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Courageous Act

July 5, 2010

The Today Progamme on Rado 4 regularly do features on new music projects from redundant musicians – usually from the 60s.  They did one this morning on Rickie Lee Jones, who I had never heard of. She was talking about how her music is currently inspired by the Black Panthers. The feature contained this excerpt of an interview between John Carlos and a British interviewer about the famous black power salute at the Mexico Olympic Games in 1968 – what Muhammed Ali called ‘the single most courageous act of the 20th Century’.

Interviewer:
Was what happened here on Wednesday on the Podium infact a protest of black power?

John Carlos:
What we did on the award stand was to let the black people of the world know that we were running to represent them.

Interviewer:
You’ve been accused of bringing politics into sport – do you accept that accusation?

John Carlos:
I would say one thing: I don’t think that you can close your social life off from your job that you have to do with athletics – and there’s no way you can draw a line between the two.

These last words chimed with me a bit. If you substitute the word athletics with the word Olympics – that’s basically the formula for all the projects in this programme. Politics can be separated from sport in a kick around in the local park, it can’t at the Olympics. It is impossible not to react to something as big as the Olympics – and any reaction is going to be political in some way or another. Reactions are interesting.

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