If you don’t know the name, you know the demonstration. If you don’t know the demonstration, you have heard the name…John Carlos.
John Carlos, now known as Dr.Carlos, will forever be known for the iconic, Black Power salute that he and fellow African-American, Tommie Smith did at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico. With Tommie Smith capturing the gold medal in the 200 meter dash in a world record time of 19.83 seconds, and John Carlos graciously claiming the bronze medal respectively in a time of 20.10 seconds, the stage was set for the monumental gesture and display of unity on the grandest stage in all of sports. Sharing the stage with Carlos and Smith was Australian sprinter, Peter Norman who impressively ran 20.06 seconds to capture the silver medal and split up the American’s one- two finish.
When “The Star-Spangled Banner” played, Smith and Carlos delivered the salute, raising their right hand (Carlos) and left hand (Smith) into the air while bowing their heads. Peter Norman, in support of Smith’s and Carlos’s stance donned the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR) badge on the podium in support of their cause.
Despite the immense scrutiny, public and media backlash that all of these athletes received immediately after their display on the podium, the goal and message had been sent and forever etched in the minds of individuals across the entire world.
As a child born in the year 1968, I have always felt an innate and unique connection to this generation, along with the message that these athletes along with various other public speakers and revolutionaries preached and fought so hard to get across. Growing up, I idolized the essence and heart of various individuals who fought and spoke out against unjust conditions and inequality against various races. As a being, an artist, and the founder of a company called L.I.W.I. 68 – which stands for LIVE IT WEAR IT and the year I was born – my life has directly been shaped and influenced by these iconic figures and that monumental moment in history.
Recently, I had the wonderful privilege and opportunity to meet, chat with and present Dr. John Carlos with a personalized painting of himself, during his public lecture/book signing inside the Accolade East building at York University on November 17, 2011.
The sheer excitement, joy, admiration, and star-struck feelings that bestow any individual who encounters their favourite player, actor, etc. had me initially speechless when I first met Dr. Carlos. But after a few minutes of hearing him speak and being in the same room with him, I realized that this man was truly the TRUTH, and a humble man. For as long as I can remember, Dr. Carlos has been one of my heroes and mentors. Growing up, I was always drawn to political and non-political figures that went beyond their duty and against the norm to speak out against injustices, and to give a voice for those that did not or could not find the courage to do it themselves.
Having researched the events of the 1968 Olympics and those taking place in America and around the world at that time, I became more and more fascinated with what Dr. Carlos did and what he stood for. Every time I saw him interviewed on television or whenever I read any articles pertaining to him or that moment in 1968, I was always struck by the same thoughts and feelings of admiration.
Here was an athlete blessed with an exceptional God-given talent who could have easily went on to become one of the greatest runners in the world. Yet despite that, he realized, at a very young age, that he would not be content with being used, exploited or subjected to anything he felt was demeaning to himself but his people as well. Often stating “YOU GOT 48 HOURS TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS…” (Read his exceptional book for more on this). Dr. Carlos became the voice for many individuals that could not muster up the courage or bravery merely due to the repercussions and punishments that would come as the result of their actions.
Yet On the grandest stage and in front of millions of people, Dr. Carlos just as he’d done throughout his life, took it upon himself to use his exceptional ability, and speak silently through himself and Mr. Smith’s gestures upon the podium. Ignoring and without hesitation or thought of the damage that would bestow their track career.
You don’t have to be the superstar athlete or entertainer to make a difference. Yes, it helps to have connections, but to me, Dr. Carlos follows his belief system first and foremost and that, more than else, is what makes him so effective. He’s dealing with global human rights of the 99% not the 1%. In everything Dr. John Carlos does, his charisma, passion, purity and purpose shine through.
Dr. Carlos is a man who everyday seemed to wake up quietly, without any need for self-aggrandizement or publicity, and follow his calling to do well…to do right. For this, Dr. Carlos is an inspiration to all of us and a personal inspiration for me to continue doing what I do. Some time ago, I determined that I would pursue a life dedicated to providing the community with an abundance of knowledge delivered through my artwork, clothing line, and more recently through my company website, www.liwi68.com. From Dr. Carlos’s example and continued quest to be a voice for the people, I know that I too can get up in the morning and make a difference. I’ve learned that you have to possess a genuine passion and care for whatever you do in life, regardless of the rewards or consequences that may arise as a result of it. I have learned through Dr. Carlos that we are here to aid each other on our journeys with our time, our words, and our actions.
Meeting Dr. Carlos was surreal. His aura and warm presence instantly puts you ease; making you feel as if you’ve known him your entire life. I can only imagine how people and Dr. Carlos may have felt when they met Martin Luther King Jr. or Malcolm X. The amount of knowledge and history that this man possesses and knows is crazy. Being in the presence of Dr. Carlos and hearing him speak about various events back in 1968 made me feel like I was literally absorbing everything that this man said.
When talking to Dr. Carlos you can sense that he is eternally young at heart and spirit, and loves life. His face constantly radiates with joy and jubilation. He has a purpose and a passion; he is not burdened by all the material things that attract so many individuals in life. It is the people who get up and want to give back to others who truly have the greatest lives. They are not only the ones making a difference but they have more fun enjoying life while doing it.
Like Just as I felt comfortable in the presence of Dr. Carlos, so did he in the presence of myself. He was extremely grateful and impressed by the artwork that I presented him, with as well as the whole message and movement myself and my team are developing and spreading through my company, LIWI. As another tribute to Dr. Carlos and as a token of my appreciation and gratitude for him literally pioneering my brand and shaping my overall being and outlook on life, I designed a unique logo paying homage to that monumental moment of himself on the podium back in 1968 at the Olympics. This wonderful design, which is a limited signature series design, to my “fist” tee, was received with such great gratitude by Dr. Carlos that going forward, we unanimously decided to work together to continue building his legacy globally. To have Dr. Carlos endorse and validate what I have been doing for so many years, only confirmed within myself the reason why I continue to do what I do.
Dr. Carlos is an individual who has never stopped fighting for what he has believed in. It was a great honour to have met and spent some time talking with this man, and to have the opportunity to present him with a personalized piece. I encourage anyone who has not picked up his recent book, The John Carlos Story: The Sports Moment That Changed the World, to pick it up. It is a remarkable, personal story on a truly remarkable human being.
Comments are closed.