Olympic medalist speaks at BC


This year Bellevue College is hosting a week long celebration in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. The “Dream and Act, Dr. Martin Luther King did” event that happened on Thursday, Jan. 22, was part of many MLK celebrations during the week. The keynote speakers were 1968 Olympian and activist John Carlos and sports writer and commentator Dave Zirin.

Bellevue College’s Multicultural Services organized and hosted the event. Aaron Reader began the presentation with a brief introduction on the speakers, and BC President Dave Rule also gave a five-minute welcome.

Zirin was the first of the keynote speakers. He talked about the importance of sports during the civil rights movement and gave historical background on the events that happened during 1968. He reflected on the time period by using John Carlos’s story. The event pamphlets shared a brief background of his story, stating Carlos was “a former track and field athlete and professional football player, was the bronze-medal winner in the 200 meter at the 1968 Summer Olympics when his Black Power salute on the podium caused much political controversy.”

Zirin continued by speaking about the legendary 1968 Olympics Black Power image with John Carlos.

“There’s a lot in this picture that a lot of us don’t see because you see two people John Carlos and Tommy Smith raising their fists with the black glove on it, they’re not wearing shoes on the metal stand and they’re not wearing shoes as a protest for poverty in the United States,” Zirin said. “You might see that they’re wearing beads around their necks and that was a symbol of lynching in the United States and the violence against African Americans in this country. You’ll also see that they’re wearing buttons and those buttons say ‘OPHR’ and that stands for Olympic Project for Human Rights, they wanted to represent where they were from.”

Carlos encouraged people to make a change in their society.

“You guys sometimes remind me of that horse. You guys don’t realize that you have to be able to take those blinders off, to look around and see a full spectrum of the society in which we live.”

He continued with an analogy of racing to the steps of change in modern day society. Carlos shared, “You have to pass the baton but the question is how many people want to receive that baton.”

After the keynote portion of the event there was a Q-and-A session, where people asked Carlos and Zirin questions. During the last part of the event there was a book signing for Carlos’s book and refreshments. Owla Mohamed, a student who attended the event said: “It was very inspiring and eye opening. John Carlos urged us to see that we can change what is wrong around us […] to stand up for what we believe in. He said we need to ‘wake up.’ This blunt awakening left the crowd speechless, reflecting on what they’ve done for the good of society.”