October 16, 1968 is well over 50 years ago. Tommie Smith captured gold while setting a world record in the men’s 200 meters final with a time of 19.83 at the 1968 Olympics held in Mexico City. Worldwide 1968 was an iconic year.
At the time Smith’s gesture was seen as one of the worse sins a person could make. That is based on the perspective of Olympic officials and many who were in denial of world-wide social unrest, particularly right in the United States. It took years and for some over a half-century to understand and finally recognize the importance of the gesture made by Smith, John Carlos and Peter Norman in accepting their medals.
“With Drawn Arms” came out in 2020. It was a great piece produced by Glenn Kaino. It is noted in the documentary that Olympic athletes are usually featured on the Wheaties Box. Unfortunately Smith was passed up. It took over 50 years as someone from Wheaties must have been paying attention or perhaps it was nudging by Kaino but the box recently came out. I was in Panama in December 2020 and received an email from Wheaties that the commemorative box would be produced and advance orders were being taken. The production is outstanding and three months later my box arrived today. By the way, it was even full of Wheaties!!!! Either way, as an Olympic aficionado, particularly the ’68 games I am honored to add the box to my Olympic memorabilia.
[Manhattan Beach, CA – April 10, 2020] Protest is an American right. Some who do not like it or attempt to marginalize its effectiveness always ask the rhetorical question why is it necessary? The strategy of a protest is not a fix-all or immediate remedy. Instead, its main thrust is to raise awareness of an issue or an incident. Bruce’s Beach has been around for over 100 years. It pops in the news every so often then disappears. The George Floyd murder on May 25, 2020 brought a public outcry not seen in years. People from all walks of lives and various ethnicities, including many Whites raised their voices to the injustice they witnessed from social media footage. A residual effect of the Floyd issue elevated the Black Lives Matter movement to a special status, whereas four years earlier they were vilified and mischaracterized as some type of violent force. Their presence created an awareness for many to allow their voice to be heard on social issues around the globe.
Manhattan Beach is a tony beach community nestled along the shorelines of Southern California. It has the appearance of a very progressive tolerant community. But like all things it has its history and was recently thrust in the news on April 9, 2021 by Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn during a press conference led by her, Supervisor Holly Mitchell, State Senator Steven Bradford and various public officials. It just so happens that even though the property is in Manhattan Beach, the County of Los Angeles is the current owner and that is why Hahn led the conference.
Bruce’s Beach was a venue created by Charles and Willa Bruce in 1912. Their goal was pretty straightforward – to create a place for African-Americans to enjoy the beach. History and context are two important parallels. Southern California, specifically the greater Los Angeles area was experiencing a population boom. As Slavery was legally outlawed and followed by Reconstruction many decided it was better to “start-over” than deal with Jim Crow or “southern traditions.” Those African-Americans who could make the migration from the South did so. Unfortunately, Jim Crow as a vestige of White Supremacy followed them as it was dominant in areas some thought were off-limits, such as Manhattan Beach.
As a native of Los Angeles I had never heard of this place! I was fortunate as my parents stressed education and I have been blessed to travel and experience other cultures. About ten years ago I made a decision to become more informed, particularly African-American history. Racism was happening then and it still permeates our society today.” Larry Wiggs, II
A new beginning
The Bruce’s left New Mexico and discovered Manhattan Beach. Mr. Bruce was a pullman porter so he was away most of the time. Thus, Bruce’s Beach was opened and operated by Willa. Even though the venture was successful, some White’s simply could not accept the fact of African-American’s creating a haven for themselves. The Bruce’s dealt with harassment, violence and other acts of organized intimidation until finally the City of Manhattan Beach used eminent domain to force them out. The Bruce’s dream of tranquility and peace faced the reality of overt racial discrimination. In 1912, they paid $1,225 to acquire their coveted piece of property. In 1924 The city paid them $14,500 as compensation and told them to move on.
The Bruce’s story is compelling. Unfortunately, there are many noteworthy examples of African-Americans being stripped of their resources and the final chapter of what happened has never been told, hidden in recorded documents or marginalized as if nothing nefarious occurred.
What Hahn communicated yesterday is historic. You hear all of the time of the wealth-gap? For many African Americans the gap is a direct result of their ancestors having their property or assets stripped from them, thus there was nothing to “pass down.” At the same time, some whites will rightfully argue they were not involved in Slavery or did not create any of the ills which caused the gap. Historians have rightfully defined “white privilege.” The Bruce’s Beach issue puts the topic right back on the table – the legacy of wealth.
Why is it hard to discuss Reparations?
Reparations appears more complicated than it really is. History notes various groups in the past have been made whole in some fashion. It only turns into a huge problem or something not to be discussed when attempting to deal with the descendants of enslaved Africans. You heard the lady in the clip pose the question what is all of the fuss about? After all, eminent domain is a legal process municipalities can use to acquire property for the public good the Bruce’s were paid something! The issue specifically related to the Bruce’s is the city wanted to rid itself of a racial problem and used eminent domain as the resolution. The question remains what legacy could the Bruce’s have left their heirs had race not been the issue to force them to leave?
I’m from Burbank and saw the news about the beach, so I needed to see it for myself. I knew about certain groups being discriminated against but I was shocked to see racial covenants were enforced to keep Blacks from buying homes in many parts of Los Angeles.” An anonymous middle-aged White man
The word reparations scares the hell out of people, primarily because they do not understand it. Interestingly in the past political leaders or those in power acknowledge making various ethnic groups “whole” who have been harmed by White Supremacy or racist behavior as a necessary remedy towards reconciliation. That is, unless those harmed are African-American. Hopefully Hahn and other leaders will spur a nationwide crusade that it is one thing to apologize yet it is another to repay and truly make whole to ensure the descendants can attempt to enjoy the same legacy that so many take for granted. First things first. While reimbursement or reparation dollars have not been specified, for now the energy is to return the property to Bruce’s heirs. There is also discussion of the County reverting from owner to tenant of the Bruce heirs, as a major part of the property is currently being used by them.
The Bruce’s Beach incident is American history so here is a recommended bibliography for additional reading:
Professional Sports is a huge business. Major League Baseball (MLB) is near the top of the heap when it comes to money-makers. Yet, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp may have positioned himself for the 2021 “Bonehead of the Year” award when he agreed and signed into law the hat trick created by state legislators and voting officials in the disguise of voter protection. Senate bill 202 professes to be a bill designed to correct flaws in the voting system.
On surface just about everybody agrees there is nothing wrong with correcting something that is flawed. The problem is during the recent 2020 general election Kemp and voting officials all agreed there were no issues on the voting process. Sure, there may have been some minor adjustments needed but none rising to the level of needing a new law?
They vehemently protested when the sly Donald J. Trump started his charade of irregularities. To boot, the courts threw out or ruled against the numerous cases by Trump and his allies that something was amiss. Kemp, the legislators and voting officials apparently misunderstood who Trump was.
You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” Abraham Lincoln
Trump built a career on hustling (taking advantage of people) and adopting gangster-like moves way before he decided to run for the presidency. The problem is many people did not know who he was and felt, “how bad could it possibly be?” His moves did not change. He merely brought the same style during his term as president. As hustlers do, once the race for the 2020 presidency heated up, he went into action. He threw out all sorts of insinuations and ridiculous banter to cloud the issue of fairness. This was done as a type of insurance policy as surely, he wanted to win but just in case he was on the losing end, he would have created some protection or justification that he was somehow harmed.
Even though I haven’t forgotten once the 1996 Olympics was over, the stadium was supposed to be named after famed slugger – Henry Aaron. Instead, ego or some other calamity overcame team owner Ted Turner and he named the stadium “Turner Field.” To add insult to injury less than twenty years later officials agreed the stadium needed to be moved and relocated to a more favorable part of Georgia which offered easier access to their predominate fan base. Nothing is wrong with that – business is business, although I’m still not convinced something nefarious occurred because they left the “hood” for greener pastures. Truist (SunTrust) stadium is in Cobb county and actually not that far from the old location. It’s a great venue with all of the modern amenities needed to attract a wider swath of fans who might like baseball but really appreciate the developments that have restaurants, bars that add to the fan experience. Plus, the stadium features a great plaque and memorial to Aaron.
Everybody seems to want to chime in on this issue. Your political perspective pretty much dictates your opinion. As a matter of fact, those who embrace a conservative ideology such as writers David Harsanyi and Jeff Greenfield have penned recent articles stating moving the games from Georgia is a mistake. Worse, they point out MLB has been tricked or bullied by those with a “left-wing” ideology! What? They point to Colorado having some voting guidelines which some might consider suppressive. What they fail to realize is unlike Georgia they did not change laws after swearing everything was alright. So, what they try and communicate to their readers is what some might call a “red-herring.”
There are thirty MLB teams and each one thirst at the opportunity to host the All-Star game. When they selected Truist to host the 2021 event it was a no-brainer as it was fit to be a great host. Then came the darn 2020 general election which included voting for president. By normal standards the election wasn’t even close. It was just a matter of counting all of the ballots. Lo and behold Joe Biden snakebit Trump for the presidency and the cous de gras was Joe Ossoff and Rafael Warnock turned everything upside down by capturing the two Senate seats. Immediately after professing everything was copasetic, someone must have tinkered with the legislators and Kemp’s water? They immediately went to work and inadvertently bought into Trump’s malarky (Biden) and other’s that the voting system was indeed flawed.
Perhaps, it is like Minority Leader Mitch McConnell waking up and realizing it has been the donations from major corporations which fueled his ascent to power? MLB surely woke up. They realized the new law was a ruse where you give one but take two or three or however you define it, the outcome is to make voting more difficult for a certain part of the electorate. By another definition that is called voter suppression. Most will confess, in political races you don’t need to win by a zillion. A couple here, a couple there and even though it may be a close race, victory can be had. Many corporations sided with MLB and promptly issued their public outcry that the new bill was a solution looking for a problem.
Poor Jared Polis who is the Governor of Colorado was minding his own business. I mean it is April and Christmas has long passed and won’t return for a couple of months. His state was already on MLB’s roster to host an upcoming All-Star game. However, since Kemp couldn’t muster up the courage to maintain his position that Georgia’s recent election was in order, he kowtowed to those like Trump and other malcontents and the result is his gift to Polis.
MLB quickly ratified the move and the rest is history as Georgia is left wandering like Rip Van Winkle felt once he awakened. “What the hell just happened????” And to add insult to injury Kemp’s move forced MLB to demand Atlanta Braves players cover over any and all All-Star logos.
Maybe it was from watching western’s, or maybe it was something seen on all the shows featuring law enforcement that flood television viewing, or maybe it was an MMA move he saw? However, he performed and improvised the move, the chief of police, training staff and those from Minneapolis Police department (MPD) hierarchy have vehemently testified it was not in policy. The “knee-move” that is.
Being a police officer is tough. It is fraught with all types of life decisions that officers must make. Confronting and apprehending individuals is part of their job but the reality is some can irritate the officer by their behavior. Or, another way to look at it is some just “get in the officer’s goat or their craw.” The result can be retaliation by the officer and as in the case of George Floyd, death. After all, they too are humans and just trying to do their job.
Unfortunately that is not the issue in this trial. Floyd’s background is not the issue, although some will attempt to massage it into the case as some sort of justification or explanation of Chauvin’s actions.
It is hard to explain why Chauvin used his “knee-move” on Floyd’s neck? Floyd and bystanders pleaded for him to remove it so that he could breathe. No doubt from the time officers arrived on the call and confronted Floyd it took time from exiting his car to the MPD cruiser, then to the front of the SUV where Chauvin’s knee went into action. Chauvin felt he had enough and the motion was set for him to teach Floyd a lesson. To him, it appeared he did not care who was watching him or what MPD policy was. He had a special tactic and felt it was the perfect time to execute the move. Now whether he meant to kill Floyd is another issue but the facts are clear, he kept his knee on the neck position much longer than necessary.
Other’s will have their own explanation but from what has been presented it is clear George Floyd got in Derek Chauvin’s goat or craw and he decided the time was right to teach him a lesson. The question remains where in his nineteen years on the force did he learn the move?
Postscript – I originally did a Facebook post referencing the passing of Elgin Baylor. I removed it after receiving a notice from one of my Sintown homies, Vince Wisniewski and decided to expand the post to an actual article. That is how special Elgin Baylor was to us who grew up in his playing era.
Growing up in the era when Elgin Baylor joined the Lakers brought many great memories of Vince and those friends from Sintown who went to Ganesha High School. At the time Sintown was a basic bedroom community in Pomona. Ganesha was built in the late ’50’s. It was an interesting time for our country. People were moving around looking for a place to raise their family. In Sintown you had your close friends but you knew just about everyone. Like so many communities White Flight was happening right before our eyes yet it didn’t matter to the Whites or Hispanic’s who stayed because they appreciated the diversity afforded to their families. We left Los Angeles two months before the Watts Riots and landed on Carlton Street. Fast forward as mentioned everyone got along and sports was a common denominator but the NBA wasn’t what it is today. The Lakers had Jerry West and Elgin Baylor and we perhaps took their greatness for granted, but we also had Chick Hearn giving us the play-by-play.
Baylor has passed and even though it has been several days I still can’t get over it. Anybody and everybody from that era wanted to emulate his style of play. That is, except the ultra conservative coach Fulkerson. More on him later. In 1960 the Lakers ditched Minneapolis and came to Los Angeles. They played at the Sports Arena which was part of the complex that also housed the Coliseum. My brother Ronald and I remember attending our first professional baseball games when the Dodgers moved there in 1958. Surprisingly we can’t remember going to a Lakers game? Maybe it was because the Lakers were new but to have a professional team in that 9,000 seat arena was a big deal. I do recall one time circa 1967 my Father secured tickets for us to go to a game. I forget exactly what we did to make my him upset and cancel our trip……but looking back maybe it was just a ruse? Anyway, before my time with Coach Fulkerson, Ganesha was coached by the legendary Coach Lee Mathis – crew-cut and all. For a new school who had to play second-fiddle to powerhouse Pomona High School that exodus of families who left Los Angeles and landed in Pomona, specifically Sintown was like being awakened at Christmas!! After the great Rex Huxford graduated in 1968, our 1969 Varsity squad had Dean Ligenfelter, Robert Hines, Ronnie Carr, my brother Ronald and of course the unstoppable Wilbur Gatson just to name a few, A few from my class who got elevated to the squad as juniors, such as Gary Fisher, Stanley Johnson and Steve Burns.
Those ’69 athletic teams pumped pride and inspiration to that campus in west Pomona as Sintown became the incubator of possibilities. What a year and yes, we finally beat the hell out of Pomona High School and just about everyone in the San Antonio league. It was also the year Ronald was able to secure number 22, which of course was Baylor’s number.
There are so many stories about Baylor, it is incredible. In Sintown or specifically at Ganesha everyone loved him and despised the thorny Celtics. As I’ve mentioned Baylor was affectionately known as “The Captain” because when he was on the court he took charge. As mentioned Basketball today is not the basketball I grew up watching. A great attribute about sports is that it transforms cultures and community. The Lakers had few African-American players but like the rest of the league that was alright because at least it was our team. Plus, we had one of the best players in the league. He was a revolutionary who transformed the game. At that time players were not acrobatic. They weren’t hanging in the air to fool the defenders. There was no double-pumping, shooting the ball off the dribble, going behind the backboard, dunking over the Celtics Bill Russell. Yet, that’s who Baylor was and he did so wearing LO-CUT CONVERSE ALL-STARS!!!! At 6’5″ he was known as a small forward. He took the Lakers from the 9,000 seat capacity to the ultra-modern Fabulous Forum in Inglewood that could hold a whooping 18,500 fans. Baylor was before the Pearl, before Clyde, before Dr. J. Rick Barry, the Iceman, Magic, Jordan, Kobe, LeBron and the rest.
One last story. I know this is supposed to be about my little tribute to Elgin Baylor but his name brings back so many memories about my teen and young adult years. I was the lucky lad because as mentioned my brother Ronald was a year ahead of me and I knew all I had to do was make the varsity squad and number 22 would be mine for the ’70 season, although some games he wore number 15.. As my luck would have it Coach Matthis retired after that great ’69 team graduated. Coach Fulkerson had been his assistant so he took over the reigns in 1970. He considered himself a “purest.” You had to shoot the ball a certain way – elbow neatly tucked in, no leaning but jumping straight up. There was to be nothing acrobatic or anything assimilating Baylor’s style – not that Fulkerson didn’t like him. He was just stuck on a very basic conservative style of play. Even lay-ups had to be performed a certain way. It would be suicidal to think about “going behind your back” or look like you were “trying to dunk” and even trying to “spin a reverse lay-up.” Anyway, I made the team and the equipment manager Mr. Auckee arranged for me to have number 22 for the season. Wow!!!! It didn’t matter I barely made the team as I surely didn’t have the shot Fisher or Tucker had or the soft touch that Burns had. Further as much as Fulkerson tolerated the greatness of the ’69 squad, in ’70 he had his favorites in Hackley and Tharp so my ticket in making the team was displaying sheer hustle, willingness to hit the boards and understanding the ball was for others to shoot. My reward was limited playing time but that was not as important as being on the team. I could put up with Fulkerson’s antics and humiliation he dished out to those he considered radical or caught up in the social unrest that was also part of that era. I was just stoked to be wearing Elg’s number and the pride just to suit up because of all the numbers on our team, 22 was mine.
One quick note, near the end of the season we were playing Pomona at their gym and during a brief stint I was in the game. I had a break-away and was going in for a layup and the Baylor magic came over me as I was able to hang in the air, like Elg just long enough for the defender to lose his ascent which allowed me to do a double-pump and finish the shot by banking in the layup. That was one of the key memories I remember of my playing days at Ganesha. It was like a secret, something you keep to yourself. Coincidently once I graduated from Ganesha and moved back to Los Angeles I started improving my game way beyond the ridicule I received from Coach Fulkerson. One of Chick Hearn’s favorite calls was “Baylor goes baseline and scores with a dunk.” I finally got that play down and use to take great delight in executing it. As I have attempted to stress watching Baylor gave you the confidence to try new things. The Capt’n is gone but his spirit and memories will be something we all treasure.
This is a shot of the Staples Center marquee paying homage to Baylor. The cover photo is a gift from one of my Sintown homies – the great Jacques Bordeaux. He too appreciated Baylor’s greatness and knew what he meant to me so out of his collections of goodies he gifted me the treasured bobblehead.
[postscript – I live in West Adams and approximately four miles west of the Staples Center. In 2018 the Lakers awarded Baylor a statue which is alongside the other greats of the Lakers/Kings organization. I was mortified as when the news of his passing there were loyalist like me who simply wanted to visit the statue as a way to pay respect. The Lakers and the Staples Center boneheaded management team had the entry way blocked and only if you knew where the statue was, it was impossible to see from the street. A bitter disappointment so I guess I will have to wait for the pandemic to end or when those knuckleheads realize it is OK to get close up.]
Thanks to the tireless work of Dr. Carter G. Woodson Black History Month is now commonplace and widely celebrated in the United States as well as around the globe. California strikes again as a leading state of African-American first. On January 29, 2021 Governor Gavin Newson swore in San Diego Assembly member and Chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus Dr. Shirley N. Weber as California Secretary of State. Dr. Weber is the first-ever African American to serve as Secretary of State in California history.
“As the state’s Chief Elections Officer, Dr. Weber will continue her lifelong dedication to defending civil rights and will undertake a vital role in protecting our democratic process at a critical time.” Governor Newson.
I just returned from one of my treks and had a layover in Panama. You will appreciate the newly remodeled airport, among the many updated restaurants, stores and services it has several COVID testing stations. If you are traveling through Panama on your way to your final destination and you have documentation of NEGATIVE testing results from within 48 hours, and you do not plan on exiting the terminal testing in Panama IS NOT REQUIRED.
This article will cover COVID testing as well as information should you desire to go to Panama City.
If you wish to exit the terminal and perhaps take the 20-minute metro ride to Panama City YOU ARE REQUIRED TO TAKE A TEST AND THE RESULTS MUST BE NEGATIVE.
The process at Panama’s Tocumen airport is fairly simple.
Once you disembark from your air carrier you will notice COVID stations.
Staff will greet you and take your temperature.
You will be directed to the station where they will inspect your passport, complete their paperwork and ask how you wish to handle the $50 payment (credit card).
You will be directed to the other station where the technician will administer the PCR test through your nasal.
You will be directed to the waiting area immediately adjacent the Covid station.
In approximately 30, no more than 45 minutes staff will come out, call your name and hand your test results in a letter form.
Assuming you are negative you are free to go through customs and exit the terminal. also once you return back to the airport the same day there is no need for retesting.
Should you have any question or need tips please contact me separately because as simple as the process is you must prepare yourself with accurate information so that your ultimate trip meets your expectations and is successful.
Bienvenida a PANAMA!!!!
For those wishing to head to PANAMA CITY using the Metro Rail.
Getting to Panama City is pretty easy. It is approximately 20-30 minutes from the airport. For some a taxi works so expect about $25. For trekkers like me on a budget, the Metro rail is perfect. You can pay for rides each way or simply get a Metro Day Pass for $5. You will see kiosk inside the terminal and staff will gladly assist you.
Next once you go through immigration simply exit the terminal and head RIGHT that leads you to the curb where you will see traffic. LOOK FOR ZONA 2 as that is the pick-up point for the Metro Bus.
The bus runs fairly quick but be sure to hop on the correct one. Look for the bus where the sign reads CORREDOR SUR – It is about 3-5 minutes from the terminal and is a transfer point where you can take local buses or hop on the metro rail. GO UPSTAIRS to the Metro Rail and take Panama City Metro Line 2.
The trains are clean and efficient. Enjoy your trek to Panama City. Please note, upon arrival back to the airport YOU WILL NEED TO GO THROUGH CUSTOMS, so give yourself enough time to catch your connecting flight.
You’ve heard it stated before…..”better late than never!!!!!” The Negro Leagues are celebrating their 100th Anniversary and there has been great interest from those who only read about them or saw limited footage. Today Major League Baseball (MLB) announced the records from the Negro Leagues will be consolidated into the officials records.
For many of us 2020 will be a year we were sheltered in place due to Covid. Since most of us have reduced going out we have watched a lot of TV.
“With Drawn Arms” was recently released and I saw the preview today. IT IS A MUST SEE. Not because you are a documentary nerd, a track and field affectionado or some type of revolutionary. The doc is about the great Tommie Smith and his world record breaking performance at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City. Smith was an exceptional athlete but many remember his powerful gesture along with teammate John Carlos as they stood on the victory stand in what has become international folklore.
Produced by Glenn Kaino it is moving and inspirational as you are invited to get to know Tommie through his narration of many personal moments.
The doc is a solid 10 and available on the STARZ network.