On Thursday February 17, 2011; the one and only Rubin â€œHurricaneâ€ Carter came to York University in Toronto, Ontario, Canada to provide a lecture and speech on his life. York University had recently been plagued by a couple of disturbing incidents: Last summer a student of African descent was beaten to death on the campus by police officers who believed he had drugs on him, and far more recently there was message written in marker on the school walls saying â€œAll black people should go back to Africaâ€.
For those not familiar with Rubin Carterâ€™s story, he was a professional middleweight fighter during the peak racial violence times of the 1950â€™s and 1960â€™s. Rubin was a contender for the middleweight crown and even fought for the title on one occasion, coming up just short.
The real significance of Rubinâ€™s life came from outside the ring. In 1966 and nearing 30 years old, Rubin was jailed for the murder of a bartender and its patrons in a racially motivated attack. He maintained his innocence but however lost two jury trials and was ordered to spend the rest of his life in jail. Icons such as Muhammad Ali and Bob Dylan supported Rubinâ€™s fight for justice. In 1985, the Supreme Court of the United States felt he had been wrongly convicted of the murders and set him free at 50 years old and after 20 years in jail.
Several books have been written about Carterâ€™s life and a major motion picture titled â€œThe Hurricaneâ€ starring Denzel Washington was produced in 1999 about his story, for which Denzel was nominated for an Oscar.
Now 74 years old, Rubin reflected on his life and shared his thoughts with the inspired crowd at York University.
His feelings on Denzel Washington:
You can see just by the shine in Rubinâ€™s eyes when he talks Denzel just how much high respect he has for the great actor. He went on to even state that the best experience in his entire life was watching Denzel portray him on the big screen. Rubin said that when â€œThe Hurricaneâ€ movie was being made; he sat and spoke with dozens of potential actors who wanted to star as him in the movie, including Samuel Jackson, Wesley Snipes and even middleweight legend Marvin Hagler. Rubin was being very selective of who he chose to portray his life on the big screen and then one night sat with Denzel at a restaurant dinner.
After chit chatting for a while, Rubin got up for a moment. When he got back to the table he saw that Denzel was gone too. In the distance he saw the actor in front a mirror making gestures to himself. When they both sat down again, Rubin said this is where â€œhe fell in loveâ€. Denzel was giving Rubin back to Rubin, mimicking the way he talked, his facial expressions and his body movements. Rubin was immediately sold and gave the green light for Denzel to star in the film.
On his first ever professional fight:
Rubin then told the crazy story of his first ever professional fight. He was sitting in the crowd as a spectator of a boxing event; eating a hot dog, talking with a young lady and in general just having fun. His trainer then came running to him and told him heâ€™s finally got a fight for him. When the excited Rubin asked what date, the trainer replied â€œYouâ€™re up next!â€
Even though he was not prepared at all, he knew this was an opportunity for him to showcase his skills to the boxing public. He immediately ran to the back and after borrowing bits and pieces of gear and equipment from various fighters, he came out looking like some kind of circus act in red shoes, green socks, a purple robe and toilet paper in his mouth as a mouth guard. With the crowd and the opponent all laughing at his appearance, he went on to win the fight and got the last laugh on everyone. Rubin stressed toÂ the audienceÂ that these small opportunities come up all the time and we must do all in our power just as he did on that night to make the most of them.
The most important thing he has to say to anyone who cares to listen to him is to â€œDare to Dreamâ€. Once a human being is able to have a dream and actually visualize that dream, the person changes and so does the world around him or her. The dream becomes a goal, and only with that goal can someone go out into the world and get things accomplished.
Rubin says that without that goal in your life, your sense of good/bad and right/wrong is a mess and youâ€™re left in darkness searching for a reason to exist. He stressed that everyone should do everything humanly possible to realize their dream because once an opportunity passes by, itâ€™s not just gone for that moment but gone forever as that moment of time lives on for eternity. Just as he did when his trainer came up to him for his first fight, you should never let an opportunity no matter how small or big pass when it associates with reaching your dreams.
What was his dream?
He had the same dream of every prizefighter or professional competitor; to become champion of the world. Even when he was locked away in prison, he still believed he would one day become middleweight champion of the world. His dream kept him going and helped him survive the rigours of prison life. Even as the years passed away and the prime of his career ticked away, he still believed he would one day reach his dream.
He then however woke one up one day in his cell and noticed he could not see out of one of his eyes. The unsanitary conditions he was living in apparently damaged the eye and the lack of medical attention he received resulted in him being blinded in that eye. It was then he came to the conclusion then he would never become middleweight champion. This realization hurt him much more than losing his eyesight and it was internal torture to live knowing that attaining his dream was no longer possible.
His life in 1966 right before and when the murders occurred:
Even though in 1966 the United States was plagued by racial tensions and the civil rights movement was causing commotions throughout the country, Rubin was very satisfied with the life he was living. He was earning more than $100,000 a year (which was HUGE back then) and living in the suburbs with acres of land. He was married to a beautiful woman and the owner of a stable of horses, a 36 ft yacht and a few beautiful cars.
Then the murders occurred and all of a sudden he was being threatened with the electric chair. He noted that at this time of explosive racial relations; the prosecutors, staff, judges, witnesses and most importantly the jury were all white. Even though he mercilessly claimed he was innocent and had an alibi, passed a lie detector test and had witnesses corroborate his whereabouts that New Jersey night; he was still found guilty and sentenced to life in jail. He credits his expensive lawyers for being the only reason he was able to escape the death penalty.
He described life in prison as making you feel powerless, helpless and fearful. Heis diet was now eating five stale slices of bread a day along with unsanitary water. Rubin studied his case relentlessly during his years in prison and became an expert in the field of law due to all his studying. He also noted that he refused to partake in standard jailhouse routines as he felt he was not guilty of any crime, and thus would not submit to behaving as one who is guilty.
His freedom and how he finally was able to realize his dream:
In 1985 when the Supreme Court agreed he did not receive a fair trial and dismissed him of all charges, Rubin was finally free at 50 years old and after nearly 20 years behind bars for a crime he maintains he had no part of. Rubin says that he always had faith in the justice system and what gave him most satisfaction in the Supreme Courtâ€™s decision was the fact he no longer had the â€œmurdererâ€ label attached to his name.
To provide ultimate proof that dreams can come true even in the direst of circumstances, Rubin went over to his bag and pulled out two belts. A few years after his release, the WBC and WBA boxing organizations awarded him honorary middleweight championship titles for his ultimate fight for freedom and his dedication to the wrongly convicted. After a false murder conviction, a near execution, a blind eye and 20 years in prison; Rubin â€œHurricaneâ€ Carter was finally middleweight champion of the world.
With the belts held high and the crowd roaring in applause for â€œThe Hurricaneâ€, Rubin Carter proved to the crowd that nothing is impossible, proved that you should never give up on your dreams and finally, proved that it is ok to â€œDare to Dreamâ€.
Notes from the Event:
During the Q&A session, a student of Jewish background took exception to Rubin at one point lightly comparing his journey to the Jewish holocaust of World War 2 and stated his disappointment with Rubin. Rubin countered by bringing up the years of African slavery and one is not â€œless worseâ€ than the other. As the student tried to rebuke Rubin and counter again the crowd booed him off and cheered for Rubin.
Rubin referred to the two witnesses who testified that he was the murderer in 1966 as â€œjailhouse snitchesâ€ who were looking to make a deal with the prosecution to excuse their own past transgressions.
Rubin says that he has no organized religion that he follows but is a very spiritual person. He says more info on his spiritual beliefs can be identified in his new book â€œEye of The Hurricane.â€
Rubin says he does not keep up with the current affairs of boxing.
There was a book and poster signing after the event; Rubin stayed back for about a couple hours signing autographs and taking pictures.
It was a great lecture provided by Rubin Carter and everyone who attended got their moneyâ€™s worth and more. I would encourage any boxing fan or anyone in general to attend one of his speaking engagements if he has an event in your area.