Saturday, 17 October 2015

16 October 1968 - Mexico City Olympics

Tommie Smith won the gold medal in the 200m and his running mate, John Carlos, took the bronze. Both men mounted the medals’ podium wearing black socks and holding their Puma running shoes in their hands (although the race was run wearing Adidas). Tommie Smith wore a black leather glove on his right hand to represent Black Power in America and John donned a black glove on his left to represent Unity in Black America; the black socks were a statement of Black Poverty in America. Upon the introduction of the US National Anthem both men raised their leather-clad hands in the “Black Power” salute. This iconic moment was witnessed by tens of millions all over the world including me. I was 8 years old and this all meant nothing to me until I heard: “Dirty Niggers”. This was my first experience of this vile word, expressed with such venom and hate by a bitter old man. He frightened me as he continued to spew out further racist abuse and profanity. I disliked this man straight away and even though I did not understand what these black men had done I knew they had done something they shouldn’t have and I liked them; especially Tommie Smith with his shiny gold medal. Through my teens I learned the courage of their accomplishment and although Black Power, the Panthers and America were of little relevance to me, I related to their strong conviction to stand up for what they believed. Each man had made great personal sacrifices for his beliefs. These men were true men and I aspired to be a man just like them. They didn’t want power they wanted equality.

Life has as a a funny way of circling...

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