PITTSBURG -- Olympic bronze medalist John Carlos, who raised a fist in a controversial human rights salute meant to evoke political protest at an awards ceremony during the 1968 Summer Olympics, will be the keynote speaker at a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday event in Pittsburg.
The fact that Pittsburg has its own Olympic gold medalist -- Eddie Hart, who was on the track team that won the 4x100 relay race at the 1972 Summer Olympics -- helped persuade Carlos into accepting the invitation to give a speech to honor King's memory.
"I've known John for 40 years -- since the late '60s," Hart said.
Over the years, Carlos has come out to Pittsburg three or four times to participate in Hart's annual Olympian track-and-field clinic for youth. Carlos, who won the bronze medal in the 200-meter race, is a founding member of the Olympic Project for Human Rights. His fist raising in 1968, echoed by fellow Olympian medalist Tommie Smith, led to the two being banned from the U.S. Olympic team, and would change their lives forever.
Carlos will give his keynote speech on Monday at a free noontime MLK event at the Creative Arts Building at Pittsburg High School. Before that, a rally will be held at Pittsburg Civic Center at 11 a.m., followed by an 11:30 a.m. march to the Creative Arts Building.
"(Carlos) took a stand for justice," said Greg Osorio, one of organizers of the community-driven MLK event in Pittsburg now in its 10th year. "You're
The event will also include appearances by winners of a spoken word event for high school students, Pittsburg Community Gospel Group and Pittsburg High's Black Student Union Steppers, a percussion-based dance troupe, among others.
At the event, the Pittsburg branch of the Contra Costa County library plans to make available for on-the-spot checkout of 30 copies of "The John Carlos Story: The Sports Moment That Changed the World" it has purchased. Released in November, the book was co-authored by Carlos.
Carlos helped bring civil rights issues to the forefront, said Chris Brown, manager of the Pittsburg branch.
"He's an international figure. To have someone like him come to Pittsburg is really exciting," he said. "I just want to make sure the library supports this community effort."
As a way of extending the event beyond the MLK holiday, Hart will lead a discussion of the book at the E.J. Phair taproom in Pittsburg at 2 p.m. Feb. 23, Brown said.
Contact Eve Mitchell at 925-779-7189. Follow her on Twitter.com/EastCounty_Girl.