’s some of the, I guess, talking that you had to do to yourself, being a football player, all these things and biases and stereotypes that come along with all of this. I guess that’s some of your process and why you kind of wrote this book?

Sam Acho  50:16  

Yeah, it absolutely is. I mean, I found myself trying to carry all this weight of being who everyone else wanted me to be. And that weight was heavy. It was a lot to carry it. And I did not even realize that I was carrying it. It wasn’t until I saw some of the effects of this, my pretense on my marriage. I saw some of the effects of my pretence on my relationship with my kids. I saw some of the effects of this pretense on like, me as myself, like, who I was. I’d be getting angry at little things. I would be like snapping for no reason, and not for no reason. But I didn’t know why. I would try to cope in different ways. If there was ever an emotion that I didn’t think people would accept, I didn’t know how to process my emotions. And I remember sitting down with a friend one week before we’re getting ready to start my eighth year in the NFL, new season, new coach, going to the playoffs, all these things, just got a new contract. And I was struggling. I wasn’t doing well interpersonally and interpersonally, like within myself. And I sat with my friend and I said, “Hey, man, I just need to get back to football. We start our season in a week. I’ve been in the offseason with me pretty much by myself for the last few months. I just need to get back to football. And then everything will be okay. Then everything will be okay.” And he and he looked at me and he said, “Sam, if that’s how you feel right now, I’m concerned about what happens when when you retire, when football is taken away.” And as he’s sharing, and as I’m even sharing about some of my struggles, I’m starting to cry in front of him. I didn’t even know where that was coming from. I was like, people don’t see this. They know me for my smile.

Latasha Morrison  52:15  

Right, right.

Sam Acho  52:16  

And I’m starting to cry. And he leans in, as I’m like crying, you know and it wasn’t like the quiet one, it was like the ugly one. And he leans in and he says, “It’s nice to see you, Sam.”

Latasha Morrison  52:30  

Oh my gosh.

Sam Acho  52:31  

“It’s nice to see you.” And I look up, “Like what are you talking about? It’s nice to see me?” And he said, “All this while that I’ve known you know, what it’s your second year in the NFL now? Six, seven years now.” He said, “I’ve never seen this side of you.” He said, “It’s nice to know that you’re human.” And he said, “Hey, you never know. You never know maybe God is writing a book in your life. And you may only be on chapter two.” And I’m still wiping the tears away and looking at him. And he said, you know, cause he had to go to the airport, we just popped in for a quick little dinner. He said, “I’m headed out now. But here’s the number to a counselor. Here’s the guy who I’ve been talking to.” Because my friend he had been going through some stuff, his wife just got cancer. And I mean out of nowhere and trying to figure out what is next in life. He said, “Hey, can you maybe give him a call?” And so I did. And so I pick up the phone I call this therapist. My dad’s a therapist, by the way, so I feel like I know how to maneuver around that you know how to pretend and act. And I call him and his next opening was a week from that day, which was the day we reported to training camp, new season, new team, new contract. We reported that night at like three or four that evening. Well that morning at like 10am I was in a counselor’s office. And as I’m sitting and talking with this man, I figured I’d just kind of get in and get out. You know, like, let me pretend and let me do, and about halfway through he looks at me and he says Sam, I’ve got a question for you. I’m like shoot, go. Whatever you got, let me answer it and get out. He says, “What do you do when you get angry?” “I mean, I I just I don’t know. I just try not to get angry.” Looks me again he says, “Sam, but what do you do when you get angry?” “I just don’t get angry.” He looks to me again, he says, “Sam. Everyone gets angry. So what do you do when you get angry?” Once again unbeknownst to me, I didn’t know where it came from, those tears started to flow. And it was like, all of it.

Latasha Morrison  55:09  

Hyperventilating. 

Sam Acho  55:10  

Hyperventilating!

Latasha Morrison  55:12  

The ugly cry.

Sam Acho  55:12  

The ugly cry. I was hyper (fast breathing), the tears. And he looks at me. I’m sitting down on this couch, he looks at me says, “Sam, I need you to breathe. (fast breathing) Sam I need you to breathe.” He says, “I’m gonna put my hand on your chest, I need you to breathe.” So he puts his hand over my heart. And I’m (deep breathing). He said, “I’m going to put my hand, Sam, I’m gonna put my hand on your belly, on your stomach. I need you to breathe.” So I’m (slow deep breathing). He takes a step back and he says, “It’s nice to see you, Sam. And oh, by the way, get used to hearing that.” And so he actually recommended he said, “I don’t know if you journal. But if not, I would start. I don’t know if you like listening to music. But if not, I would start. Because you’re about to go on a journey.” And I’m like, okay, cool. Well, I kind of came back to myself. Okay. Well, what does it mean? Like maybe two more meetings, three more meetings, right? We start our season and in a month. He said, “Sam this is not a two or three week ordeal. This is more of like a two or three year.” So I said okay. So I left, I went to train, I drove two and a half hours to Bourbonnais, Illinois where we had our training camp. We had our first team meeting and do all our stuff. We check in. That night I go to my dorm room, we were staying in dorms, and I threw some music on and I pulled my journal out and started to write. And as I’m writing and listening to these songs, it was like songs about God’s love for me. Songs like Marvin Sapp “He saw the best in me, when everyone else around could only see the worst” Right? And I’m crying, Tasha, as these songs were, I haven’t cried this many times in years. And I’m crying.

Latasha Morrison  57:07  

Marvin Sapp would do it. I mean, his words are prophetic. I’m telling you. I’ve been in his music like the last six months. But go ahead.

Sam Acho  57:17  

So you know exactly what I’m talking about. 

Latasha Morrison  57:19  

Yes. 

Sam Acho  57:20  

And I’m crying. And I actually called up my friend who told me to meet with this counselor dude and I was like, “Dude, what is going on? Like, why is this happening?” And I remember saying like, “Why does God love me so much? What did I do? Like why does he, I don’t understand it?” You know, and I went to sleep. I woke up the next day. That was our first official day of training camp practice. We do our conditioning test, we do our running tests, we come back. Guys go back in the locker room, they shower, they change, they go eat. I just sit there. I just sit there. And I’m like trying to understand like, what is going on. One of my teammates walks in. I’ll end with this. He looks at me and he says “Acho.” They call me Acho. He said, “Hey Acho. You good?” And usually Tasha, I’d be like, Oh, yeah, I’m fine. I’m tired. It’s been a long day. You know, the things we say. This time, I didn’t do that. I looked back to look back at him. And I said, “Honestly, dude, I’m not doing good.” He continues to look at me and he says, “Sam, I don’t know, whatever you got going on, but whatever it is, you need to let it out. You have to let it out.” So I kind of breathe that sigh, kind of look around to see who’s around. But then I just started. Now like a tear started to drop out in the locker room. And funny enough, like there are some people kind of coming in and out. One of my teammates walked in, a different guy walked in, and he sees me sitting there and he sees my other guy sitting next to me. And he immediately goes straight to the speaker in our locker room. You know, we got music blasting or whatever. And he changes the music. He puts on Marvin Sapp “He Saw the Best in Me.” He puts on Hillsong United “When I Lost My Heart to You.” The same songs I was listening to the night before. Songs about God’s love for me, songs how he sees the best in me. And as you can imagine, the tears started to flow, hyperventilating (fast breathing). And I’m like at this point, I felt like I got the hang of it. “Tell me to breathe, tell me to breathe.” “Acho, breathe.” (deep breathing) My teammate who changed the music, he pulls up a chair and he looks at me and he says, “Hey Ach. Good to see you.” And so that was the beginning of how the book started. Let the World See You. And I tell that story in the book, it’s how to be real when everyone else around you is pretending. Because see what I discovered is that, like, I love what you said Tasha about bringing your full self, dark chocolate, 5’10”. When you’re you, God gets the glory, the people around you benefit, and the world around you thrives. When you’re you. When you pretend none of that happens. Because being you isn’t just for you. Yes, it benefits for you, but it benefits all those around you. When I started showing people the real me, all of a sudden they received freedom from that. They found that they could be themselves as well. And not only did I benefit individually, we benefited collectively. We had our best year in a decade, went to the playoffs. I actually got injured that year. And I just started looking. I said, let me serve. I love serving. Let me just serve my guys. Let me just sit with them. Let me learn, learn and listen. And so it benefits everyone. And that’s what my book is all about. That’s what Let the World See You is all about.

Latasha Morrison  1:00:57  

Whoo, oh, my goodness, I could talk to you forever. But I can’t. But I got just one. I got one, well, two more questions. We’ll do it real quick. But that is beautiful. Like, I’m telling you, wow, Let the World See You. And, and just the people that God placed around you just unknowingly to speak that over you and to speak that into your life. And to be where you are now. Because I don’t think if you would have discovered that and gone through that you would be doing all the things that you’re doing now. It’s like discovering yourself and your purpose outside of playing football. Like, you know what I’m saying? Letting go of that. Just this last year in our country we’ve gone through a lot, and do you feel that we are in a racial awakening or a reckoning here in America? Where do you feel that we are? And what conversations aren’t we having that we need to have around systemic racism?

Sam Acho  1:02:08  

Yeah, so short answer. Yes. Yes, yes. Yes. 

Latasha Morrison  1:02:12  

It’s an opportunity, yeah.

Sam Acho  1:02:13  

Yes. Yeah. It’s an opportunity. I think we are in this like racial reckoning or awakening. So many people, so many of my white friends, I went to a predominately white school, many my white friends didn’t even you know, you don’t know these things. You don’t know what people go through. You don’t. It’s not taught in school. Right? I remember like, I remember. Because when I first went to school, I went to that school in Oak Cliff, in South Dallas. Okay. And we learned about all the Black, first and second grade learning about all the Black heroes, singing Black National Anthem, like learning about all these things. I’m like, wow, this is awesome. Switch schools to a predominantly white school. Maybe Rosa Parks, or Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. And then we watched Roots. And then we said alright, moving on. I’m like, Wait, what? Oh, and by the way, Black people have three fifths of a vote, three fifths of a person. All right. Now moving on. I’m like, wait, what? Can we not talk about this? And so now…

Latasha Morrison  1:03:00  

I know more about about European history. 

Sam Acho  1:03:02  

You know what I’m saying? You know what I’m saying? And so I’m like, this makes, it makes actually all the sense in the world. But I’m like, something needs to be done. So now people are starting to learn. And so that’s, that’s number one. And then secondly, and as you mentioned, it’s an opportunity, right, what an opportunity to be the change you want to see. But then the question is what conversations are not being had or what questions need to be asked that aren’t being asked? I think the main question that needs to be asked is: What can I do? Period. Not “What don’t I have” and not “I didn’t know” and not “Well that’s somebody else’s problem.” What can I do? Who can I go to? What books can I read? What people can I talk to? How can I change my lifestyle? Right? All those questions spawn from what can I do to love people well, especially those who don’t look like me? What can I do? Even just biblically for a second, right? Jesus was a Jew. And I bet your people have heard the story about the Good Samaritan and maybe the woman at the well, like most Jews at the time avoided Samaria because that was a town of people who, of mixed breeds. People who didn’t look like them. People who didn’t think like them or act like them. It could have been dangerous. Yet Jesus went to the woman at the well and met her.

Latasha Morrison  1:04:40  

Yeah. 

Sam Acho  1:04:41  

He said I had to go through Samaria. They were on their journey. He didn’t have to go. He could have gone around, most everyone else actually went around Samaria. Took the long way. He said no, I have to go to Samaria. I have to go to the Southside of Chicago. I have to go to Atlanta. I have to go to my community, to my predominately white neighborhood and talk to somebody and do something and have a conversation. I have to address my friends who are making these racist and racially insensitive comments and who have these racist and racially insensitive thought processes I have to go. Because if I don’t no one else will.

Latasha Morrison  1:05:22  

What is your hope for the conversation? What is your hope for this conversation on race that we’re having? What hope do you have?

Sam Acho  1:05:34  

I hope that people wouldn’t see this as an opportunity to pick sides. I just hope that people would see it as an opportunity to pick up the fence and move it out of the way. And say, “Let’s all go in this thing together.” I hope for my Black brothers and sisters, that we wouldn’t be in the mindset of man, the white man is doing this right now. I remember in college, my teammates saying oh the white man. I’m like, I hope that we would get rid of that of our hearts. And I hope and pray for our white brothers and sisters, that they wouldn’t stand, better yet sit, idly by and watch this moment pass them. I pray and hope that they would pick up the baton and seek justice actively, love mercy patiently, and walk humbly submissively with God. That’s my hope. That we would seek it. That we would love it. And we would walk it.

Latasha Morrison  1:06:48  

Amen. Okay, final question as we close. That’s good. That’s good. And there’s just so much you know, but the great thing is to remain hopeful in this. There’s a lot of things that’s discouraging right now. And my hope isn’t really in people but it’s in God. And I think that’s the thing, because only God can transform hearts. And that’s so important. You know, self care is important. Now, you’re doing a lot, you know, how are you taking care of yourself? What’s bringing you joy right now?

Sam Acho  1:07:28  

Yeah, the biggest thing that’s bringing me joy, Tasha, I’m so glad you asked that. I got a group of friends, maybe about 12 of us or so, who every Tuesday and Thursday we get on Zoom because we’re all in different places now. We started this in the pandemic a couple months ago. And we just talk for like an hour, hour and a half. It’s kind of like a Bible study. I just call it family time. We just kind of kick it. We talk about the Word of God, but we talk about our lives. Some people are in sports, people are on TV, some people are doctors. And we just have this family time, where we just get together and we like we just spend time. And I told one of my friends, she texted me after, she’s in the group, and she’s like, “Man, Sam, thanks for leading this and helping set this thing up.” I said, “This is the highlight of my week.” 

Latasha Morrison  1:08:07  

Wow, 

Sam Acho  1:08:08  

Like these Tuesdays and Thursdays at 4pm Central to 5:15. That’s the highlight of my week because we’re seeing people go through ups and downs, we’re seeing people grow. It’s community. It’s community even in a pandemic. So that’s, when it comes to self care, if anyone hasn’t been able to tell for the last hour I love to talk and so me talking, to be able to talk to people is a joy. Even these podcasts. I have a podcast I do called Athletes for Justice where we talk about stories of justice and hope. I love talking on that podcast and I have another podcast. And it’s almost like talking, speaking, encouraging. Those are the things that really bring me joy. And I think the most important thing is just finding time alone. I got a wife. I got three kids. Doing a lot as we all know. We’re all doing so much with nonprofits and books and business and podcast. Finding time alone has probably been the most important thing for me.

Latasha Morrison  1:09:01  

That’s good. That’s good. Well, it’s so great. I mean, I love all the work that you’re doing. The justice work that you’re doing and all the bridge building work. I mean, there was so many ties to bridge building and bridging your community, your faith, and your family, and your work of justice. And I love like getting the opportunity, even to talk to athletes so people can see the dangers of the just one story. You know? That all they see is on the football screen, excuse me on the TV screen. I had an opportunity to interview Justin Holiday a few weeks ago and to see so many athletes that are just full of faith in God, and the work that you’re doing on and off the field. And I know you’re retired now and it’s like you have all of these things going on. I’m so proud of you, so proud of the work. We’re definitely gonna have to connect because I want to see the grocery store. I want to be a part of that. And I love that. And so I’m definitely I think now I’m adding this along with the other trip with my other friend Jamal that I need to take to Chicago. So we got to plan that. And then, I think you invited me to Nigeria too, right?

Sam Acho  1:10:25  

Yeah, absolutely. No, trust me, Tasha, you’re invited to Nigeria. Straight up. You’re invited to that Tuesday, Thursday time we got. Everything. (laughter) Anything and everything, you’re invited.

Latasha Morrison  1:10:36  

I just did African Ancestry. So I haven’t found, this is where they kind of go deeper than Ancestry DNA, but they trace it back to your ethnic tribe. And so I’m waiting any day now to find out more information about that. But, you know, of course, in my history of my family’s history, through the Atlantic slave trade, it points back to Nigeria and Benin, and Togo. So you know what, Sam we may be cousins. (laughter)

We may very well. (laughter)

So I’ve got to let you know once I find out. But, thank you so much for joining us on the Be the Bridge podcast. Thank you for the work that you’re doing. Thank you for being the bridge to your community, and drawing people to the work of the kingdom of God. And so I’m so proud of you. Keep it up. It was great talking to you.

Sam Acho  1:11:35  

Yes, thank you so much, Tasha.

Latasha Morrison  1:11:37  

Thank you.

Tandria Potts  1:11:40  

Go to the donors table if you’d like to hear the unedited version of this podcast.

Narrator  1:11:46  

Thanks for listening to the Be the Bridge podcast. To find out more about the Be the Bridge organization and or to become a bridge builder in your community, go to BetheBridge.com. Again, that’s Bethebridge.com. If you enjoyed this podcast, remember to rate and review it on this platform and share it with as many people as you possibly can. You can also connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Today’s show was edited, recorded, and produced by Travon Potts at Integrated Entertainment Studios in Metro Atlanta, Georgia. The host and executive producer is Latasha Morrison. Lauren C. Brown is the senior producer. And transcribed by Sarah Connatser. Please join us next time. This has been a Be the Bridge production

Transcribed by https://otter.ai