Celebrating Black History Month…
Muhammad Ali is a role model for me. He reminds me that confidence is often misconstrued as arrogance. He has a courage of purpose that is unforgiving. I realize that there are times when others want me to “dim my light” to make them comfortable with me. And like Muhammad Ali, I believe that to do so makes me a phony of the worst kind… a phony to myself.
“I am an expression of the divine, just like a peach is, just like a fish is. I have a right to be this way…I can’t apologize for that, nor can I change it, nor do I want to… We will never have to be other than who we are in order to be successful…We realize that we are as ourselves unlimited and our experiences valid. It is for the rest of the world to recognize this, if they choose.” -Alice Walker, The Color Purple
Muhammad Ali (born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr.; January 17, 1942) is an American former professional boxer, generally considered among the greatest heavyweights in the sport’s history. A controversial and polarizing figure during his early career, Ali is today widely regarded for not only the skills he displayed in the ring but also the values he exemplified outside of it: religious freedom, racial justice and the triumph of principle over expedience. He is one of the most recognized sports figures of the past 100 years, crowned “Sportsman of the Century” by Sports Illustrated and “Sports Personality of the Century” by the BBC.
Born Cassius Clay, at the age of 22 he won the world heavyweight championship in 1964 from Sonny Liston in a stunning upset. Shortly after that bout, Ali joined the Nation of Islam and changed his name. He subsequently converted to Sunni Islam in 1975.
In 1967, three years after winning the heavyweight title, Ali refused to be conscripted into the U.S. military, citing his religious beliefs and opposition to the Vietnam War. He was eventually arrested and found guilty on draft evasion charges and stripped of his boxing title. He did not fight again for nearly four years—losing a time of peak performance in an athlete’s career. Ali’s appeal worked its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, where in 1971 his conviction was overturned. Ali’s actions as a conscientious objector to the war made him an icon for the larger counterculture generation. Ali remains the only three-time lineal World Heavyweight Champion; he won the title in 1964, 1974, and 1978.