Alcorn forum kicks off with Olympic winner Dr. John Carlos

U.S. athletes Tommie Smith (center) and John Carlos (right) extend gloved hands skyward in racial protest at the 1968 Olympics. Dr. Carlos was the opening speaker at Alcorn’s Unity Through Diversity Week.

By Monica Land

LORMAN – Alcorn State University is holding what they hope will be an annual forum this week entitled: Unity Through Diversity Week. The program is designed to bring the campus and community together for a series of dynamic educational events to celebrate diversity and inclusion.

The forum began on April 16 and will conclude on Friday, April 20.

The keynote speaker for the opening day of the forum was Dr. John Carlos. Though an educator, activist and author, Carlos is perhaps best known for his raised black-glove salute at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.

A legend in track and field – Carlos is a former world record holder in the 100-yard dash and a member of the U.S. Track and Field Hall of Fame, Sports Illustrated reported. Carlos made history with his black-gloved fist salute at the 1968 Olympics alongside Tommie Smith.

Carlos won the Bronze medal.

As a teenager in Harlem, Carlos used his world-class speed to bring messages to Malcolm X, and as part of the Olympic Project for Human Rights, he spoke with Dr. Martin Luther King weeks before his assassination.

Carlos is now a counselor and track and field coach at Palm Springs High School in California.

Other special activities of the week include: Panels on religious diversity and “women’s firsts in Mississippi”, wellness walk and talk, a male success town hall meeting, salsa dancing, a diversity art exhibit, a multicultural parade and festival, an interactive performance experience addressing mental health issues and a diversity awards luncheon.

Speakers on the panel include nationally recognized cultural expert Pegine Echevarria and civil rights legend, Myrlie Evers-Williams.

More than 48 years after her husband was gunned down by an assassin, Evers-Williams returned to her native Mississippi this year where she joined Alcorn State University as a distinguished scholar-in-residence.

In 1989, Evers-Williams pushed for the reopening of her late husband’s case, and five years later, a jury convicted Byron De La Beckwith, who was sentenced to life in prison, where he died in 2001.

When Evers-Williams took over as chairman of the national NAACP in 1995, the organization was teetering near bankruptcy with a debt of $5 million. Three years later, she left the organization with a $2 million surplus.

Evers-Williams will share her experiences with those attending the forum.

“This exciting week will affirm Alcorn’s commitment to diversity and equity, provide powerful and enjoyable experiences for the campus community to grow together in cultural competence, and help prepare our students to be champions for diversity in their future professional endeavors in a global society,” said Dr. Derek Greenfield, director of Diversity and Equity Engagement.

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