PITTSBURG -- Cecilia Stone was 21 years old when Olympic bronze medalist John Carlos raised a gloved fist in a controversial human rights salute during the 200-meter medal ceremony at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City.
"It was very important, and probably at my age then I didn't understand it all," Stone said before Carlos spoke at a Pittsburg event on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, one of several activities that took place Monday in Contra Costa County.
She and her husband, Tim Stone, were among several hundred people who heard Carlos give the event's keynote speech at the Creative Arts Building at Pittsburg High School after an earlier rally and march to celebrate King's legacy. Carlos recounted the fist raising, a salute that was echoed by gold medalist Tommie Smith, as an "enormously powerful" yet nonviolent gesture meant to draw from King's approach to improving civil rights without resorting to violence.
"That was why there was the glove (based) on the message that Dr. King gave me," Carlos said. "Dr. King is in each and every one of us if we take his values."
Carlos was introduced by Eddie Hart, a Pittsburg resident who was on the track team that won the 4x100 relay race at the 1972 Summer Olympics.
"He did it as a way of speaking out against injustice," Hart said of the raised-glove salute.
The MLK event in Pittsburg is now in its 10th year.
Monday's event also featured Latino Unidos dancers and gospel singers.
Ruben Rosalez, a native and resident of Pittsburg who now has a top-ranking job with the U.S. Labor Department to help make sure workers are paid fair wages, spoke of King's support of the labor movement and how he viewed good-paying jobs as providing a basis for strong families.
"Dr. King's legacy is still here. The movement still has to exist, " Rosalez said. "We have a lot of work to do. He wants us to do that work."
The three high-school winners of a spoken-word poetry contest were also recognized. Salvador Turner, a student at Black Diamond High, won first prize and Julian Howell, who attends Pittsburg High, took second prize. Dylan Collins, a student at Black Diamond High, won third prize.
Howell stood up on the stage and read his poem, which included the line "to my brown brother from another mother, I will fight for you ... to my red brother from another mother, I will fight for you."
Contact Eve Mitchell at 925-779-7189. Follow her on Twitter.com/EastCounty_Girl.