It costs a very high price to be a political hero, an activist and freedom fighter in America. Sometimes the price to pay extends itself throughout one’s entire lifetime. People take sides, and you find yourself on your knees, digging dirt on the ground, just to feed your family.
John Carlos and Tommie Smith will always be remembered from the Mexico City Olympics for raising their clenched fists high. Going out in faith, Carlos is firm in his faith and belief in God. Recently he said that he continues to fight for justice because he is inspired by the selfless works of Christ.
“Power to the People!”
James Brown said, “Say it Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud!”
Those famous chants from marches and young people in SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) motivated and pumped up a wave of young people to physically take charge and create change within America. With Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. deceased, some young people felt that it was their responsibility to fill in the gaps when these leaders transitioned.
He said with men like Marcus Garvey and Nat Turner devoting their lives for the freedom of our people, he was just traveling that same road that they followed.
John Carlos was one of those brave men, who elected to stand in the gap and take a stand. The problem is that he did not know that his family would endure such turmoil and pain, internationally, as well as at home in America. Carlos was determined to carry through with this pledge, which still “taints” his name today. Carlos has lived his life as a blessed man and a cursed one, with the FBI following his every move.
Since 1968, John Carlos has been hailed as an international hero and a symbol of Black power. During his 50th anniversary tour of the day he made history, Carlos is a modest, but militant man, who has sacrificed his entire life for raising his black, gloved fist, as he stood on the medal stand, to protest the treatment African Americans, during the contentious civil rights era.
During a recent Chicago visit at the Parkway Ballroom, Carlos discussed how he struggled to make ends meet, as his choice to protest for his country cost him a lifetime of monetary and some career opportunities. While many young people are quick to support football players who kneel during the national anthem, Carlos and his partner, Tommie Smith lost endorsements and career opportunities for 50 years.
Many sports buffs and historians supported the event, with local track and field stars present, but the ballroom was not filled to capacity. Some audience members said that the price for the ticket ($30) was too high. Others felt that he was past his prime and that the children of today had no clue about those men and women who have paid their dues. Nonetheless, Carlos delivered a powerful address about his life without bitterness or anger.
You could still feel his fire, and he had an edge in his voice when recounting the sad moments, in which he struggled.
Harlem bred Carlos studied and volunteered for Malcolm X has a teenager coming up in his home city. He was raised by two parents and knew what it was to have high expectations for men in his household. As an athlete, Carlos was encircled by a group of men, who served as his family away from home. If players like Jackie Robinson (baseball) and Muhammad Ali (boxing) could stand up for their people, then he could walk in their shoes. He could ride the tide.
He could also return to an empty house. Carlos would suffer from bouts with depression. He would also leave America (and be followed by the Central Intelligence unit), in search of honest work. They tried to kill his spirit, but it would not happen.
Carlos’ book is entitled “The John Carlos Story: The Sports Moment That Changed The World”, which is sold on Amazon.