By: Staff Reports | Gwinnett Citizen
By: Staff Reports | Gwinnett Citizen

Civil rights icon to speak at MLK event

Snellville – At the Olympic Games in Mexico City in 1968 Tommie Smith raised a fist covered with a black leather glove as he stood on the medal podium. The symbolic gesture became a symbol of the civil rights movement.

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Monday, Jan. 18, Smith will be the keynote speaker at the Martin Luther King Day celebration and parade.

The event, scheduled for 10 a.m. behind City Hall, will also feature a performance by vocal group Forever in Ministry. Following the program, a parade will travel on Wisteria Drive to South Gwinnett High School. 

“This is a perfect opportunity for us to show the new spirit of a united Snellville and to come together to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy,” said Mayor Tom Witts, who is organizing the event. 

tommie smith head shot 190During the 19th Olympiad in Mexico City in the summer of 1968, Smith broke the world and Olympic record with a time of 19.83 seconds and became the 200-meter Olympic champion. 

As the national anthem played Smith and USA teammate John Carlos both raised a clinched fist covered in a black leather glove in a historic stand for black power, liberation and solidarity. Cheered by some and jeered by others, Smith made a commitment to dedicate his life to champion the cause of oppressed people. 

Smith received his Bachelor of Arts degree from San Jose State University in Social Science. During his tenure at San Jose he tied or broke a total of 13 world records in track and field. From 1969 to 1971 Tommie played In the National Football League for the Cincinnati Bengals. He went on to obtain a Master’s Degree in Sociology from Goddard College. 

Smith started his college teaching and coaching career at Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio. In 1978 he re-located to Santa Monica, Calif. where for 27 years he served as a faculty member and coach at Santa Monica College. Smith continues to help bring awareness to our youth about health and wellness. The Tommie Smith Youth Initiative partners with 100 Black Men’s Youth Movement program to improve the health, fitness and well-being of marginalized children.

Anyone who would like to march in the parade are encouraged to meet behind City Hall at 10 a.m. the day of the event.