Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Goodnight from Sydney

Another great Australian died today, and although he was hardly a household name in his own country, the news of his death may be of interest to many American's.

Peter Norman was a central figure in one of the great moments of American civil rights history. He was the third man on the medal podium at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, when Tommie Smith and John Carlos, bowed their heads in silent protest at racial discrimination in the United States while the Star Spangled Banner was being played.

What many people do not know is that Peter, who was a Salvation Army Officer, donned a badge on the podium in support of their cause - the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR).

One of the few who knew in advance what Smith and Carlos were going to do, it was he who suggested that Smith and Carlos share the black gloves used in their famous salute.

It's ironic that a statue of the black power salute erected at San Jose State University, where Smith and Carlos were both students, does not include Peter. Although he himself was unconcerned at not being included, it must have felt like being the fifth Beatle.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports, "Norman's nephew Matthew has just completed a movie about his uncle's involvement in the black power protest entitled Salute - The Peter Norman Story. It will be released early next year. 'I've spent four years of my life dedicated to telling Peter's story,' said Matthew Norman".

There was no speech from our sports loving Prime Minister, no offer of a state funeral. Such accolades are not bestowed on people who took part in one of the most memorable moments in civil rights history. Only second rate country singers and playboy racing drivers are deemed worthy of such recognition.

A final quote from Peter, "I believe in civil rights, every man is born equal and should be treated that way".

To dream, the impossible dream.

Wherever you may be - be safe!