A trip worth making – The Olympic Black Power Salute Statue


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Back in the day

I was in the 11th grade at Ganesha High School and while in Mrs. Anderson’s Spanish class I met James R. Bell. I know he passed the class………I can’t remember my grade??? LOL. Anyway we have been friends since and as you can imagine he is part of our broader family. During the years we have been fortunate to make many historic treks. Recently he joined Judith and myself as we made the journey to San Jose to see remnants of “speed city” and the Olympic Black Power statue which is on the campus of San Jose State University. Of course Tommie Smith and John Carlos made history in 1968 and it was heartfelt to see them bronzed in the statue funded by students.


As a early teen I was watching the 1964 Olympics. They were in black and white. The finals of the 4×100 men’s relay was about to start. As the starting gun sounded the sprinters took off and somehow the favored U.S. team was in trouble and appeared to be headed to defeat. As anchor Bob Hayes took the baton he tracked down all runners ahead of him and miraculously the Russian sprinter who surely thought he would be the first to touch the victory tape was stunned to see this ebony image zip past him. It was a historic leg of the relay race that has to go in history as a legendary comeback. Hayes was known as “Bullet” Bob Hayes and from that race earned the distinction of the fastest human. I was mesmerized.

In 1968 my track and field appreciation had matured so at 16 I had an understanding of the Olympic games as well as the anticipated boycott. The rest is history as while the men’s 200mm victory stand celebration exploded around the globe, all three runners sacrificed something very few could imagine. Their story is an important part of history. The Triumph and the Victory.

In 2005 San Jose State University supported to students who funded the status symbolizing the victory stand. There are several statues of this moment but the “Olympic Black Power Statue” is special as this was the campus Tommie Smith and John Carlos attended. The track team was known for its prowess everyone knew it as “speed city.”

During my stint at the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee it gave me great joy to see Peter Uberroth extend a hand to recognize the greatness of people like Tommie Smith and John Carlos as they too were appointed as staffers. I didn’t have a relationship with Tommie Smith as management of the games were all over the city. However, I did have a relationship with John as he visited my office at Expo Park and our subsequent office at Manual Arts. We attended several community events together and of course he brought his torch from the opening torch relay. It was magic.

Ricardo Gouvela aka “Rigo 23” did an amazing job in creating the statue. I was surprised at its height as well as the attention to detail.

If you have never visited the site, I would encourage you to do so.

To gain more information on this history

The 2005 Statue Ceremony
With Drawn Arms
The John Carlos Story – Book Unveiling

There is much more so just do a Google search of items you feel have legitimate authorship

50 Years + later, Tommie Smith receives recognition



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.


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Larry Questad RIP


Olympian and great track and field athlete Larry Questad passed away on Nov. 1. 2020 at the age of 77. Some may not recall the name Questad but during his prime competition years he was known as “The fastest white man in the world.” Earlier this year I was doing some research on the Olympics and came across a documentary which focused on the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, specifically the Men’s 200 meter medal celebration where Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fist.

A part of the doc featured Questad’s reaction during the victory ceremony as he was perched in his seat at the stadium. He voiced being stunned and surprised at what he was watching as well as somewhat disappointed. Being from Utah he was not entrenched at the urban ills many in the black community experienced. He further mentioned great frustration with the Olympic coaching team for not allowing him be a part of the Men’s 4×100 relay because the coaching staff had decided to run “an all black team.” He assumed since lead runner Jim Hines was injured during one of the prelims, he would get selected as based on running times he was in the top four.

In life perspective is everything. Many like myself understood the protest, while those such as Larry saw it as something negative, if not disrespectful.

READ MORE ABOUT THIS ISSUE HERE

After watching the doc I knew I had some homework to complete. As a sixteen year old High School student and a person who always loved track and field, as well as being on staff at the 1984 Olympic Games which granted me the opportunity to meet both Tommie Smith and John Carlos, all I could wonder is why I had never heard about Questad’s lament?

About two months ago I tried to contact Questad. To my amazement I made contact and was eventually directed to his wife; Elizabeth who agreed to set up a tele/interview with him. About a month later, I struck oil as Larry called and allowed me a brief interview.

He has an amazing story and I am so grateful for his family in allowing me to speak to him. I was not aware of any severe health issues other than he was planning a hip surgery.

I would encourage you to do a little research to discover his feats. Even though he finished sixth in that iconic 200 meter race in Mexico City, to this day he holds records which are still standing.

Rest In Peace – LARRY QUESTAD, A life well lived.

[postscript]

I finally located the footage featuring Peter Norman. It included the comments I mentioned earlier made by Larry Questad regarding his perspective on the Black Athletes plight as well as being slighted for not being allowed to run on the Men’s 4×100 relay team. Astonishingly he admits to being in shock if not downright embarrassed by the gesture Smith and Carlos employed. Again, it shows how people from different groups see things differently. In Questad’s world it was unthinkable to show “disrespect” to the country you were representing. On the other hand Smith and Carlos challenged the very government of how Blacks were targeted and suffered trying to realize a productive lifestyle.

Review: With Drawn Arms


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.

The etiquette of Protesting: Respect or outright lack of Respect?


Students attending school are required to take United States history in the eighth grade.  The basic curriculum is intended to provide the fundamentals of how our government was created and how it has transitioned through the years.   Sadly, not everyone who took the class received a passing grade.  Or, perhaps they did at the time but as years have gone by they may have forgotten the basic tenets of what they learned, especially the facts of the United States constitution?

 

Protesting is a basic and fundamental privilege of citizenship. 

 

Protesting is a basic right covered in the first amendment.  It is very clear.  There is never a right time to protest.  The primary intent of protest is to raise awareness.  In doing so, some may feel institutions, symbols or things they view as sacred are being disrespected.  That is a false premise, especially with the Colin Kaepernik and the current NFL’s reaction.

Protest is meant to be disruptive.   Protesting is often non-violent, but it is not to be confused as a courteous gesture or something where the protestor’s say “excuse me.”

 

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” First Amendment of the United States Constitution

 

 

Is Trump allowing Puerto Rico to be his “Katrina”?

 

The Colin Kaepernick protest started over a year ago.  Just this past week it picked up steam as Donald Trump felt it was his duty to admonish the NFL teams for showing support for Kaepernick and disrespecting the flag, the anthem and anything else determined by him to be patriotic.

 

 

In doing so, sadly Trump demonstrated his sheer ignorance of the first amendment.  His public outcry was done and played out while Puerto Rico and victims of the recent hurricanes are in desperate need for government intervention.    He has been stubborn to understand the genesis of the protest and instead has insisted the narrative he created is the truth; the protest disrespects the flag, the anthem and the military.

Worse, this week he and his administration have taken to the airwaves to report how well the recovery is going, specifically in Puerto Rico.  Unfortunately, reporters on the ground and spread over the island have been in stark contradiction to the administration’s assessment.

“They require policy guidance from the president on what he wants them to do,” Honore said while reacting to the administration’s slow response time. “I think that’s where the gap is. Should have been moving the military last Saturday, the president was out playing golf and twittering.” Lt.Colonel (retired) Russell Honoree

The question begs for many?  With human life at stake, why in the world is Trump so focused on the NFL and the player protest?  Yet, while he claims such patriotism, he has never served in the military and has taken glee in criticizing and making derogatory comments about those who indeed have served or who have lost loved ones while in military service!

Is this a diversion?   Has Trump found yet another wedge issue where people lose focus on his lack of legislative success?   Is it a coincidence that the majority of NFL players are African-American and the obvious factor of race is quite clear?  Football is a game.  The current situation in Puerto Rico is real life.  People have short memories but they tend to remember who was in office during natural disasters.    They remember their actions, as well as their inactions.

 

After hours of careful consideration, and even a visit from Nate Boyer, a retired Green Beret and former NFL player, we came to the conclusion that we should kneel, rather than sit, the next day during the anthem as a peaceful protest. We chose to kneel because it’s a respectful gesture. I remember thinking our posture was like a flag flown at half-mast to mark a tragedy.  Colin Kaepernik, August 29, 2016

 

Facts get in the way

 

Whatever motivation Trump felt to unleash his tirade against the NFL players or his insistence to go on twitter spewing irritation of the protestor’s actions, history will be the ultimate judge.  The United States is replete with examples of those who staged protest and at the time suffered tremendous public scorn.  Yet, as time elapsed and their actions were better understood they took on martyrdom status and many are in the annals of historic figures.

 

The notion of Kaepernick disrespecting the flag might be a plausible conclusion or might make sense and convince the most patriotic person he is subject to treason.?   This becomes truer for those who support Trump and his ideology.  They refuse to accept anything contrary to what they believe, or have been told by Trump that it is the truth.  The problem and this is where so many who blindly follow others leave you shaking your head; Kaepernick got the suggestion to kneel and continue his protest from a decorated Green Beret, Nate Boyer!!!!  Now how patriotic can that be?  Kaepernick headed his advice and to the chagrin of many, to this day, they have a very positive relationship.  Why is this important?  Because Boyer has a better understanding of the privileges of the first amendment better than Trump or those like him who feel it is okay to dismiss this basic fact.  Why do they dismiss this fact?  It appears the narrative does not jive with the way they see things.

“Until that flag represents what it is meant to represent, ” Colin Kaepernick, August 29, 2016

Homework assignment

For Trump and those who support his position I would plead they do some homework and understand what and why was Colin Kaepernick protesting in the first place?   To be generous they will be given one week to turn in their assignment.  LOL.  Second, they must study protest movements and get a handle of the strategies used in protest movements?   Again, protest is not meant to be comfortable.  However, as mentioned many are very peaceful.

 

Who qualifies as the protest police?

Who among us can claim to be the authority on acceptable protest?  Donald Trump?  The Military?  Further, who can dictate which symbols we allegedly treasure within our society that are off-limits to protest?

While there are many traditions within our society that we treasure, over the years and surely with the Kaepernick incident those on the opposite side of whichever issue is being protest swear outright disrespect and crying foul by interpreting the actions as unacceptable.

The genesis of the Kaepernik protest

What is ironic is it appears the very people claiming the flag, the anthem or even the military is being trampled care very little of why Kaepernick protest in the first place.  If they did care, surely their position may be changed as why they still may have a problem with what they view as a sacred symbol, in the final analysis they would have to conclude Kaepernick and all those who took a knee or didn’t take a knee, stood or didn’t stand, clap or didn’t clap are well within the protections of our constitution.

Donald Trump takes great pride as a successful businessperson.  Some might conclude he is a master manipulator.  He appears to relish in the notion of speaking for “the America people.”   Perhaps, but over the past several years it has been documented his commentary is strategic in creating a divide.  Oftentimes the divide is on racial lines or to stoke discontent among various groups.    Yet, as mentioned those who support his ideology are swayed by the rhetoric being fomented and have been conditioned to marginalize any other perspective.

 

The Bottom-line

All you have to know is a person has the right to protest and does not require approval or permission! 

It is also your right or reaction to dismiss or despise the method of a person’s protest.  Just because you don’t approve of the method of protest, does not mean you are right and the protestor is wrong.  The first amendment gives protection for both positions.

 

It can’t be stressed enough, assuming you are truly seeking an objective analysis on protest that it you feel the person is protesting something you hold sacred, it is your right to not support them.  Period!  But, you must be very careful in maligning them as in the end, you wind up trying to dictate behavior.  So, you can’t claim allegiance to the Constitution while refusing the basic core of protest.