Photo credit AP/Julie Jacobson

By Donna Michele Ramos

The 2012 London Olympics began on July 27 and ends on August 12, 2012.  African Americans are well represented but Jesse Owens was the greatest American athlete of all time, in fact the greatest Olympian in the world according to the Telegraph’s poll of 2,400 surviving British Olympians.  He won four track and field medals at the same Games, but, as the black grandson of a slave triumphing in Nazi Germany in 1936, he disproved Hitler’s views on Aryan racial superiority. He was the unofficial poster child of the Olympic ideals of honoring diversity and being inclusive.

No Olympic discussion can be done without mentioning trailblazers Tommie Smith a sharecropper’s son from east Texas and Harlemite John Carlos; who I was fortunate enough to meet several years ago at a Sac State track event.  With one limb they made the most powerful, well recognized gesture, probably in all sports, definitely in all Olympics.  We can still feel the reverberations even though it’s been Forty-four years since Tommie Smith, from a sharecropping family in East Texas, and Harlem native John Carlos.

Smith and Carlos demanded people understand the suffering of Black America; their simple act of revolt concealed a plethora of symbols.  Smith’s raised right hand stood for black power, Carlos’s left signified black unity. 

Smith’s black scarf symbolized black pride, his black socks symbolized black poverty in a racist society. Though it has been 44 years the reverberations of that silent revolt are still remembered.  Both men paid dearly for it upon their return to the United States.  But the point they were making could not be denied.  The spirit and intent are still felt today.

But the power of his stand in 1968 still animates Carlos, “I still feel the old impulses and compulsions, to stand up and be heard, no matter the cost, no matter the price.” 

You may not have heard of some of them, you may not know the sports they are competing in but there are many Black athletes competing in the current Olympics representing the United States, in sports you know about and some that will surprise you.  Here is a partial list of our current Olympic athletes:

  • Tennis: Venus Williams and Serena Williams
  • Taekwondo: Terrence Jennings and Paige McPherson
  • Hurdler: LoLo Jones
  • Sprinters: Allyson Felix and Jeneba Tarmoh
  • Swimmer: Lia Neal
  • High Jumper: Chaunte Lowe
  • Gymnastics: Gabrielle Douglas (The Flying Squirrel) and Elizabeth Price.  Both carrying on the legacy that is sure to make previous gymnast Dominique Dawes proud.
  • Athletics: Aretha Thurmond, Deedee Trotter, Isaiah Young, Keshia Baker, Brigetta Barrett, T’erea Brown, Janet Cherobon-Bawcom, Chelsea Hayes, Jessica Cosby, Sharon Day, Janay Deloach, Allyson Felix, Justin Gatlin, Tyson Gay, Reese Hoffa, Carmelita Jeter, Alysia Johnson Montano, George Kitchens, Erik Kynard, Lopez Lomong, Aries Merritt, LaShawn Merritt, Manteo Mitchell, Darius Patton and Jason Richardson
  • Wrestling: Dremiel, Deshon Byers and Kelsey Campbell
  • Boxing: Dominic Breazeale, Jamel Herring and Errol Spence
  • Men’s Basketball: T. Chandler, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Jr. Deron Williams, James Harden, Jr., Andre Iguodala, Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant and Blake Griffin
  • Women’s Basketball: Seimone Agustus, Swintayla Cash, Tamika Catchings, Tina Charles, Asjha Jones, S.Fowles, Angel McCoughtry, Maya Moore and C. Williams
  • Fencing: Maya Lawrence
  • Volley Ball: Foluke Akinradew, Tayyiba Haneef-Park, Megan Hodge, Destinee Hooker and Danielle Scott-Arruda
  • Swimming: Cullen Jones and Anthony Ervin

We all know swimming is one sport that does not immediately come to mind when thinking about Black athletes; but we all will need to rethink this now.

The 28-year-old Bronx-born Jones swam with the gold medal 4×400 meter relay team that set a world record in Beijing.  Ervin, a 31-year-old African American, won a gold medal in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.  Just like Venus and Serena Williams got African Americans and everyone else more into tennis, Jones and Ervin are awakening the desire to try the sport. Cullen Jones has worked very hard to encourage African-American kids to learn to swim through the “Make A Splash” initiative.  

To stay updated, follow the 2012 Olympics on these websites:;


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