hated every minute of training, but I said…Don’t quit.
Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a Champion”
(Muhammad Ali). I hung a poster with these words on it in my ten
year-old son’s room just one month ago. I chose this poster,
not because it shows Muhammad Ali standing triumphantly over Sonny
Liston as Liston lies on the floor of the boxing ring. Rather, I
chose this poster for my son because of its message – work hard
now, and live the rest of your life the way YOU want to live it.
Muhammad Ali once said “I know where I’m going and I know
the truth, and I don’t have to be what you want me to be. I’m
free to be what I want” (Muhammad Ali). For a ten year-old
Black boy in America there is no greater message, and there is no
greater messenger than the Champion, Muhammad Ali.
Ali, born Cassius Clay in Louisville, KY in 1942, began his boxing
career at age 12, winning the highly coveted Golden Gloves just six
years later; then going on to win the Olympic Gold medal in 1960.
There is no denying that Muhammad Ali was an incredibly talented
athlete, but what made Muhammad Ali stand head and shoulders above
all others was his pride. He never doubted that he would one day be a
champion. Ali once said “I am the greatest - I said that even
before I knew I was” (Muhammad Ali). He spoke of himself in the
highest regard, and he believed it; often referring to himself as
“pretty” or “a bad man”. In a time where
being a Black man made you an instant target of cruel bigotry, when
Blacks faced what seemed to be insurmountable discrimination, when it
seemed our nation was trying its hardest to keep Blacks from
progressing in any way, Muhammad Ali, said what he wanted, did what
he wanted, and told us that we could and should do the same.
Ali was not just a boxer, he was the epitome of a Black man –
handsome, strong, outspoken, confident, cocky, but most importantly -
conscious. When confronted with draft dodging allegations, Ali fought
the charges, victoriously taking his fight all the way to the Supreme
Court. Ali refused to submit to the draft, reasoning that as a Black
man he had no reason to go to Vietnam to fight when there was a war
against Blacks in America, stating “I got nothing against no
Viet Cong, no Vietnamese ever called me a nigger” (Muhammad
we think of the Black man in America we should think of Muhammad Ali
because he is the standard to measure all men against –
activist, advocate, athlete, devoted father and husband. Muhammad Ali
taught us how to rumble, young man, rumble – to stand up for
what we believe in, to be proud of who
we are, to be proud of being Black. As Ali once said “I am
America. I am the part you won't recognize. But get used to me.
Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours;
my goals, my own; get used to me” (Muhammad Ali).