Shop Talk: Mecca Salutes Civil Rights

Urban apparel and footwear maker Mecca USA recalls a controversial moment in history in its spring ad campaign.

The campaign, from Mixed Business Group in New York, is inspired by the pro test by two African American athletes at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. During the medal ceremony for the 200-meter dash, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, the gold and bronze medalists, raised their fists in a black-power salute as “The Star-Spangled Banner” played.

The goal was to call attention to the treatment of blacks in America. Smith and Carlos were suspended from the national team and banned from the Olympic Village, and they subsequently received death threats. Thirty-five years later, Mixed Business hopes the ad will encourage strength and individuality in today’s youth. “We’re bringing such an iconic moment to people who might not know of it,” says Charles Hall, director of client services.

The first ad, due in March issues of magazines such as Stuff, Vibe, XXL and The Source, shows a young man standing on a podium, dressed in a Mecca hooded sweatshirt and raising his fist against a New York backdrop. “Chase the dream, not the competition,” it reads.

Hall says he isn’t worried about possible charges that the ad exploits a pivotal moment in civil rights for commercial pur poses. “Our intention is to high light the good that came out of it,” he says, citing the progress that civil rights activists have made. Though he doesn’t anticipate a negative response, he admits, “It’ll be interesting to see how people react.”