Time to Walk - Time to Walk with Carmelo Anthony

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Carmelo Anthony: Well, walking, for me, is a opportunity for me to kind of recenter myself, re-focus, observe, think, take some me time. I take walks at night by myself. People always say, “Why you… Why you always walking?” But that’s my time to kind of reflect on the day or reflect on the day that’s ahead of me and just think.


Sam Sanchez: It’s Time to Walk, where some of the world’s most interesting and inspiring people share stories, photos, and songs that have influenced their lives.

10-time NBA All-Star Carmelo Anthony is more than just a basketball icon. He was the first ever recipient of the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Award for his activism. On this walk, he talks about embracing the things that make you different and standing up for what you believe in.

Carmelo Anthony: Right now, we in the back of Red Hook. Red Hook, for me, is like… It’s like a island on a island, Brooklyn being the island. And you just got Red Hook being that last stop.

To me, this is one of the best views in New York. I mean, you get the Statue of Liberty right here. Like, you get the water, you get the waterfront, the pier. You get everything. You get the whole of New York right here from Red Hook.

I never knew, like, the beginning of Red Hook or… I just knew my circle of Red Hook. Every time I come back to Red Hook, I’m like, “D***, it… it done came a long way.” You know, now you see people out here laying down, picnicking, probably meditating, you know, observing and just taking it all in.


People used to butcher my name, like Camelo, Caramello. Like, it was just… It never was Carmelo at the end of the day. But I never really liked my name because I never knew my name. I never knew the true essence of my name.

So I moved to Baltimore the summer of ‘92, June of ’92, under the impression that it would be better than my situation that I was in here in Red Hook. And, when I get to school that upcoming year, my third-grade year, because I was so afraid of telling them my name was Carmelo, I told them my name was Tyrone. You know, when you’re a kid, you got to put the name on the index cards. So I put my name on the index card, and it was Tyrone. And I couldn’t figure out a last name. And what’s one of the most commonly used last names, was Johnson. So I put Tyrone Johnson on there.

And I became Tyrone Johnson at that point. So it wasn’t until I got in trouble at school, you know, talking back and being… me being a little bad as a third grader, I got suspended. So I’m trying to be slick and, like, act like I’m going to school, put my uniform on, put my backpack on, walk up to the school. And the kids go in the school, and I stay in the yard. So I faked it until I made it, but I also got caught trying to make it. And my mom seen me.

And my mom, you know, we go in the school, and the teacher’s calling her Miss Johnson. And she’s like, “Miss Johnson? I don’t know. Who’s Miss Johnson? Why do you keep calling me Miss Johnson?”

And she’s like, “You know, your son is Tyrone Johnson.”

She was like, “My son name is Carmelo Anthony. It’s not Tyrone Johnson.”

So I’m sitting there dumbfounded, just like, “I’m caught. You know, I’m… this is it.”

So I got in trouble. I go back home, and then me and my mother have a conversation. I remember the conversation vividly. She tells me, “Never be afraid of who you are. Never be afraid to represent your name. You was given that name for a reason.”

I never knew what that reason was, and I never really understood my dad. I had just lost my dad. I was five years into, you know, my dad passing. So I didn’t understand him. I didn’t understand what was going… I just knew I was half Puerto Rican. That was it.

My father was Carmelo Iriarte. They used to call him Curly because he had a big fro. He had long eyelashes. Like, and it’s funny to say that, but he had long eyelashes, like to the point, like, they’d curl.

And my mother told me, my dad was the guy who was in the neighborhood, in the projects, who… He was a full-blown Puerto Rican. And he held everybody in the projects. If you needed something, he was there. If there was trouble in the neighborhood, he was coming up. If you needed help with the groceries, he was going to the store, getting the groceries, bringing them up. So, whether it was good deed, bad deed, he was there indeed. Like, he was… It didn’t even matter for him.

And then he was a part of the New York chapter of the Young Lords. In the laymen’s terms, I like… I like to say the Young Lords were the Puerto Rican version of the Black Panthers, right? And a lot of people don’t understand that and don’t know that, don’t know that history. So my dad was a part of all of that.

And, at that moment, when I found out my dad was a Young Lord, that changed everything for me because then now, I became more aware, woke in a sense, understanding who I was, my history. And at that point, I’m like, I’m Melo. Like, you know, I’m Carmelo Anthony. I’m a proud Puerto Rican. I’m a proud Latino. I’m… You know, this is who I am. I’m a Afro-Latino. So all of it made sense, but it took for me to go though that being Tyrone Johnson for me to understand how powerful that name, Carmelo, was.

I’m glad that it happened because who knows? I probably wouldn’t have been here today being able to tell that story about Carmelo versus Tyrone Johnson. I’m not happy that I got suspended in the third grade. But I’m happy that that sense of discovery happened for me.

And my son is old enough to… Now he’s 14. So he’s old enough to understand that he’s a Afro-Latino. But I have to keep telling him like, “I need you to understand how important it is to know who you are, but also you have to do your own discovery. I can tell you all day long. I can tell the stories, but it’s not until you take everything in and really, truly understand and start putting things together the way that I did because that’s what… that’s what works for me. Even though you’re my son, I still want you to identify with who you are, figure out who you are. I’m going to help you. I’m going to give you the information. I’m going to put the wisdom right there for you. Now it’s up to you to understand that.”


So, end of my junior year… I lived a hour and a half away from my school, Towson Catholic. I had to catch one bus to a light rail, one light rail to a bus every morning. And I didn’t have the resources to get to school like that every single day. So how ever way I could get to school, I would get to school whether it was waiting on somebody on my block to take me to school. But you on their time. So I was late a lot of times to school.

And when I’m talking about late, it was one minute late to class, three minutes late to class. Maybe they shut the door early on me, and I was late. So, after the year, all of that accumulated. And I had like 90-something days late, and it was just a lot on my transcript. And they wanted those detention days. And I didn’t understand why I was going through that. I just felt like I was being picked on.

So, end of my junior year, I get kicked out of Towson Catholic for not wanting to make up detention days or come back in the summertime and scrub tables just to get my transcript. So now, I’m in a pickle right now because I’m becoming the number one player in high school in the country. I’m getting kicked out of the school I’ve been in for three years already.

But wound up going to Oak Hill. It’s a boarding school. So you’re around all of these different people. But Oak Hill prepared me for just life, right? Living on your own, you adding structure to your life. You got to wake up at a certain time. You got to go to sleep at a certain time. You got to eat at a certain time. Lights out, you know, it’s lights out at 9:00 and no cell phone. And, like, it’s… That was hard. But what it does, it forced me to really lock in and put the effort into what really needs that effort.

I was forced to focus, I was forced to, you know, do things the proper way. One of the main reasons for me going there or people around me wanting me to go there was because they understood what was at stake. They understood I outgrew what was happening in Baltimore, and I didn’t want to accept it at that point in time. And people around me knew it, and they, they d*** near forced me to get out of Baltimore.

You can always take a negative and turn it into a positive. You may not see it right away. Like me, I didn’t see it right away. I just knew this was a negative situation. I couldn’t see what was the positive coming out of that.


Reflecting back on the point in time where police brutality for me and for us as a community, as a country was at an all-time high, like, this was the moment. It was just so much tension in the Black community when it came to police brutality.

Philando Castile, you know, Alton Sterling, those was the ones that kind of, like, put everything over the top, you know? I had the Freddie Gray situation that was very close to me being in Baltimore. So that was a tough situation. And I’m laying in my bed one night, and I’m like, “What do I say? Like, I have to say something. I have to put something up. Like, what do I do?”

But nothing came to me. I go, I lay down. I go to sleep at night. In the middle of the night, I wake up, and I just start typing. It was just a call to action of all my fellow athletes. You know, now is the time for us to speak out, you know, say what we got to say. You know, we can’t keep holding back, thinking that we’re going to lose this deal or lose that deal and sponsors. If the sponsors is on board, and they really have any type of sense of humanity, then they will understand. They will get behind it.

So, at that point, I was ready to risk it all. In my mind, I was like, “I don’t care. I’m not telling nobody what I’m writing. I’m just going to do it, put it out. I’ll deal with the repercussions. I’ll deal with the consequences but this is coming from the soul right here.”

So that resonated, you know, with Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. And I get the call the next day, and everybody like, “Yo, man, we got to talk.” We have a opportunity to go to the ESPYS. The ESPY Awards is a athlete awards show put on by the ESPN. And it’s all the best athletes in one place, in one location for an awards show.

And they just like, “Come on, man. Like, this is our moment. Like, we have to figure…”

I’m like, “We don’t have nothing figured out, and this is too serious of a situation for me to just go stand at the ESPYS and say one small thing. And that’s not really making a impact.” I said, “We, us four, are the four most powerful athletes in the world at this time. So what are we really going to do?”

And we came, and we spoke to the ESPN people and the ESPYS, and it was like, “You guys have the floor to do whatever y’all want to do.” And, at that point, I’m like, “We need to open it. Like we need to set this up. It’s us four. We making a statement.”

So, being in the green room, it was… You know, we was nervous, but it wasn’t so much being nervous. It was just more like not knowing what was going to happen, understanding as a country, as a community, what we was dealing with. And, like, it was a lot of pressure on the four of us to get up there and make that stance, and we felt that.


Carmelo Anthony: Good evening. Tonight is a celebration of sports, celebrating our accomplishments and our victories.


Carmelo Anthony: We took deep breaths, and we just went out there. And it just started flowing out there on the stage for us.


Carmelo Anthony: We cannot ignore the realities of the current state of America. The events of the past week have put a spotlight on the injustice, distrust and anger that plague so many of us. The system is broken. The problems are not new. The violence is not new. And the racial divide definitely is not new. But the urgency to create change is at an all-time high.


The response was like… It was a standing ovation. But also, you could see people, mannerisms. You could see them like, “Oh, the pressure’s on us now. We have to do something. We have to step up to the plate.” Like, this is Ali and Jim Brown. Like, this is one of those moments but even, I think, even on a bigger scale than that.

And that was the only thing we wanted to do, was just kind of force people to step up to the plate and try not to think about nothing else, just think about how you can help, how you can make a impact in your community, what we can do, how we can come together.


We’ve arrived here at the… Call it the pier, in the back of Red Hook. 
This was one of those communities that we just could never come. I mean, we’re talking about, for me, mid-’80s, late ’80s, early ’90s. And that was really kind of the height of a lot of racism.

So we stayed in the projects and we couldn’t come back here. It was very, very dangerous back here growing up. But now, being able to just walk back here now at this point of my life and reflecting back on everything that I’ve seen growing up. I’ve seen things that kids wasn’t supposed to see. But actually just being here now and understanding how beautiful this waterfront is, I wish I would’ve took advantage of this when I was younger.

This will always be my home. This will always be my base. This is where the makeup, the true essence of Carmelo Anthony, this is where it stems from.

Music, to me, is like, it’s like food. It’s just, like, we need it. Like, I need it. I need to hear it. I need to understand it. I need to tap into who that artist is. I need to see the work that the artist put into it. Like, it’s, it’s the artistry for me when it comes to music. Also, you got to be saying something. You got have some type of substance in the song, on the album. But I look at it as art, right? You got this canvas, and what you going to do with this canvas? You got a blank canvas.

I love the way that artists put albums together, right, how they take you on this arc. You know, they start off slow, and they build you up, and they take you here. And then they bring you back down, and then they wake you up again. And then it just… you know, it mellows out at the end. I love when a artist does that. And, for me, if I can break down a album like that or a song that I… for me, personally, I think that that’s a great art form right there. That’s a great album for me.

Eric B. & Rakim, “Paid In Full”, that was, like, the… that was, like, the anthem for me growing up in Red Hook. And I didn’t even know what this song was, you know? I just knew every morning we woke up, Eric B., “Paid In Full” was being played. Like, I’m talking about it was on repeat. So “Paid In Full”, to me, is a very special song.


So “Why (Remix)” featuring Jadakiss and Anthony Hamilton, like, that song… It meant something when I first heard it. But that was, like, one of the first true activism songs of that era, right, of 2000s. And people was talking about some whole other stuff in 2000, but for Kiss to come with that “Why” and just ask all of these questions on… you know, speaking on politics and politicians and sports and just music, and it was so many questions that people wanted answers to, but they was afraid to ask those questions. And Kiss was the one who kind of jumped out there and started asking those questions. It made you think.


“Quiet Storm” by Mobb Deep is just one of those songs that, when you hear it, it’s like you automatically know what that is. That “Quiet Storm” hit different, you know what I’m saying? So it was just a song that no matter where you was at, no matter what I was doing, kid growing up, even to this day, when I’m in a need of a song, “Quiet Storm” is going to be on that playlist for sure.


Today was just, like, a… It was… It was very reflective for me coming back here and being in Red Hook again and being in the place where I couldn’t come to when I was younger, but actually now reflecting on that, observing that. Like, this was where I grew up at. I didn’t even know this side of where I was growing up at. So now the story comes back full circle. So I had a great walk today.

Thank you for taking the time to walk with me today.