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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Muhammad Ali's Twentieth -Century Revolt

Muhammad AliMuhammad Ali (Image via

"You want to send me to jail? Fine, you go right ahead. I've been in jail for 400 years. I could be there for 4 or 5 more, but I ain't going no 10,000 miles to help murder and kill other poor people. If I want to die, I'll die right here, right now, fightin' you, if I want to die. You my enemy, not no Chinese, no Vietcong, no Japanese. You my opposer when I want freedom. You my opposer when I want justice. You my opposer when I want equality. Want me to go somewhere and fight for you? You won't even stand up for me right here in America, for my rights and my religious beliefs. You won't even stand up for my right here at home."
~Muhammad Ali 

You have to respect Muhammad Ali's stance. If you know the story, there is no way not to admire the way he licked out against injustice. At the time, he was the undisputed, heavy-weight champion of the world. He was as recognizable as any president or prime minister. He was loved by millions who considered him out spoken and confident. He was maybe hated by millions also, because that said confidence was seen by some as brash and boastful. In any case , Ali was seen by many Black people as a conscientious Brother with a mad swag and charisma, one who would was never 'fraid to chat how We feel. The situation was laden with irony: the source of Ali's fame and livelihood was the said system he was lashing out against.

There are many facets and layers to this story. The Vietnamese War caused rift between Americans, Black or White. It was part of the whole Cold War posturing between the U.S. and U.S.S.R, and many of us in the so-called Third World were affected by the "super powers" insistence that countries line up with one or the other. Many of us in the Caribbean and Africa felt the ramifications of political friction- Capitalist vs Socialist propaganda and manipulation, CIA vs KGB coercion.
At the time, Black people in America were going through the fight for civil rights. Many of the Brothers and Sisters in the military were in conflict over their feelings of  loyalty for the Black Struggle and commitment to patriotic duty. Refusing induction into the military to fight what he felt was an unjust war was a bold statement- a Twentieth-century act of Revolt.

When I look at old media takes, film and interviews, Ali was adamant, yet dignified in his statements against the war. When he mentioned his solidarity with poor people world wide, his voice is pounding with conviction. His refusal to go fight in Vietnam wound him up in court, facing prison time, being stripped of his boxing title and losing millions of dollars. Even though he was eventually offered a "soft" position in the military where he wouldn't face any fighting, Ali still refused to be drafted, based on his religious beliefs.
Jah know, Muhammad Ali's stance against the system is the reason I consider him the Greatest (fighter of all time). 
He got up, stood up for his rights. And ours.

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