What is there to say about a man who has marched to the same beat for forty-three years. John Wesley Carlos, the 1968 Olympic bronze medal winner in the 200-meter, has stood tall in the saddle to send messages of hope and strength. His desire to make a difference did not start in Mexico City on a hot summer night in 1968. It began in Harlem twelve years earlier, when two New York police officers told Carlos to travel the straight and narrow road, instead of the bumpy road of crime.
Today, Carlos is still beating the drum of success for the middle class, which includes education. It sounds more like the Occupy Wall protest, which is the same protest Dr. Martin Luther King championed in the 1960s.
The Pan African Connection Book Store and Resource Center was the place to be as Carlos shared wisdom from trials, tribulations and testimonies. Carlos began the evening by assuring the audience that like them, encouraging them to not praise him because it is a blessing to share his knowledge with others.
Yes, Carlos primary purpose for the appearance was selling books, but Carlos took the audience on a journey. He held the audience captive with stories of his children making failing grades. Although he was a party guy every weekend, for Carlos as a parent the primary concern was the academic success of his children. Carlos inspired the audience with stories about facing your oppressor face-to- face as we live in the world of flashy cars, large house and designers clothes.
He is that guy one could have a beer with even though you do not drink, but you just want to share one with the guy sitting next to you. Carlos is sixty-six years old now, but looks fifty-six with a great vocabulary to go along with his humor and charisma.
We read about legends but never think we will have the opportunity to meet one. Then John Carlos comes to town, last week I met a legend and enjoyed an evening that will stay with me forever.