1968 Olympic Moment

In 1968 I ran the 440 and 220 for my high school. My best times of 54 seconds and 28 seconds weren’t even close to my hero Tommie Smith and I dreamed that one day I might get below 50 seconds in the 440 and 26 in the 220.

Tommie Smith ran a blistering 200 meter race in Mexico City to break the world record with a time of 19.83 seconds. Australia’s Peter Norman came in second with the USA’s John Carlos winning the bronze. At the medal ceremony the three medal winners stood on the podium. At the first bars of the national anthem Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised gloved fists to protest the treatment of blacks in America and Peter Norman wore an Olympic Project for Human Rights badges to criticize White Australia. The trio left the stadium to boos and Tommie Smith said afterward, “If I win, I am American, not a black American. But if I did something bad, then they would say I am a Negro. We are black and we are proud of being black. Black America will understand what we did tonight.”

Tommie Smith is my hero to this day and that moment sticks in my mind as strongly as the Tank man in Beijing.

Smith and Carlos were casket bearers at Norman’s funeral.

There were three that day and one day we will be free.

The painting is by Tristam of Paris’ Steaming Musselemn.

He is my hero too.

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