In many ways, recent events reveal that Black people have been unknowingly stuck in a time capsule since the late 1960s; but, there are also signs that we are waking from our stupor and searching for a way out of our current trajectory. One such sign is Carmelo Anthony evoking the spirit and imagery of the “Ali Summit” when he called upon his fellow athletes to take a leadership role for justice system reform to become a reality.
“First off let me start off by saying, ‘All Praise Due To The Most High.’ Secondly, I’m all about rallying, protesting, fighting for OUR people. Look I’ll even lead the charge, By Any Means Necessary. We have to be smart about what we are doing though. We need to steer our anger in the right direction. The system is Broken. Point blank period. It has been this way forever. Martin Luther King marched. Malcolm X rebelled. Muhammad Ali literally fought for US. Our anger should be towards the system. If the system doesn’t change we will continue to turn on the TVs and see the same thing,” Anthony began his statement on Instagram.
The Ali Summit took place on June 4, 1967 when several of the most popular Black professional athletes came to Muhammad Ali’s side to support his controversial decision to reject his induction into the war in Vietnam. It was the first and only time so many Black athletes at that level joined forces and put themselves at risk to support a controversial cause. The summer of 1967 was the fourth in a row that had seen riots due to the political unrest of the time. President Lyndon Johnson formed the Kerner Commission on July 28, 1967 to understand what caused the unrest and what could be done to stop it from happening again.
“We have to put the pressure on the people in charge in order to get this thing we call JUSTICE right. A march doesn’t work. We tried that. I’ve tried that. A couple social media post/tweet doesn’t work. We’ve all tried that. That didn’t work. Shooting 11 cops and killing 5 WILL NOT work,” Anthony continued, searching for a specific target to direct his peers toward. “While I don’t have a solution, and I’m pretty sure a lot of people don’t have a solution, we need to come together more than anything at this time. We need each other. These politicians have to step up and fight for change. I’m calling for all my fellow ATHLETES to step up and take charge. Go to your local officials, leaders, congressman, assemblymen/assemblywoman and demand change.”
Imagine what could happen today if 12 of the top Black athletes decided together “X will not happen until Y is changed” – and meant it, regardless of what their sponsors had to say about it.
“There’s NO more sitting back and being afraid of tackling and addressing political issues anymore. Those days are long gone. We have to step up and take charge. We can’t worry about what endorsements we gonna lose or whose going to look at us crazy. I need your voices to be heard. We can demand change. We just have to be willing to. THE TIME IS NOW. IM all in. Take Charge. Take Action. DEMAND CHANGE,” Anthony implored his fellow athletes.
The conclusion of Johnson’s commission reached in March of 1968, known as the Kerner Report, was essentially “our nation is moving toward two societies, one Black, one White – separate and unequal.” One month after the report was released, the country exploded into chaos following the news of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Black folks got stuck in a time capsule as we waited for someone charismatic enough to wake us up and propel us into the economic justice phase of the Civil Rights Movement, as King had begun to do before he was killed.
We now seem to be coming out of a nearly 50-year perpetual recovery from that tumultuous period. Despite these volatile times, athletes like Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James, entertainers like Jesse Williams and Killer Mike, and scholars like Michelle Alexander and Bryan Stevenson are poised to lead Black America into an era of empowerment to surpass all others.