Boxing legend and activist Muhammad Ali died Friday, June 3 in Arizona surrounded by his family. Ali, who was 74 years old, died after a 32-year battle with Parkinson’s disease.
Although Ali was born in Louisville, Ky., he moved to Hyde Park in the mid-1960s and lived in the neighborhood on and off for about 10 years. In this column Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. and Historian Timuel Black share their memories of Ali.
The world has lost one of the greatest heroes of all time with the passing of Muhammad Ali.
He sacrificed the heart of his career and money and glory for his religious beliefs about a war he thought unnecessary and unjust.
He scarified, the nation benefited. He was a champion in the ring, but, more than that, a hero beyond the ring. When champions win, people carry them off the field on their shoulders. When heroes win, people ride on their shoulders. We rode on Muhammad Ali’s shoulders.
On Saturday, June, 4, Jackson will dedicate the Rainbow PUSH weekly broadcast to the former heavyweight boxing champion of the world and then hold a news conference about the immense impact of the global icon. The news conference will be at 11:30 a.m. at Rainbow PUSH national headquarters, 930 E. 50th St.
Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr.
I met Muhammad Ali right after he won his first heavyweight championship and he was here in Chicago. From that point on I watched him very closely and when the Vietnam War occurred, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. very much opposed to the United States’ involvement in that and as well and Ali was immediately supporting of Dr. King’s attitude and behavior.
He was heroic in his position as he continued to be a great boxer, and that’s when I began to look at him beyond just being an athlete or boxer, but a man who was symbolic of doing the impossible and making things possible. His articulation of why he was supporting the idea to reject our involvement in Vietnam was very courageous and he was without fear.
Whenever I saw him he would always say, “Well, what are we going to do next man?” speaking in the civil rights sphere.
I was never as close to him as people like Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., but when I would see him he would always say, “That’s Tim Black, my old buddy!” as if we were friends most of his life. I was proud to have that kind of relationship with a younger person who was not reluctant at being outspoken about things in spite of the fact that it might be a threat to his monetary career.
I have respect for the way he personified himself to younger people with the courage and willingness to sacrifice if necessary for the causes in which he believed in.