Sunday, September 11, 2005


I belong to a couple of fitness clubs in Southern California, mainly so that I can find a lane to swim this old body a little. African-Americans, Asians and Anglos abound in these clubs, but once in a while, paddling in the pool, I have to remember a mental snapsot from yesteryear.

I think I was about 14 years old. Garfield Heights was a small community on the other side of Calvary Cemetary from Cleveland, Ohio. Garfield Heights was mostly a public park with a swimming pool. I swam there every summer for many years. One day, I noticed a commotion on the grounds beside the pool. Checking it out, I saw that two young negroes were treed by a bunch of white kids. Apparently, these two boys thought that by paying the entrance fee they were allowed to swim in the pool. The white kids were lobbing taunts and stones at the treed youths to disabuse them of their expectation.

To be absolutely truthful, I have no recollection of what I might have thought, said or done, beyond the knowledge that I did not contribute to the throwing or taunting. Just seeing those two boys up that tree is the only thing I really remember. And it is a hard thing to write about even today.

I guess I can never forget that summer day, but I am grateful that some progress in the recognition of universal humanity has been made. But as these two brave young men demonstrated at the '68 Olympics, there is yet much more to be done.


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