Ali has been awarded all the accolades that sports and media could offer. Yes, Muhammad Ali can be called the greatest. He made social justice relevant but now commercialism has quieted many top athletes and kept “role models” from speaking out. Call him a transcendent personality but please don’t say he transcended race. He wanted you to know he was the best, he was black, he was Muslim, that his people came up as slaves and he would always fight that history and its Jim Crow legacy, all over the world.
Muhammad Ali stood up for Native Americans every chance he could. He supported The Longest Walk in 1978 at events in New York City and walked with them into Washington D.C. In 1990 he saved a peace delegation with Arvol Looking Horse in Iraq as the first Gulf War approached.
Nadema Agard, a native artist born in New York City, recalls the time Mohawk activist Lorraine Canoe and others at the American Indian Community House took the ferry to the Statue of Liberty with Ali to be at the press conference he had called to support A.I.M. She recounts how he told the press, “Look at all these good-looking Indian people, aren’t they beautiful, aren’t you jealous?”
Then he turned back to the Indians and said, “Let’s attack them!”
“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