It's a rainy Saturday in Buenos Aires and Oscar Edelstein just shared a homage to the late Muhammad Ali on his Facebook page.
Maybe it's strange that an avant-garde composer would be moved to post about the passing of a boxer, especially with so many perceived divisions between high and low culture. Yet perhaps what Edelstein noticed with the nose of a life-long experimenter was Ali's spirit as a searcher speaking out, and looking for meaning and new perspectives.
So it seems a moment to follow Edelstein's lead, and share the historic interview with Sir Michael Parkinson, who said today that Muhammad Ali "was the biggest star they've ever had boxing, and maybe ever will have."
The interview is the famous speech where Ali asks why are all the cultural images - from angels to Tarzan in the jungle - are of white people.
Asked about the first time he met him backstage, Parkinson said: "It's not often, given the job I had, that I was allowed to be gob-smacked, but he did gob-smack me as he walked across the floor. I'd never seen a more graceful and beautiful man. He was extraordinary."
As Edelstein wrote, "This man was the greatest boxer that I have seen but someone who also thought, and this is what they never forgave. See the interview, it is really not to be missed."
The interview is from 1981, an incredible 35 years ago, when this kind of discourse around race was not so mainstream. So it seems that Ali's bravery in the ring was really therefore nothing compared to his fight to speak out.
Ali died the same day that in her final commencement address as first lady, to graduates of City College in New York, Michelle Obama talked about diversity; free speech; the achievements of United States such as Google, eBay, the artificial heart, the telephone, blue jeans, Russian-born Irving Berlin's "God Bless America," the Brooklyn Bridge and the White House; and she even acknowledged that she wakes up every day in a house built by slaves.
She remembered "the son of Polish immigrants named Jonas Salk who toiled for years in a lab until he discovered a vaccine that saved countless lives" and "the story of the son of Jamaican immigrants named Colin Powell who became a four-star general, secretary of state, and a role model for young people across the country."
Michelle Obama spoke about the danger of building walls.
Of course we all know that walls can be physical but also intellectual and emotional, they can be of class as well as of race or religion. My naive hope is for a future where the only walls we will need are those to put bookcases against.
In remembering the brave voice of Muhammad Ali, I hope that we also take a moment to remember to include in that list of achievements of the US many more figures such as (to name a few) John Coltrane, Spike Lee, Prince, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Josephine Baker, and of course next on the list, let us now hope, that Muhammed Ali will be there.
Thank you for provoking us to see the world from a different angle, Muhammed Ali. When you get to heaven may you float like a butterfly, and please let us know that the angels really are from all walks of life.
RIP Muhammad Ali.
He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.
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