This post is part of an ongoing Black History Month series written by Marcus Harden, a pillar of the South Seattle community and a truly unsung hero, as he honors the living legacy of Black history in his neighborhood and beyond, and recognizes the people who are shaping the future.
By Marcus Harden
Jesse Owens famously stated, “We all have dreams. In order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline and effort.”
When I think about determination, dedication, self discipline and effort, few spring to the forefront of my mind faster than Phil Jerrod Heath, a South Seattle product and one of the most hungry yet humble people you’ll ever meet.
Phil is a seven-time Mr. Olympia competition champion, amongst numerous other accolades. Five years ago (and every year since) I decided to go to Las Vegas to go support a childhood friend. Little did I know that in his world, he’s a megastar.
Whether it was spending hours signing autographs, shaking hands, giving advice or just taking a random selfie, Phil has the ability to make everyone feel like you’ve always known him. Success and fame are not changing who he is, but rather amplifying his character even more.
Yet the Phil I recognize isn’t the champion on the stage, it’s the man who speaks passionately about the people he loves. It’s the man who honors his mother and father at every turn, who celebrates his fiancée, who works out at LA Fitness and stops to speak to all who find him to be more than just another guy. And he does it with a smile.
He continues to make history in his profession, but the man I respect the most is the same one who in seventh grade, on a lowly rec-league basketball team, made sure to help an uncoordinated husky kid make a layup so the rest of the team wouldn’t tease him.
The man who, after another victory and shaking hands, falls asleep in his celebratory omelet and pancakes at 4 in the morning, because it’s hour 47 of 48 being up.
That heart and compassion haven’t changed after all these years, and for that reason and many more, “The Gift” is Black history, today.