CLEVELAND (WJW) — The National Basketball Social Justice Coalition in partnership with the Cavaliers and the city of Cleveland dedicated a new marker Friday at the site of the historical 1967 Cleveland Summit.
Walter Beach, 89, one of the original participants unveiled the marker honoring the 55th anniversary of the summit. It is located near 105th Street and Euclid Avenue, the site of the former Negro Industrial Building, now the Cleveland Chapter of the American Cancer Society.
“We’re looking forward to making sure that Cleveland maintains its presence in terms of really helping shape the national conversation on social justice for Black Americans,” said Mayor Justin Bibb.
An iconic photo documented the summit on June 4, 1967 during the heart of the civil rights movement and protests against the Vietnam War.
The picture shows Muhammad Ali with other athletes, including Jim Brown, Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, speaking about Ali’s opposition to going to war while he says Black people were being treated unfairly at home.
The photo also includes Carl Stokes, who would become Cleveland’s mayor and the first black mayor of a major American city.
Former FOX 8 employee Alex Stokes spoke at the event. She is the great-niece of Mayor Stokes.
“This summit was a civil rights milestone,” she said.
“We go to the hotel. Beach can’t come into the hotel because negroes can’t come into this hotel. Coach Kelly says, ‘if he can’t come into the hotel, we’ll sleep on the bus,'” said Beach.
Beach was the only Black player on the Central Michigan University football team. He says the summit sparked a movement of athletes becoming active in social justice.
“This is about human dignity, that’s what the challenge is. The challenge is, can you be human? Can you be a human being and respect other human beings and not only respect them, but give them the right to be the human being that they are?” Beach said.
“The NBA family continues to do the same, the players continue to do the same, our coaches continue to fight the same social justice,” said former NBA player Dikembe Mutombo.
“The Cleveland Summit marked, in my opinion, just the beginning of opportunity, the beginning of athletes using their voices to really create change and build momentum in a positive way in society, so for us, it’s an iconic moment,” said Nic Barlage, Cleveland Cavaliers CEO.
The actual monument, designed by the Marcus Graham Project, will be placed on the site this fall.
“Anything you can do to help benefit and lead to a better understanding for our community and on people, that’s necessary,” Beach said.
The monument is a partnership between the NBA, the Cavaliers and the city of Cleveland.
The American Cancer Society says it is involved to include health care disparities as part of the conversation.