Tommie Smith wasn’t just protesting the National Anthem when he raised his gloved hand into a fist at the 1968 Olympics. He was sounding the call for Black Power and an end to racist policies in professional sports and around the world.
This is just one story among many we’re proud to share as part of Goddard College’s celebration of stories for Juneteenth. We hope that these stories will inspire you as we celebrate Black liberation, determination, creativity and resistance on this day and every day.
Silent Gesture Speaks Volumes
Tommie Smith‘s “Silent Gesture” propelled him into the spotlight as a human rights spokesman, activist, and symbol of African-American pride at home and abroad.
“I was cheered by some, jeered by others, and ignored by many more,” said Smith, “but I made a commitment to dedicate my life, even at great personal risk, to champion the cause of oppressed people.” Smith received his Masters Degree in Sociology in 1974 from Goddard, and a Presidential Award for Activism from Goddard in 2013.
Apart from being an Olympic Gold Medalist, he has had a distinguished career as a pro football player, coach, educator and activist.
Recently, Smith and Bronze medalist John Carlos, have been inducted into the Olympic Hall of Fame. The announcement appeared in the Washington Post in September 2019. In the article, the International Olympic Committee attempts to acknowledge the racism Smith, Carlos and others experienced from the Committee’s leadership.
From Cuba with Love
While a pandemic shuttered music venues around the world, Bobi Céspedes found a way to bring her music to her community. “My songs are prayers.” she said. Her newfound appreciation with Zoom classes held throughout the pandemic have opened her teaching practice to a new community interested in Afro-Cuban culture and song.
Her newest release “In Mujer y Cantante Bobi gifts us with a collection of songs deeply rooted in the Cuban countryside where she was born, and full of heart and wisdom that serve as a magic elixir to facilitate our own transcendence in hard times.” said Umi Vaughan, PhD., author of Rebel Dance, Renegade Stance: Timba Music and Black Identify in Cuba. (Quote from the artist’s website)
A Dream of Black History Preservation
The life of a librarian may sound dull. But Dr. Mayme Clayton‘s story is not.
Throughout her life, Dr. Clayton single-handedly accumulated one of the largest collections of Black culture ephemera in her two car garage in Los Angeles.
Dr. Clayton would invite school children to visit the collection, before it became the Mayme A. Clayton Library & Museum in Culver City. “Crammed into that small garage or in her study, they would look with awe at handwritten slave records, the thousands of rare and out-of-print books and rare photographs of major figures of the Civil Rights movement.” (from claytonmuseum.org)
Her mission to preserve Black stories led her to rescue original Black Westerns from shuttered movie studio dumps, haggle with antique book collectors, and uncover lost relics at estate sales.
“It is such a wonderful feeling to find an old black history or literature book back in some garage, garage sale, in an attic buried away in some trunk or at a swap meet. To me it is just as exciting as striking oil!” she wrote in her thesis, Autobiography: A New Concept for Librarianship:
Mayme Clayton’s dream and passion for preservation is clear in her thesis’ conclusion:
“As we continue to make strides toward our goals and try to fulfill our dreams that one day the realization that a collection for the preservation on Black history and a National Black Archives will exist for our boys and girls so that they can have something to point to with an uplifted head, a light heart, and knowledge about there they came from, who they are, and some direction as to where they are going.”
We are proud to celebrate these Goddard College alums, who have empowered themselves with their commitments through their higher education and liberating action.
Thank you for celebrating these stories on Juneteenth with Goddard College.
For more information about the history of Juneteenth, we recommend this video.