Run Before You Walk
BY EARLY 1965, the latter part of my sophomore year at San Jose State, the idea of black empowerment was becoming popular, as awareness of a system that was not treating people equally grew. At the same time, my prowess as one of the best sprinters in the world was growing as well. Little did I know that the two forces would converge within me on a single spring weekend.
Already by that time, much had happened in the civil rights movement, particularly down South. The bus boycotts in Montgomery, sparked by the protest of Rosa Parks, had been years before. Dr. Martin Luther King had moved into prominence; the March on Washington had been less than two years earlier, and there had already been several nonviolent demonstrations, many of which had been met with violent resistance. One of the worst retaliations had already been perpetrated: the bombing of a church in Birmingham, Alabama, that killed four little girls as they prayed in Sunday school. The Freedom Rides had begun, and already many of the riders into the South had lost their lives. The Civil Rights Bill had been introduced by Lyndon Johnson. The march in Selma would take place later in that year. And early in that year, Malcolm X was assassinated. History tells us that 1965 was a milestone year in the movement. With everything that was happening, society was growing anxious about the change it was undergoing and about the people fighting for their rights as human beings, exercising the freedom of speech they had been denied but to which they were entitled.
Yet as a student and an athlete at San Jose State even at that time, I wasn’t much in tune with what was going on, although I did know that things were going on. I certainly had no anticipation that I would be a civil rights activist or leader. One of my first memories of the movement was hearing about Rosa Parks, while I was still in