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Ali in a poem

You were poetry
And your punchlines punctuated
And ignited our pride
and purpose as a people

From Louisville, Kentucky
Your prowess grew
From 12 year old potential and progressed
Until your power was made manifest
In fullness on the world stage

A three time world heavy weight champion
Yet you were always the people’s own
From the rumble in the jungle
Silencing the critics in the Belgian-Congo
To the thriller in Manila
You made the whole world sit up and take notice
Captivating our hearts and our imagination
With your powerful talent, poetic wizardry
And the audacity of a black man
To call himself pretty and mean it
And we believed it

Your destiny was not boxed in the ring
For you were the voice of a generation
Changing your name from Cassius Clay
to Mohammed Ali
You taught us that no man
Could enslave us or name us
And only God could define us

You not only talked the talk
You walked the walk
By standing up for what you believed in
A conscientious objector
Which made you very unpopular
They sentenced and stripped you
Of your hard fought titles
But by this
we learned that the measure of a man
Is not the accumulation of his accomplishments
But the depth of his heart
And the strength of his conviction

You were the real deal
Warring against injustice and oppression
In the civil rights movement in America
And elsewhere on the globe
Even on these British shores
And in our beloved Birmingham
You became our brother
Taught us to stand together
Side by side
Against repression, ignorance
And racial discrimination
So that all would see the value
Of our identity and our humanity
You cared about our community
Taught us to love ourselves
As kings, queens and jewels
Draped in black skin

And as the years went on
Not even Parkinsons could dampen your fighting spirit
The shaking couldn’t stop you
Sparking a flame with the Olympic torch
Or quench the fire you set ablaze
All those years ago
with the light of your birth
This was your destiny: To be a beautiful brilliant black man
Who was witty, funny
Compassionate, a true humanitarian
And unafraid
To say it
To live it
To be it
The greatest

So go ahead
Float like a butterfly
Sting like a bee
Your words and your life
Changed the course of history

Written by Tanya Chitunhu

Published inInspiration

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