Great lesson in self belief, fortitude, courage, and strength can be learned from the life of Mohammad Ali. This champion of the people has left us, but his memory will live on. He inspires many whether you are black or white and any colour in between, rich or poor.
When I was a young boy, I admired Mohammad Ali, for who he was, what I and many people considered the greatest of champions. As I grew older I realized his fame supersedes the boxing skills. His iconic presence supersedes, his the boxing ring, so I grew to admire him for what he stood for, his humanity, his fight for racial equality, social justice and peace transcends his race and culture, even religion. Today the same people, the ones who wanted him in prison, condemns him for his anti American rhetoric lives to praise and honer him. More white than black people are coming out of the woodwork to praise him, they now recognize his great quest for human freedom that transcends colour, creed or race. Forget his religion, not many of us accept his religion, but he was simply a man of the people, he became the most recognized, and the most loved human being of his generation. He gone and done more for race relations and human self worth and value than most other sports icon.
He was conscripted to fight in Vietnam, but he refused to fight in an unjust war. He said, “I got no quarrel with them Vietcong”. He refused to travel ten thousand miles around the world, to kill brown, innocent and poor people, he had no quarrel with. He brought down the might of the American justice system, he was given a five year sentence, and stripped of his boxing license. His livelihood was taken away, and even with a family to feed, he did not bow and maintain his stance against injustice. The system realized their error and later restored his license after three and a half years. He said black people are denied basic rights in America, he said, “White people just don’t want their slaves to be free. That’s the whole thing”. A lesson for all of us, injustice anywhere, is injustice everywhere, slavery anywhere is slavery everywhere, we are not free anywhere if freedom is denied anywhere. Ali spent the rest of his life fighting Injustice in America and his voice was heard all over the world he became a global icon, not known only in the field of sports, but in all realm of humanity. They great Nelson Mandela paid homage to him, a true human and global icon, who shows many how to live and care for others. Many statesmen, presidents, kings and queens, prime ministers, world leaders, struggle to be even recognized, but once his name is mentioned he is instantly recognized in any corner of the globe.
He bragged and he boast, some even say cocky at times, he often proved the doubters wrong. “I done wrestled with an alligator, I done tussled with a whale; handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder in jail; only last week, I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalized a brick; I’m so mean I make medicine sick”. Brash yes, but he had self belief, and he often proved just what he 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”. I wish every man, every boy and girl will look at this and learn from it. You must be free to say what you want, do what you want to do, be what you want to be, but, you are not a carbon copy of anyone else, you are an original”. People want often to put you in a corner, tell you to be quiet if you speak out against injustice, against an unjust system, point out nepotism.
The message of Christ proclaimed by Paul is,It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5: 1). This is spiritual freedom, though it has connotations for physical freedom, so both are intended. Many people are free physically but remain spiritually and emotionally bound. But Christ message of salvation liberates us spirituality. So that even if we are physically bound our minds liberates us through the gospel. Onesimus a slave to Philemon a poignant case, “Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me” (Philemon 1: 11). We must never be what people wants us to be, neither should you let criticism shape you. Most often people will reject and crush you if you did not do what they say, follow in the path they mapped out for you. Many system will go further grind you down and destroy you, keep you out, or keep you quiet, but in the name of God, stand up and shout, let your voices be heard. Don’t accept the chocolate sticks they dangle before your eyes, so you may go against your conscience, and turn a blind eye to wrongs and injustice.
A white reporter told this story while shedding tears at the news of Ali passing. Holding back the tears he said that while travelling with Ali to south America, where Ali was handing out hundred dollar bills on the street to passers by. His minders tried to prevent him and asked why he was doing it. His response was that in America it is a hundred dollar bill but to the Americans it is worth ten thousand dollars. Another white man told the story of Ali being in a hotel in London, and felt trapped. H e got up asked them to take him somewhere, he ended up at the Great Ormond Street Hospital where they treat sick children. They showed pictures of him meeting with sick children some now hangs on the walls of the hospital for lasting memories. He went where he was not invited, and stayed and identified with the sick, the poor and needy.
He in his heart of heart knew it was not the poor who oppress others, it was the rich. He rejected the splendor and riches to identify with the common people. He was a conscientious objector, never settled for second best even if and when they block his path. He found another way, find alternative answers, he never bowed to pressure. They Satan’s assassins will try to block our path to growth, to advancement or improvement in life. The message he left is don’t give in threats. Don’t accept bribery and enticement to cover up wrongs. For in the final analysis God is our judge, and they will come to see and confirm that what we say was right after all. Its good to know that the LORD is on our side. We must stand up for what you believe in and fight. Stand against what we see and know is wrong and let no man or system imprisoned us and put our conscience into chains! We are free men/women in Christ, be brave and stand against injustice.