Submitted by Afra Raymond
Cassius Clay, later Muhammad Ali, was an iconic, irrepressible example to us growing up in the disputed diaspora…We are now hearing that Ali died last night, Friday 3rd June 2016, although my mood had shifted to a sombre, reflective space a few days ago with the news of his hospitalisation…To me, Muhammad Ali epitomised the vogue expression ‘out of the box’, even before that phrase was invented…He represented a kind of constant restless wrestling with destiny and possibility…he showed us the limits of possibility and, in overstepping those, showed us the importance of dreaming and the necessity of trying to break out of the boxes of racism, imperialism and the many overlapping isms with which we are beset…he used his fists, his fine mind and his exquisite lyrical ability to rank with the best…Ali’s autobiography ‘The Greatest’ (authored by the late Alex Haley of ‘Roots’ fame) remains one of the top-ten non-fiction epics I have read since its publication almost 40 years ago…it ranks with ‘The Black Jacobins’; ‘Capitalism and Slavery’; ‘How Europe Underdeveloped Africa’; ‘Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee’…those are all true epics for the ages, so that is some measure of the man…The movie of the same title also remains a classic, with the title song by George Benson ‘The Greatest Love’, remaining in my top-three of contemporary music of sheer beauty and power…
Finally, I have to say that Ali always seemed to me to be one of those Midnight Robbers of Yore, telling it like it was in outrageous, unmatchable verse…here is a short one from one of the many effusive obituaries published this morning –
I done wrassled with an alligator
I done tussled with a whale
Handcuffed lightnin’, threw thunder in jail
Only last week I murdered a rock
Injured a stone, hospitalized a brick
I’m so mean I make medicine sick
Ali, the Diasporic Boukman!
Note from the BU Blogmaster – Cassius Clay, later Muhammad Ali suffered from Parkinson’s Disease. Here is a presentation from Dr. GP to take the opportunity when we will have an increased focus on this ailment.