February 21 is a day that homage is paid from the time the hand strikes midnight until the hand is sitting on 11:59 P.M. The reason that is the case is because it marks the day that Malcolm X was assassinated in the Audubon Ballroom in New York. The masses like to regurgitate other dates of fallen figures in history, and I get it. However, February 21st is the day that means the most to me, and while I grew up with a dad in the house, as well as countless male role models in my childhood and early adulthood, Malcolm X more than did his part to teach me how to hold my head high and be a real man.
About a month or so ago, something happened that I am still in disbelief about. Well, it started almost ten years ago in a story I have told a couple of times already, but there were some developments that took place after those stories were told. Anyway, I was sitting in the hallway at school one evening getting ready to lead a study hall for the women’s basketball team, and as I sat down with my dinner and was getting on them for making too much noise in the hallway, I looked up and saw a flyer advertising an upcoming event. As I peered closer, the name of the featured speaker leapt off the page: Dr. John Carlos.
I couldn’t believe it. John Carlos, one of the greatest men who ever lived, was coming to Tyler? Granted, he ran track at East Texas State, which is now known as Texas A&M – Commerce, where I am currently working towards my doctorate (the irony!), so the Lone Star ties were in full effect. Still, I couldn’t believe what I was reading. One of my heroes was coming to town, and that was pretty much all I could think about, and to think: if I hadn’t been summoned to run the kiddos’ study hall that night, I’m not sure when I would have heard about him coming to town. Nonetheless, it was on like Donkey Kong. John Carlos, medalist at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City and a man who I’ve read countless stories and watched numerous documentaries about was coming, and dammit, I was going to be there.
Two days ago, I went through the rigors of a regular day and as much as I love my job and my kiddos, the entire day was devoted to that evening, making the drive a few miles down the road and getting a front row seat to hear any and everything that John Carlos had to say. I arrived early, sat next to Coach T., the women’s basketball coach at TJC; Damien, the Dean of Students; B.J., my podna in the police department; The Great Dr. Otis Webster, my old-school mentor in the Psychology department, along with a group of students from TJC and awaited the start of an event that had been in the making since the day I asked my homie for his black t-shirt with the image of Tommie Smith, Peter Norman and John Carlos on the front years ago.