With February being Black History month, I wanted to focus on that theme. I recall listening to the morning news saying “Olympic sprinter Tommie Smith will be at San Jose State University (SJSU) today receiving…near the statue capturing the historic”. That was a few months ago but I remember thinking to myself “Wow, I did not know a statue exist nor was located in San Jose, CA”. And with that thought, made a mental bookmark to visit it later.
To speed up, last week for my birthday, I decided to drive to SJSU before sunrise to take pictures of the statue. I was very impressed with the details and glad I came to see it in person. I remember hearing about the protest and seeing the iconic picture but being here in person, made me want to do my own research. Tommie Smith is standing on the 1st place position and John Carlos on the 3rd. Both US sprinters after winning the 200 meter race in the 1968 Summer Olympics, located in Mexico City, decided to use their global platform to protest the injustice of African Americans. They received their medals shoeless, wearing black socks to represent black poverty. Smith wore a black scarf to represent black pride and Carlos unzipped his tracksuit to show solidarity with all blue collar workers. Carlos also wore a beaded necklace to represent those lynched, killed, hung, and tarred.
The man that won 2nd place is Australia’s Peter Norman. Peter was told ahead of time before approaching the medal podium, of Smith & Carlos’s plan and wanted to support and showed solidarity by also wearing the Olympic Project for Human Rights badge. Also, Carlos forgot his black gloves and it was Peter’s idea for Carlos to wear Smith’s left glove.
All three men received huge backlash. Smith and Carlos was ostracized by US sports & received multiple beatings and death threats. Norman received death threats, wasn’t allowed to compete in the Olympics again, and was considered blacklisted by Australia for his involvement.
This protest is regarded as one of the most overtly political statements in the history of sports.
*Peter Norman wasn’t left off the statue on purpose…he felt like the focus needs to be on Smith & Carlos for what they were representing and was proud to have been able to support and stand with them in that moment.
*I mentioned earlier in the post that I arrived before sunrise. That was to avoid glare, shadows, and over exposure in my pictures. If you notice in the last picture posted, there’s a glare to the right, that’s from the sun. I posted it because I like the effect it gave that particular shot.
Thank you for taking time out your day and reading my article! Please share with those you think maybe interested. 🙂