Measuring the value of life… and legacy


On Friday, JNovel Newune 10, I was among those hundreds of millions of people around the world who witnessed–via television–the celebration of the life of a wonderful, great (most call him “the greatest”) man, and greater human being, Muhammad Ali.
I was unable to see the ceremony in ‘real time’, but through the wonder of the Internet (and a younger and more internet-savvy person than myself), I was able to watch the entire ceremony through that ‘streaming’ phenomenon. It was a veritably 21st century event, “one for the ages.”
If you missed the Muhammad Ali celebration, then you missed a lifetime… But, as mentioned earlier, there’s the Internet, with a plethora of documentaries and other information on his life for the world to see and hear. Including an interview by NPR (National Public Radio) host and CKUT radio morning newsreader Amy Goodman with author/activist/professor Ishmael Reed about the life and times of “the greatest.”
[You might remember Ishmael Reed. He was in Montreal in April 2010 at a rue St. Denis venue to read from/discuss his book, Barack Obama And The Jim Crow Media: The Return Of The Nigger Breakers. He knew Muhammad Ali well, and provided further and interesting insights into the life of the ‘great’ man.]
As stated earlier, there’s copious information about the life and times of Muhammad Ali Online, all there for you and the rest of the world to see what a truly great human being (some say “the greatest”) he was in the ring, and post-boxing, as his life evolved…). His pugilistic exploits garnered him the (the self-coined) moniker “the greatest”, but his outside-the-ring humanitarian endeavours were transcendent. He became a greater man outside the ring, courtesy of what most of us have been learning about the man in the wake of his death.
Like I said, Muhammad Ali’s was a three-hour celebration for the ages, with representation by the who-is-who from various spheres of society there to eulogize (reminisce about) a great and good man the world has come to know.
The eulogists, constituting a racial, cultural, ethnic mix [America] all of whom were apparently selected by Muhammad Ali, used their time on the dais to encapsulate the life and times of the dearly departed man they came to know on a personal level.
[Amiable] firebrand Rabbi Michael Lerner, an outspoken (‘all-around’) activist shredded the script the audience was probably expecting him to follow, in keeping with the moment (they were warned during the introduction of his penchant for ruffling feathers), instead he delivered a powerful and apropos eulogistic tirade, no doubt one which would have the boxing legend beaming and nodding approval). He praised Ali for daring “to love Black people at a time when Black people had a hard time loving themselves…”
And the Rabbi tackled just about every conceivable current issue—domestic and international—which are impacting the lives of millions in America and around the world: racism, Islamophobia, Palestine, anti-Semitism, homophobia…”
“If Muhammad Ali were here today, I’m sure his message would be this: “Don’t waste your time on this planet fighting the small battles—put your life energies and money into fundamental systemic transformation…”
He also lauded Muhammad Ali for his anti- [Vietnam] war stance.
“Knowing he would lose his title, knowing he would face the racism of American society that would be heaped upon him for saying no to the crazy war in Vietnam.”
Lerner continued to rouse the audience: “Ali said no to the war… He spoke truth to power—we must speak truth to power,” he added, in “mourning the loss and celebrating the life of Muhammad Ali, a great fighter for justice and peace…”
Seeing and hearing it is better than simply reading it. So if you missed the Muhammad Ali celebration then you missed a lot, a window into the life and times of one of those rare human beings who come along every so often to renew [our] faith in humanity by reminding us that despite the ongoing unspeakable madness we’ve become accustomed (oblivious) to there are people out there are still people out there trying to go against the tide without the fanfare some people (who have done so little) often crave.
More often than not we only learn (more) about the good ones in death than we do in life. Muhammad Ali was one of those remarkable people who come along just once, twice, or maybe three times in a lifetime.
Thankfully, these days there’s something called the Internet, which affords us a degree of access into the public and personal lives of the do-gooders and do-nothings alike.
But the Muhammad Ali celebration was not all love and kisses, without its critics.
A Black gentleman, Boyce D. Watkins, an economist, political analyst, author and Internet radio talk show host is described by some as “one of the greatest minds of our time and one of the leading Black scholars in the world, sometimes described as the People’s Scholar, leading scholar and sometimes controversial commentator.
On his Internet show he said he was disappointed at the long list of white speakers on the stage eulogizing Ali.
Everything good that happens in the Black community is co-opted by white people. “I’m sick of that crap.”
Boyce questioned the absence of prominent Civil rights activists like Harry Belafonte, among others, who were excluded from the list of eulogists at the Ali ceremony for whatever reasons, or were simply not invited.
Go Online and simply Google Muhammad Ali tributes and be privy to the wonderful, inspiring, storied life and times… of the man they called “the greatest.”
Regardless of when you were born, you will not be disappointed; you will learn about, or better stated, learn more about the life of the man.
Finally, and one can say inevitably, in cases of famous people who have moved on, a woman came out of the proverbial woodwork (fortunately for her 45 seconds or so of news mention and fame, perhaps infamy?) to say that she and Ali had a 20-year extra-marital affair which, according to her, produced a love child, a daughter.
Oh, she also has evidence to prove it, quote, “sex tapes of him”—I imagine them— which includes footage of the legendary boxer at sex parties that were arranged after his fights. If you’re interested she is willing to sell the [sex] package for a mere $100,000.
“I know the value of the footage,” she is quoted as saying. “No one has anything like this. I’d like to get as much as I can for it.”
True or false that story had roughly a 45-second life span. I only heard it once that day, which means it had no legs. Muhammad Ali’s life and legacy [will always] transcend $100K or other sex tapes. The evidence is Online for global consumption.
As the old saying goes, we learn so much more about people, especially public personalities, when they die.
But the Muhammad legacy will live…