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Muhammad Ali. His Fight is Done, The Greatest Has Won

Muhammad Ali. The Greatest is gone.

Unlike the other iconic deaths of 2016, Muhammad Ali’s doesn’t break my heart or render me unable to function, because he was older than most of the others, and his life was lived fully. Although he spent the last 32 years of his 74 battling Parkinson’s, he still managed to LIVE.

Muhammad Ali Old and Young

Even so, this is still a major loss, and the gut punch from losing The Greatest is real. Muhammad Ali was a superhero, and you don’t fully expect Batman to die. He just keeps fighting another day. But that’s more of a selfish desire on our part. He’s been fighting for so long that he has a right to rest. And rest he will.

He was so much more than the boxer who leveled his opponents with barely a sweat, leaving them to think they even dreamt the entire match up. Some of the folks whose asses he whooped gotta think they made it up since he did it so quick.

He was so much more than that bae ass athlete with the smile that lit up a room. LAWD, young Muhammad was FAHN, bruh. With swag for days and weeks. And he knew it, and was insufferable because of it, calling himself pretty. But when you can’t argue with it, all you can do is sulk and take peeks at him because he surely was a handsome somebody.

Hey boo, heyyy.

Hey boo, heyyy.

He was so much more than the EPIC shit talker who would call your mama to the carpet and you had to deal because he could back that up ALL day. He was a rapper before we even know what rapping was, because he had BARS. He ethered folks each and every day. Like when he said: “Joe Frazier was so ugly that when he cries, the tears turn around and go down the back of his head.” 

LMAO!!! That is so disrespectful and hilarious at the same damb time. KING PETTY WAP IN THE BUILDING. You know how I feel about icons who were also shade savants. They hold special place in my shady heart.

Most importantly, Muhammad Ali was the fighter who refused to fight when his spirit told him the fight wasn’t fair. His stamina was unyielding but his integrity was even more so, and his toughest fight wasn’t even in the boxing ring. When drafted to fight in the Vietnam War, he laid everything on the line, including those titles AND his freedom, to stand for what he believed was unjust combat.

Muhammad 1 Muhammad 2

“I ain’t draft dodging. I ain’t burning no flag. I ain’t running to Canada. I’m staying right here. 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.

My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother or some darker people or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger. They never lynched me. They didn’t put no dogs on me. They didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother father and ancestors. Shoot them for what? How can I shoot them poor people? Just take me to jail.”

That voice. He was The Greatest for so much more than being The Champ. He fearlessly used his voice to speak up and dare to go against the grain. Being this unabashedly loud in that time was more than brave; it was dangerous. And he did it anyway.

I mean, the man was just the TRILLEST. The Unfuckwitable. Cassius Clay became Muslim and insisted that the world call him Muhammad. Then told them to take their war and shove it because he ain’t going. That’s some levels beyond dauntless.

I honor all the professional troublemakers who push through fear to speak up in the hardest circumstances and I’m emboldened by them. The ripple effect from words can lead to rumbles in action. Muhammad Ali recognized his elevation, and used it to speak truth to power about anti-Blackness. Hard truths to the powers that be, who could destroy his life.

Muhammad Ali quote

He knew the space he took up in the world, as a powerful sports figure, but even moreso as a Black, Muslim man. His battle wasn’t just nine rounds in the ring. It was his Blackness being seen as a weapon and liability. When we remember Muhammad Ali and eulogize him, we have to remember how much he loved his Blackness. Do not whitewash his legacy. Remember that Blackness. Because when the greats die, folks love to windex away their melanin. Nah. He was unapologetically BLACK.

“I am America. I am the part you won’t recognize. But get used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me.”

The man had BARS, man.

So Black. Hella onyx. Peak noir.

It’s been a rough year, with the deaths of many legends. David Bowie. Natalie Cole. Prince. Now Muhammad Ali. Each time, I am struck with a sense of urgency to find something to fill the space. When greatness leaves this plane, we gotta make up for it by stepping into greatness. The void can’t be filled but don’t let the gap be so wide.

Muhammad Ali Prince

This pic made my heart hurt a little bit. Look at the joy on Prince’s face!

Muhammad Ali was the greatest in the way Kanye says he is (shade). But even with Kanye, there is something courageous about seeing yourself as larger than life. That’s a revolution in itself. It’s arrogance, but in it is more courage than I like to admit.

In large losses are large lessons. #1 here: 2016 has no chill whatsoever and it’s a disrespectful summagoat. #2 is: there will never be a perfect time to step into your purpose. You might not float or sting but you gotta move and do. I bet that Mr. Ali had no regrets on that death bed.

That’s why I am sad but not devastated by Muhammad Ali’s death. He won his fight and he’s hanging up the belt.

Muhammad Ali

“I can drown the drink of water, and kill a dead tree. Wait till you see Muhammad Ali.”

The Greatest. Rest, soar, float in power.

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12 Comments

  1. Michele
    June 4, 2016 at 1:41 pm

    Luvvie, you always know the right thing to say.

    When I went to bed last night it was with the knowledge that this great human being would no longer be in the sphere when I woke up. Still wasn’t less jolting to hear the news this morning though.

    I saw a tweet where somebody said that Ali’s boxing success was probably the least interesting thing about him, meaning that his courage, his heart, and his principles would have made him a giant among men even if he never stepped into the ring. I agree to a certain extent in that when when Muhammad Ali is talked about and studied in 2116 it’s hard to say what form will be the dominant part of his legacy: his athletic prowess or his push for social justice.

    And like you and many others I am not here for the whitewashing. Salute to Black Twitter for squashing that nonsense right out of the gate. It would have happened anyway, but with everybody still in their feels about Underground and Roots…nope, ain’t nobody here for that.

  2. NAAN
    June 4, 2016 at 1:46 pm

    This article has been me all day. I am saddened but it does not ‘hurt’ because of how he lived fully, firm in his convictions. Beautiful post!

  3. SIPort
    June 4, 2016 at 2:22 pm

    Like you, I was sad, but prepared for this loss.

    Doesn’t make it any less painful, but I can accept it.

    Ali was so much more than a boxer.

    Ozzie Davis said about Malcolm X at his funeral

    ” Malcolm was our manhood.”

    That might be so, but Ali had to have been our BLACKness.

    When Ali stood up there, it was as if he were channelling all the ancestors before him when he called America on its shyt. He put that mirror right up there and said

    LOOK AT YOURSELF

    and, then tell me why you think I should give a rat’s ass what you think of me.

  4. Berlena
    June 4, 2016 at 2:44 pm

    I too, am at peace. The GOAT taught us the greatest lesson about our blackness. Sad that some skipped the class.

  5. Jess
    June 4, 2016 at 2:50 pm

    Ali could make you laugh, blush and inspire you to change the world all in one sitting.

    He was the first to declare that his name was his name, and smacked a reporter who refused to acknowledge him.

    I remember when Alicia Keys was first on the scene and at some award show where they did a tribute to him, they quoted him at wondering “Who the pretty lady w/the braids in purple” was 😂

    He told his daughter that if she was going to follow in his footsteps, she had to talk the same smack he did and back it up the same (and she did).

    He demanded respect on his terms and made it cool to do so. He was like no other and was definitely a hard act to follow.

    They truly don’t make them like the champ anymore.

  6. June 4, 2016 at 3:44 pm

    My favorite boxer of all time. Rest in peace, champ. 🙁

  7. notconvincedgranny
    June 4, 2016 at 5:39 pm

    His daughter said that even after his other organs had failed, his heart refused to stop beating for another 30 minutes. My heart keeps breaking.

  8. Sue
    June 4, 2016 at 6:00 pm

    I just had to thank you for that picture of Prince and Muhammad Ali….the sheer innocent joy on Prince’s face was just beautiful

    • phillygirl
      June 6, 2016 at 8:52 am

      Prince said that when they told him Ali wanted to….he said “yes” before he even knew what Ali wanted from him. The Purple One said “it could’ve been mow his lawn, and I would’ve been down with it”. That’s awe and perfectly placed respect. They are reunited in the afterlife.

  9. Ashley
    June 6, 2016 at 7:49 am

    This was beautiful!

  10. LPH
    June 6, 2016 at 9:28 am

    Definitely one of the best tributes I have read. Thanks Luvvie!

  11. Paula
    June 6, 2016 at 1:23 pm

    I will miss him terribly. I’m from Louisville, KY, and his mother went to my church, Centennial Olivet Baptist Church, he would come with her occasionally. My son met him at the airport and we took pictures of them together. I pray all will go well with the memorial they are having for him in Louisville, and that there will be peace in celebrating his homegoing. The area where they plan to motorcade to the grave site is right in the heart of where a lot of violence and murder happens everyday. Please God, let it be a respectful and peaceful celebration. Loved your words Luvvie.