The clown I am referring to in the title of this piece is me. It’s the mask I wear. It’s the me nobody knows. It shows itself every so often. And today was one of those times. I sat in front of the television and watched the funeral of Muhammad Ali. My son stared at me as tears rolled down my face. I had to ask myself what were the tears really for? I knew I was mourning someone who was more than a great fighter. I knew that I was mourning someone who was more than a symbol. Then as I listened to speaker after speaker, I realized that I was mourning the fact that my heroes were all gone. In my lifetime I have been able to learn from people God put on this planet. I have truly been blessed to have been able to see and hear, Rev. Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, Malcolm X, Arthur Ashe, and many more. However, Ali was the end of an era we’ll probably never see again. Ali believed that hating someone because of the color of their skin was wrong, and it didn’t matter what color of skin the person doing the hating had, it was wrong. He gave up the prime of his career because of his religious beliefs. While he knocked opponents out in the ring, he lifted up poor kids like me, even though I never had the pleasure of meeting “The Champ”.
It hit me as I realized that the tears were because I knew there were no more athletes out there ready to carry on the fight for equality. There’s too much money being given out. There’s no way in the world today’s multi-millionaires athletes would give up a nickel, or a second of their time, to fight for the human rights Ali knew were more important, than a paycheck. I think about all the sports stars I’ve cheered for over the years. I suddenly understood that while they did mighty things on the court or field, none of them have ever taken on a cause that would make humankind, or this country a better place. And the shame of it all is, me. As a Black man, I don’t have the luxury of idolizing someone only because of what he or she does on a field or court. As I looked at the famous sports heroes in attendance, at Ali’s funeral, I wondered if any of them were thinking to themselves. I wonder if they were thinking, “I make or will make more money than Ali ever did. Will people mourn me this way?” Will any of them take up Ali’s mantel? Sadly, I knew they wouldn’t. Ali knew that Black people had to maintain the “Village” concept. However, the love of the almighty dollar stole from Black people, the “Village” concept. Ali’s was very in tune with equal rights for Black people. But he was also in tune with equal rights for all people. To him the “Village” was worldwide.
The tears hit me because I finally realized that at 60 years of age, I finally had to grow up. It has been a long time coming. But maybe like so many other people, I have hidden my voice and maybe even my actions, from the difficult things facing society. I realized that I was crying because I knew it was time to take life up a notch. The days of sports heroes caring about the troubles of those struggling in our society have gone. With the passing of Ali, perhaps we have seen the last great warrior who would sacrifice themselves and their paychecks for the betterment of everyone else. I began to think, now we have to do it on our own. There would not be a great voice crying out in the night. Just us. Doing whatever we could to bring to the light of day, peace, harmony and love to every man, woman and child.
I’d have say, it is scary living during a time where it is obvious and very visible to see hatred again on the rise. The thought of building bridges has given way to a downright uncaring disposition towards our fellow man, that tells us that we should now build walls. It is scary when a man of peace dies, while another man preaching hate, thrives towards the highest office in the world. It is scary to see how easy this country’s transition to indifference and hatred has been. And sadly, there are no Ali’s available to help us take a deep look at ourselves and what we’re doing to the future of our children. Leading candidates from both political parties are being investigated for criminal acts. I don’t wanna put words in Ali’s mouth, but I would guess he would say, we’re not voting for the best person for the position of President, we’re voting for the lesser of two evils. If it’s not something he would say, it is surely something I believe.
Listening to the speakers at Ali’s funeral talk about their personal experiences with him, helped me to see that it was obvious he had an array of friends. Three Indigenous Natives spoke, so did a Jewish Rabbi, a Catholic Priest, Buddhist and Hindu, Asian people, former President Bill Clinton and many others. They all told stories about his sense of self and his love of all people. This is the kind of love we should be teaching our kids. This country won’t change for the better because of the bad things happening within it. This country will change when her people become better people. That won’t happen until people educate themselves. Ali had more education than many of us flashing out so-called higher level degrees. Because of his academic-less education, he was able to be whom he wanted to be. He didn’t follow anyone less than God.
So, as I finish this piece and the tears slide down my face, I ask myself, where will the hatred end? Will there ever again be born someone brave and caring enough to stand up for the rights and social justice of all men and women, regardless of the color of their skin? Will my kids have a Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Sitting Bull or Muhammad Ali to look up to? Or, will they have to be like the 30 and 40 year olds and borrow heroes from yesteryear? It’s enough to make a clown cry.

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