Ahead of Juneteenth, the holiday marking the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States, Columbus Crew captain Jonathan Mensah appeared on The Call Up to discuss his experiences as a Black man and the importance of having conversations about racism.
Juneteenth, which recently became a federal holiday, has received increased attention after George Floyd's murder by police in Minneapolis last year forced many to confront systemic racism. Mensah said the Crew engaged in meaningful conversations immediately after Floyd's murder, and the honesty created a sense of unity in the locker room.
"We're all human and we're all the same, even though we have different backgrounds, different ethnic groups that we're from," Mensah said. "We always had honest conversations and conversations that we've never had before. We actually spoke a lot and then other guys started to understand some of the roots and where we're headed."
Jonathan Mensah on Juneteenth and conversations with teammates
Mensah also addressed being a Black man in the United States, with the Ghanaian center back noting his transition to Columbus was the easiest of a professional career that's carried him across the world.
"[I'm from] a country where they spoke English as not the first language, but a majority of the people speak English," the 30-year-old said. "So when I left Ghana, South Africa, Spain, a little bit of time in Italy, France, Russia – and then I'm like, I'm coming to the US. Hopefully, God, there's going to be a turning point for me where I won't need a translator or I have to struggle to learn the language."
As a result, Mensah has enjoyed his time in MLS. Having someone like Ghanaian right back Harrison Afful as his Crew teammate has helped as well.
"It was challenging, but it wasn't as challenging as the previous places that I'd played in," Mensah said. "Columbus is a great place. The people are amazing, so it made the transition easier for me. I would say, as compared to Ghana or other places I've played, Columbus will be the easiest for me."
For more from Mensah, check out the latest episode of The Call Up.