“I done wrestled with an alligator, I done tussled with a whale; handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder in jail; only last week, I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalised a brick; I’m so mean I make medicine sick.”
The past Friday saw the passing of a legend. Hot-headed, swift-footed, foul-mouthed and infinitely talented, the death of Muhammad Ali struck a personal blow to many across the globe. Ali was one of the greatest boxers to have ever stepped into a ring, but he was so much more. He stood up for what he believed in, raising his voice against racism, Islamophobia, and war.
Ali was Muslim and Black at a time when it was very difficult to be either. His fire and his fierce, fierce spirit transgressed all socially constructed divisions and spoke directly to a one’s soul warming it with the power of hope. For the Muslims and the Blacks, he represented a beacon that cut through the prejudice that enveloped them and ushered them into the light.
Ali knew that #BlackLivesMatter long before it became a hashtag. He pointed the inadequate representation of people of colour long before it became a topic commonly discussed:
“See, we have been brainwashed. Everything good and of authority was made white. We look at Jesus, we see a white with blond hair and blue eyes. We look at all the angels, we see white with blond hair and blue eyes. Now, I’m sure if there’s a heaven in the sky and the colored folks die and go to heaven, where are the colored angels? They must be in the kitchen preparing the milk and honey. We look at Miss America, we see white. We look at Miss World, we see white. We look at Miss Universe, we see white. Even Tarzan, the king of the jungle in black Africa, he’s white! … Black dirt is the best dirt. Brown sugar causes fewer cavities, and the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice.”
For boxing enthusiasts, Ali revolutionised the art. Watching him duck and weave around his opponent was like watching a cat dance and toy with it’s slow, clumsy prey. Light-footed and agile, Ali was a heavy-weight who would “float like a butterfly, and sting like a bee.”
Muhammad Ali was so much more than a smooth, well-oiled fighting machine. He was brave, strong and passionate. Remember him not as the old man confined to a wheelchair, but as the passionate youth who refused to go to war with people who had done him no harm, remember as the young man who brought hope to the downtrodden, remember him as a man who stood for what he believed in, remember him as the “Greatest of All Time”.
If you’d like to make a donation to the Muhammad Ali Centre, click here. The Muhammad Ali Center will continue Ali’s legacy of humanitarian work through its local, national and international global programs. The mission of the Muhammad Ali Center is to continue to preserve and share the legacy and ideals of Muhammad Ali, to promote respect, hope, and understanding, and to inspire adults and children everywhere to be as great as they can be.
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