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Re: Remembering the Berlin Olympics and Beyond

Hi GeorgeÉI'll take a stab at your remembrance of Tommie Smith. But before I beginÉI have two comments. It takes a very strong person to post their writing and ask for a critique. SecondÉ. I thank you for sharing a part of your personal history. Tommie Smith is as much of your family history as it was his. I do hope that some of our younger Afrigeneas members read your thoughts. The sixties were not just romanticized concepts of free love and getting high, but an awakening, a freedom to "out" all that was old and constricting.

Your words resonate with so much feeling.

I didn't change too much. I just rearranged some sentences to give it more punch. My rule of thumb is to edit edit and edit. Think of each word as precious pearl.

Perhaps someone else can correct grammar, colons and semi-colons.

So here are my suggestions:

Tommie Smith

I remember the 1968 Summer Olympics because of Tommie Smith.

The moment when he took the winner's stand, head down, black gloved fist
raised high, he changed my reality. More than Malcolm X or Martin Luther King, Jr., Tommie Smith was the catalyst that brought the Civil Rights Movement into my daily thinking.

For the first time, I understood what it really meant to be Black and proud. I learned that it took courage. In the midst of Olympic celebration, our people continued to struggle and suffer.

Smith ran the 200 meters; his college number was 22. He was my track and field hero. My high school coaches nicknamed me "22". My bedroom wall, schoolbooks and locker were covered with his pictures. When he broke the world record for the 200 meters, the same race that I trained for, there wasn't a more proud Black kid for miles.

My coaches thought Tommie Smith's actions were inappropriate and immature. They were not going to allow that kind of behavior in their program. They forced me to make a decision; athletics or academics. I was a mediocre athlete so the choice was easy.

Looking at that famous photograph of Tommie Smith and John Carlos, the other African-American medallist, thirty-two years later, I see more than a moment in history. I see the anguish of the Ancestors of hundreds of years ago. Two African-American men were using a world stage to strike a pose; similar to so many pictures of slave auction blocks and lynchings.

"Guided by the Ancestors"

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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