It has taken me a while to write this post, I am not sure why though. Perhaps it was just a matter of finding the right words at the right time. It was not because I was in some sort of denial over his passing because we had him for so long, it was his time to pass and we were blessed to have had him at all.
Muhammad Ali inspired me in so many ways and yet I grew up long after he had stopped boxing. That is simply a reflection of how much of a legacy he had built. Like anyone who has ever truly lived their truth and served their full purpose on Earth, Muhammad Ali’s legacy will never be forgotten, he made such an impact on the world. When business challenges start to weigh me down once in a while I’d read a quote from him and just feel motivated to keep on trying, to not give up.
“I’m going to dedicate my life to using my name and my popularity to help people and unite people” – Muhammad Ali.
Put simply he was a sports personality who used his influence and name to do good and give back in so many ways. He was such a media savvy individual, I have no doubt that his PR team must have been in heaven every time he did or said something which was deemed as controversial. He knew how to work the press to his advantage and knew the power of PR so well that very often it seems as though he controlled the narrative that surrounded him…even some of the negative coverage. Here is an excellent piece featuring one of the publicists who represented him: http://www.prweek.com/article/1397538/handling-pr-greatest.
He was a teacher too, his confidence and pursuit of equality for black people during his lifetime inspired me to be proud. He reminded me that it was up to me to win at life, whenever I forgot I see his words and remember.
He was of course human and made mistakes along the way, yet his courage and determination were out of this world. He stood up for what he believed in and even as his health deteriorated he still did what he could to uplift and inspire generations. Growing up I couldn’t identify with many of the fairy tales that society wanted us to find our heroes from and so I had to look elsewhere. My family was of course my first port of call, my parents were and still are proud Nigerians and in fact it was my father’s love of boxing that opened me up to the world of Muhammad Ali. Outside of them a personality like Muhammad Ali was a real life hero to me. A black man who was unashamedly black. He represented the truth that my parents instilled in me, that black people are a people of dignity and excellence no matter what. No matter what damaging ideologies that society keeps trying to force us to believe. We are great. We can be great no matter what barriers we are faced with.
As a black woman in business he truly made me want be a champion. I will watch my DVDs of his fights and read his quotes and remember that with every win comes a chance to truly be great, a chance to leave a legacy and make a difference in this world and for that I will always be grateful for his life.
“I know where I’m going and I know the truth, and I don’t have to be what you want me to be. I’m free to be what I want.” – Muhammad Ali, January 17, 1942 – June 3, 2016