The Legend. The Fighter. The Activist. The Black Muslim. The King. So many titles, but there is one that stands tall above the others – The Greatest. On Friday 3rd of June 2016, the world lost the man who bears this title. Muhammad Ali. A true tragedy for a world infested with racism, conflict and war. He was a man who mesmerised the world with his outstanding boxing talent, who teased mind-sets with his rhyming words of wisdom, wit and verbal velocity – but it was through his personal experiences where his political defiance shone through. Today, in his passing, Muhammad Ali is praised for standing up against the white supremacist system and against war, but how many of us would have acknowledged and celebrated this giant act of rebelliousness at the time?
For most of his life America tried to silence him. They thought living with Parkinson’s would silence him. They were wrong. Instead he continued to fight, long after the boxing gloves were hung up. Long after he risked his heavyweight title and boxing legacy, when he publicly refused to support the American government’s decision to invade Vietnam.
“Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?”
Yet, here we are to today seeing Americans speak so highly of him as a hero, while America still continues to create more wars than peace.
"Muhammad Ali was America. Muhammad Ali will always be America." (Senior presidential aide on behalf of the Obama’s)
If he was ‘America’ then why did he toss his medal in a river? Because he was disgusted by the country he represented and grew up in. Because he held tight to his beliefs, he knew what was right, and never wanted to side with his oppressors. History shows that America is the definition of corruption, lies and illusions, none of which Ali represented. Ali was the beacon of hope and peace America never was, and never will be.
In the face of racial adversity, war and disease, Ali was the demonstrator of great strength, tenacity and wisdom. He was America’s most hated black man after the assassination of Malcolm X in 1964. Not once did he back down from a televised debate or interview. His eloquence, his ability to discuss conceptually and challenge mind-sets is how he captivated millions. Muhammad Ali came, he spoke and he conquered the world. Ali’s admirable defiance is a stark reminder to the injustices of white supremacy.
When you are black and in a powerful position, you have the power to awaken the consciousness of the people, so you are not recognised and celebrated until your time has ended. Why? Because you are no longer controversial and when you are not controversial anymore you are no longer a threat to the system. It’s the same story with Malcom X, Patrice Lumumba, Huey Newton, Harriet Tubman, and so many other true black heroes. They all played a part in stimulating consciousness amongst black people – a threat to European agendas, yet they are celebrated more in death than they were alive. If we don’t want to see history repeat itself in this way, we need to mobilise a revolution collectively, rather than relying on individuals to take the lead. Each and every one of us must lead in some way, otherwise what we do now will not have a great enough impact until we pass. Do we want this to happen?
We must support and celebrate our people who are brave enough to fight the system hands on like the man himself. When Ali tossed his medal into a river as a sign of disgust at the country he represented and grew up in, he made it clear what he thought of America.
Muhammad Ali has left this world, and we will never know if we will see another King or Queen with anything that is even close to him. To the outside world his controversy had ended. Let us continue to preserve his legacy because to us, it is raw and it is truth. The media cannot be allowed to white wash what this man proudly stood for - a stance of melanated resilience against a system which never wanted to acknowledge or celebrate what gave him the title of ‘The Greatest’.