Thursday, November 17, 2011

The John Carlos Story

from left to right: Peter Norman, Tommie Smith, and John Carlos

Last week I had the opportunity to experience the presence of John Carlos, the Olympian sprinter renowned for his Black Power Salute during the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.  He gave a talk at a local center in my hometown Houston, TX.  He shared with us his life, and as he spoke I could sense a sort of invisible power emanating from him, strength and courage just oozed off the man.  You could tell he was a passionate, genuine dude.  He told us about when he was planning the protest for the Olympic Games, he met with Martin Luther King Jr. to discuss things.  He explained that when he looked into King’s eyes, he didn’t see fear, he only saw love.  And Carlos asked King straight up, why he wanted to support an Olympic protest.  King answered that if you drop a rock in a lake, it rings out vibrations to everyone else in the lake.  Carlos understood that he had to do something powerful but nonviolent, that he had to do something to create conversation surrounding the unjust situation of Blacks in America.  He seemed to have a sense of deep commitment for Human Rights – “It wasn’t about me, my wife, or my kids, it was about humanity.”  He described how his family was persecuted for his actions, persecuted so much that his wife eventually committed suicide.  And of that he said, “If my wife had to die a thousand more deaths, I wouldn’t change what I did.”  Those words struck me deep down to the core of my spirit, and it made me admire his total commitment to the crusade against injustice and inequality.  One of the last things he said before finishing was, “Everybody is gonna go down, but the question is what did you do while you were standing?”

the man (John Carlos) and me


  1. Inspiring stuff, I couldn't agree with you more, it is what you do when you are standing that counts. From my limited uk perspective, the olympics have been consumed by corporate sponsorship. An inspiring post.

  2. That salute may have been the defining moment that led to Obama becoming president.
    King always knew he'd be assassinated.He was a man of vision.Fair play to John Carlos.

  3. powerful but nonviolent - that's important. I wish more would learn that.

  4. Reminds me of the issue surrounding the London games and DOW chemicals, responsible for the worst industrial disaster in Bhopal and refusing to clean up.