June 17, 2016, Louisville, KY. (Analyzed Sports)
Reflecting on Muhammad Ali’s Services – One Week Later
My time of reflection. It was a week ago today. One of the most beautiful days I have ever experienced in my lifetime. There was a sense of peace, unity, and love in my hometown city of Louisville, Ky. It’s a day I will never forget. Friday, June 10th, 2016 was the day the world gave us Louisvillians our hometown hero back “The Greatest” Muhammad Ali.
I remember sitting at a sports bar when I received the news Ali had passed away at the age of 74 after his 32-year-old battle with Parkinson’s disease. Although I knew this day was inevitable, I still felt a sense of sadness receiving the fact that this legend had just died. As the different Flat Screen TV’s showed old performances of Ali, I raised my glass for a toast with “The Greatest” as if he were sitting right next to me. In my toast were two simple words “Thank You”.
Thank You because whenever I traveled this great country and spoke to anyone that never heard of my hometown of Louisville, Ky; I appreciated the fact I could use Muhammad Ali and be proud to say he was from my hometown too. I appreciated Ali coming to the housing project I grew up in of Cotter Homes when I was a kid sitting in his recreational vehicle meeting with everyone there that day while handing out autographed Holy Quran’s. Ali, Thank you for standing up for what you believed in, even though it cost you your title, freedom, and millions of dollars in the process. Thank You, Champ.
Fast forward to the week leading up to the services. When the Muhammad Ali Center announced the memorial plans and procession details for that upcoming Friday, I knew I wanted to attend the procession and memorial with my nephews and son, but the thought never crossed my mind as to how I was going to get all of this done. I was blessed by the Grace of God to even be in attendance after starting a new job, which had me off on this day. My main concern was trying to get tickets for the memorial because I was going to be at work when they were scheduled to be released to the public. Little did I know an Angel was working in my favor. My first cousin Rachael sent me a text message a couple of days before the tickets were released that read: “You got your media credentials for Ali? I’m gonna get 4 tickets so if not I’ll give you my extra tickets.” I didn’t want to attend as media because I wanted to share this experience with my children, so I thought it was awesome she had taken the time to think about me even though we hadn’t spoken or made plans to attend this event together.
“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” Muhammad Ali
Friday the day of the services. My cousin and I made plans the night before to meet up before Ali’s Procession left the Funeral home at 9:00 am for the 19-mile route Ali wanted in his wishes. As my nephews, son and I rode the city to link up with my cousin and Uncle, we passed Churchill downs home of the Kentucky Derby with a big screen displaying a picture of Muhammad Ali training on the racetrack in his younger days. All of the TARC’s which is the public transportation for Louisville had Ali “The Greatest” flashing. There was something in the air. It was intangible, but it was a special feeling that something magical was imminent on this day.
Our meeting location to catch the procession ended up being 12th and Broadway in front of the McDonald’s. We got there around 9:00 am to find my Uncle and Cousin under a small shade tree on the curb of Broadway. The scene was vibrant. People were lined up on both sides of the street as if the Kentucky Derby Festival Parade was getting ready to take place. To our viewing pleasure, the streets weren’t shut down, cars with Big Rims blasting “The Champ is Here” over and over again cruised up and down the block paying tribute to Ali. All the local news media outlets were in this area looking for people to share some Ali stories with them for the news at noon.
As my Uncle and I shared some of our dearest Ali stories, my 2-year-old nephew ran up and down the street yelling “I shook up the world, I shook up the Big World.” That caught me by surprise as I never really discussed Ali with him, so it kind of tickled me to see him throwing jabs while saying this phrase once made famous by “The Greatest.” My cousin Rachael was sitting on her Louisville Cardinal blanket with her iPhone streaming the live footage of the procession leaving the funeral home.
As we waited, the time came and went as if hours were minutes going by. Helicopters hovered over our heads letting us know that Ali’s procession was in the area and possibly riding down Muhammad Ali the street name after this once in a lifetime legend. We waited patiently but the excitement grew the closer the funeral procession got.
Once everyone on both sides of the streets knew Ali was on Broadway, they got off the sidewalk and next thing I noticed was everyone in the middle of the street. When the procession reached me, I can’t really explain the emotion, but it just felt like time stood still as Ali’s Hearst filled with flowers on the windshield rode by. You had to be there to fill the presence that was all around. It was simply amazing.
Two things that stuck out as the rest of the procession rode by was the excitement in the actor Will Smith’s face as he stuck his hand out his limo to shake every hand he possibly could and tears of joy coming from Laila Ali’s face the daughter of Muhammad Ali as she seemed proud to see all these people out in support of her father. Just Beautiful, moments like those are Priceless.
After the procession was over we rode down to Ali’s childhood home in the heart of Louisville’s west end on Grand Ave. It was an awesome sight to see the house surrounded by world news media and all sorts of memorabilia left around the house from fans of Ali. We soaked in the moment, took pictures and headed back downtown for lunch to cap off the day with the celebration of the life of Ali held at the KFC YUM! Center.
I enjoyed all the speakers at the memorial service for Muhammad Ali, but Dr, Kevin Cosby, Rabbi Michael Lerner, Lonnie Ali, Natasha Mundkur, John Ramsey and Billy Crystal presentations touched who Ali was to me the most. When the services ended, my cousin and I reflected back on what we just experienced and really appreciated all the moments of peace, unity, and love in our hometown city of Louisville, Ky. It’s a day we will never forget. Friday, June 10th, 2016.
The day the world gave us Louisvillians our hometown hero back “The Greatest” Muhammad Ali.
Rest in Peace Champ!