[symple_box]Sabria Chowdhury Balland is an international columnist specializing on US political and legal matters and is published in several international publications. Sabria
is a Managing Editor at Economic Affairs Magazine and is an Elected Member of the US Democratic Party, Democrats Abroad. You can follow her on Twitter at: @sabriaballand[/symple_box]
“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.”—Muhammad Ali.
As a very young child growing up in the US, just beginning elementary school, I remember constantly hearing a song about a Muhammad Ali, about how he “floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee”. I knew of course that the song was referring to the 3 time World Heavyweight Boxing Champion and Olympic Gold Medalist, Muhammad Ali. My father just could not get enough of the song, nor of the astounding athletic capabilities of what we already knew then and continue to know now: Muhammad Ali is a legend.
What I personally truly respect and admire about people with celebrity statuses is when they utilize their notoriety to voice the needs of and injustices inflicted on the common folks, those who do not have the fortune to be able to voice their plights through their notoriety and fame. Therefore, my personal, profound respect for Ali is not only rooted in his extraordinary athleticism but for being a voice to millions who were not being heard. From fighting for civil rights in a deeply racially divided America in the 1960s, to refusing to fight in the Vietnam War because, as he stated, “I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality.” He was stripped of his boxing championship, fined $10,000 and sentenced to 5 years in prison for draft evasion until the conviction was overturned by the US Supreme Court three years later. But absolutely nothing made Ali change his mind or his philosophy. He continued to be the voice. I wholeheartedly respect him for loving his faith new found faith so profoundly.
I have been fortunate enough to have met Muhammad Ali once as a teenager. Very sadly, my father was not there for this occasion. At this time, Ali was already suffering acutely from Parkinson’s disease. His hands were quivering and he was not able to speak much but it would be a colossal understatement to say that he did not grace us immensely with his presence, his smile, his demeanor.
When I learned of Muhammad Ali’s death yesterday, uncontrollably I had tears pouring out of my eyes, not once, but several times. I realized then that he was a voice for me also, as he had been for millions of others. The voice Muhammad Ali was to me is the integral part he played in my childhood. Since yesterday, I am constantly being reminded of my own late father, with whom I would enjoy watching Ali’s fights or listening to the song about him.
Somewhere up in the heavens, they must both be “floating like butterflies”.
Rest in peace, Champ. You truly were the Greatest.