John Carlos in JA

‘Black Power salute was worth it’

BY DANIA BOGLE Observer staff reporter
Sunday, January 21, 2007

“IT’S worth it, it’s far worth it.”
That’s how 1968 Olympic Games 200-metre bronze medallist John Carlos summed up the famous black-fisted ‘Black Power’ salute that he and fellow American Olympics gold medallist Tommie Smith made nearly 40 years ago at the Mexico City Olympic Games.

CARLOS. I would do it tomorrow, I would do it yesterday
Carlos, who was in Jamaica as a special guest of the organisers of last Saturday’s Douglas Forrest Invitational meet, told the Sunday Observer that despite the difficulties he faced immediately following the statement, he would do it again.

“I would do it tomorrow, I would do it yesterday,” he said. “For me to be a part of that, just makes me that much more humble. when we did this thing it was a thought to say we want to free black people,” he said.

The former athlete turned coach said the demonstration was one of human rights and would be applicable to any ethnic group who felt victimised, even today.

The backlash from the duo’s action was tremendous as they were suspended from the United States team and banned from the Olympic village.

Carlos said there was also an unsuccessful attempt by Olympic officials to throw them out of Mexico. He was never able to participate in another Olympics after being banned for life.
His personal life also took a beating as there were death threats and he struggled for a long time to find steady work, but he is also proud of the fact that despite the problems, he never lost his house and was always able to place a roof over his family’s head.

In 1977, his first wife Kim, with whom he had two children, committed suicide, which he attributes to the strain the family faced after 1968. He remarried in 1984 to present wife Charlene.
He was later able to get his life back on track and coached the athletics team at Palm Springs High School for over 20 years.

“I think I got more satisfaction working with those kids, being able to make a difference… those are the greatest things to me,” he said.
He was also given an honorary PhD from San Jose University where he and Smith studied. A statue replicating their famous salute was built at San Jose a few years ago.

“Life is like a football game. you get a second half,” he said.
Carlos said he was extremely saddened by the death of Australian Peter Norman on October 3 last year.

Norman, the 200m silver medallist at the 1968 Games, wore an Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR) badge on his chest during the medal ceremony to show solidarity with Smith and Carlos.

Carlos, who was a pall-bearer at Norman’s funeral in Melbourne, said not much would have stopped him going to that funeral.
He said Norman, who was also shunned, probably suffered more because while the Americans had each other for support, Norman had to go it alone.

Carlos, whose mother was born in Runaway Bay, Jamaica, to Cuban parents, said he intends to return to Jamaica soon, as he did not have a chance to visit that parish this trip.