Last week I went out to eat with my nephews and their parents at a Mexican restaurant on Okochobee Boulevard in west Palm Beach. The conversation gravitated to sports; baseball for Trey, golf for Reese, and basketball for their father and me. Their mother was happy to be left in peace.

After dinner we stepped into a warm Florida night. There was no one in the parking lot.

Looking at the colorful mural on the wall, I said, “Mexico 1968.”

“What about it?” asked AK’s slender and ever-beautiful wife. We were more friends than before, since I was good to her kids and nothing earns trust from a mother faster than treating their spawn well.

“Summer Olympics was held in Mexico City.”

“More like the Autumn Olympics. For some reason they were in October.” AK remembered 1968 like it was only forty something years ago. He had been sixteen.

“Summer or fall didn’t matter after Bob Beamon set a world record in the high jump.” Some writers claimed that the extraordinary leap was aided by the altitude. I knew better and so did AK. 1968 had been our youth.

“Broke the previous record by a foot and a half.”

“But that wasn’t the only thing that happened at those Olympics.”

“What else?” Reese loved hearing about the past. They had stopped teaching it at schools.

“The world was on fire. Only the week before hundreds of students had been shot by the Mexican army and the cities of America had been burned after the assassination of Martin Luther King.”

“He was a great man.” Trey chimed in holding his mother’s hand.

“Could we talk about something else?” AK suggested eying his kids and then a group of white men left the restaurant. White people in Florida tend to be whiter than most whites elsewhere in the USA and the radical racist Storm Front had their headquarter meetings not far from here. We were in the Deep South, but it was changing too.

“Let him talk.” AK’s blonde wife taught music at a private school. The curriculum was restrained by religion. She appreciated my loose tongue.

“Other places were in revolt too. Viet-Nam, Paris, Prague.”

I sang the first stanza of the Rolling Stones’ STREET FIGHTING MAN.

“Everywhere I hear the sound of marching, charging feet, boy, cause summer’s here and the time is right for fighting in the street, boy.”

AK hated my singing and rolled his eyes. He was more into R&B than rock, having played in the Authentics, a Boston funk band, to pay for his tuition at Berkelee School of Music.

“No one protested the death of those Mexican students. The army was in the streets. The best runner in the world was Tommie Smith, 220 and 440 champion. A black man.”

“From California.” AK knew his sports. We had played countless one-on-ones on the playgrounds of Boston and New York. He dominated the first twenty years, but I outlasted his knees, although now neither of us were in good shape.

“Tommie Smith set a world record in the 220.”

“Time 19.83 seconds.” AK was showing off his head for records to his sons.

“At the medal ceremony Tommie Smith and John Carlos, the bronze winner, lifted their fists during THE STAR-SPANGLED BANNER to protest the mistreatment of blacks in America.”

“My best friend at school is black.” Reese was named after Pee Wee Reese.

“And what he say in class the other day.” AK was a Brooklyn boy at heart.

“That his father had been killed in Iraq. He was a soldier, fighting for America. My friend said that his father served his country to make people understand we are all the same.” Reese was 11, which was old enough to understand that death means death. His younger brother believed in Santa Claus. I wished that I did too. “He is sad.”

“Losing a parent is a hard thing.” I thought about my father back in Boston. He didn’t know where he was. “Your friend’s father was a good man as was the bronze-medal winner from Australia.”
“Peter Norman wore an American ‘civil rights’ badge as support to them on the podium,” AK recounted the results of this incident. “The Olympic Committee banned Smith and Carlos from the Village and Norman was dropped from the 1972 team.”

“The good are always good at moments calling for their best, but not everyone is good.”

We were two miles from The Breakers Hotel. I told them a story that I had heard three years ago.

“The beachfront hotel had been a world-class destination for over a century. The railroad tycoon Henry Flagler completed construction on his resort for the rich in 1896. That night Flagler held a BBQ for the ‘colored’ laborers on the golf course. While they were feasting on ribs and chicken, Flagler ordered his goons to burn out the workers’ bungalows, thus insuring that no poor or black people will ever live on the barrier island.”

“Is that a true story?” asked my oldest nephew.

“True as far as I know.” No historian had written the tale. “But stories like tat are why we protest against the evil in man.”

“Your uncle tells a good story.” His wife smiled with a margharita in her hand. She didn’t have to drive.

“It’s the truth.” As far as I knew.

“According to you all stories are true, if Interesting.”

“You know me too well.” I stood before the mural and called to Trey and Reese. “Take our photo.”

“Like 1968,” suggested Trey.

“Like 1968.”

My nephews and I posed before the Mexican mural with raised fists. Their mother took the photo. We said good night. It had been great to see AK and his family. The last time had been in the summer of 2008. Things were better now.

Later that night I went online to find out the truth about the Breakers.

The story wasn’t there.

It was a truth has yet to be told, so bring on the revolution.

Some of the youth are with us.

And that is interesting too.

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