Sunday, June 16, 2024

California NAACP Conference Honors 1968 Olympics Heroes

On the morning of Oct. 16, 1968, African-American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos each raised a black-gloved fist while the US national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner," played during their medal ceremony at the Olympics in Mexico City. CBM photo by Antonio Ray Harvey was taken at their alma mater on Oct.6, 2016 on the campus of San Jose State University. Statue designed by artist Rigo 23 in 2005.
On the morning of Oct. 16, 1968, African-American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos each raised a black-gloved fist while the US national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” played during their medal ceremony at the Olympics in Mexico City. CBM photo by Antonio Ray Harvey was taken at their alma mater on Oct.6, 2016 on the campus of San Jose State University. Statue designed by artist Rigo 23 in 2005.

*The California Hawaii State Conference of the National Association for
the Advancement of Colored People (CA/HI NAACP) held its 11th
annual Legacy Hall of Fame induction ceremony. The event took place
on June 24 at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Sacramento.

At the event, the NAACP paid tribute to 1968 Olympic medalists Dr.
Tommie Smith and Dr. John Carlos, and 1967 Olympic Project for
Human Rights co-organizers Dr. Harry Edwards and Dr. Kenneth Noel.
These men were honored for their contributions to the civil rights
movement in the 1960s.

All the honorees except Smith were present at the ceremony. Smith’s
friend Darrell Goode accepted the award on his behalf.

Dr. Harry Edwards (Legacy Hall of Fame recipient), at the podium, and Dr. Kenneth Noel organized the protest at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. He is shown here with CA/HI NAACP President Rick Callendar and Carolyn Veal-Hunter (CA/HI NAACP treasurer) at the Legacy Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Sacramento. June 24, 2023. CBM photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.
Dr. Harry Edwards (Legacy Hall of Fame recipient), at the podium, and Dr. Kenneth Noel organized the protest at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. He is shown here with CA/HI NAACP President Rick Callendar and Carolyn Veal-Hunter (CA/HI NAACP treasurer) at the Legacy Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Sacramento. June 24, 2023. CBM photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.

“If you receive this award, it exemplifies greatness of your career
whether it’s in politics, whether it’s in business, or whether it be
activism,” said Rick Callender, President of the CA/HI NAACP.

“I’m sure you can see why now our current inductees are receiving this
honor. It just shows you what an incredible impact they had on the lives
of everyone in their fight for civil rights,” he added.

Shown left to right at the CA/HI NAACP Legacy Hall of Fame ceremony, Darrell Goode (received award for Dr. Tommie Smith), Rick Callendar (CA/HI NAACP president), Dr. John Carlos (Legacy Hall of Fame recipient), Dr. Kenneth Noel (Legacy Hall of Fame recipient), and Dr. Harry Edwards (Legacy Hall of Fame recipient). Dr. Tommie Smith, a gold medalist in the 1968 Olympics, could not attend the induction ceremony in Sacramento. June 24, 2023. CBM photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.
Shown left to right at the CA/HI NAACP Legacy Hall of Fame ceremony, Darrell Goode (received award for Dr. Tommie Smith), Rick Callendar (CA/HI NAACP president), Dr. John Carlos (Legacy Hall of Fame recipient), Dr. Kenneth Noel (Legacy Hall of Fame recipient), and Dr. Harry Edwards (Legacy Hall of Fame recipient). Dr. Tommie Smith, a gold medalist in the 1968 Olympics, could not attend the induction ceremony in Sacramento. June 24, 2023. CBM photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.

After placing first and third in the 200-meter dash at the Olympic Games
in Mexico City, sprinters Smith and Carlos ascended the medal stand to
receive their respective gold and bronze metals with second-place silver
medalist Peter Norman of Australia. During that historic moment, the
men led a protest to draw attention to racial discrimination and other
negative conditions affecting Black people in America and across the
globe.

Shoeless, donning black socks to represent Black poverty, and wearing
beads to protest violence against African Americans, the athletes raised a
black-gloved fist to show support for Black and oppressed people. Smith
wore a black scarf around his neck to show Black pride.

The iconic image of their stance on the podium and their bold display of
the Black power movement’s most recognizable symbol (the raised fist)
was seen around the world. That moment changed the racial dynamics of
international sports forever.

After their stand against racial injustice, Smith and Carlos never
relinquished their medals even though the International Olympic
Committee (IOC) prohibits protests at the games. They were
immediately asked to leave the games in Mexico City.

Carlos said it was a widespread myth for decades that the IOC took his
and Smith’s medals.

“They never took our medals. It was pure propaganda,” Carlos told
California Black Media. “They were saying for years that they took our
medals but what it really was a fear factor. They said it to try to instill
fear into every Black athlete after 1968.”

Carlos, Smith, Edwards and Noel were associated with San Jose
College’s track and field team in the mid-1960s. Facing discrimination
as students on the campus, Edwards and Noel orchestrated rallies,
protests and social justice events to attract African American studentathletes and fellow campus activists.

Noel and Edwards started The United Black Students for Action
(UBSA). They both noticed that Black student-athletes could use their
fame to elevate civil rights issues. They both converted UBSA into the
Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR), a civil rights organization
created to boycott the 1968 Summer Olympics.

On Oct. 16, 1968, Smith won the 200-meter race in a world-record time
of 19.83 seconds. Norman finished second with a time of 20.06 seconds,
and Carlos was third with a time of 20.10 seconds.

“There were several other people who were really important in our lives
and involved in the struggle too,” said Noel, who was known as a gifted
middle-distance runner. “One of the things that I will say about the fight
for human rights is we endeavored to change the paradigm of what it
means to be a champion athlete. Not only to perform on the field but to
get involved in politics, and support activities in our communities.”

Edwards, an emeritus professor of Sociology at the University of
California Berkeley, and former scholar-athlete at San Jose State
College (today San Jose State University), encouraged African
American athletes to protest the 1968 summer Olympics in Mexico City
with the support of the Project for Human Rights.

Edwards, a long-time consultant at the San Francisco 49ers, is a proud
and committed social activist.

In 2016, Edwards supported then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s
controversial protest against excessive use of force by police officers.
Kaepernick took a knee during the playing of the National Anthem
before each game, as a way of bringing attention to police brutality
against Black people in the United States.

After the first time Kaepernick kneeled, Edwards told him to give him
his uniform immediately because his action would be a monumental
moment in sports and representative of the new wave of civil rights.
Edwards sent the garment to the National Museum of African American
History and Culture in Washington, D.C., alongside Carlos, Smith, and
Muhammad Ali’s exhibits.

“He felt strong enough about it to put his career and life on the line.
Look at the number of death threats and other things that happened to
him. He put it all on the line in order to make that statement,” Edwards
said. “He was saying we are better than this. He started a movement that
swept the world.”

The Legacy Hall of Fame honors outstanding community leaders who
have fought tirelessly to advance the civil rights movement while also
creating vital funding for local unit capacity building, youth leadership
programs, and NextGen Leadership programs and initiatives, according
to the CA/HI NAACP.

Source: Antonio Ray Harvey| California Black Media

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