A People’s Memorial Rally for the phenomenal and courageous Muhammad Ali was held in the streets of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn Saturday June 11, 2016, in front of Sistas’ Place coffee house, on the corner of Nostrand and Jefferson avenues. The rally was led by the December 12th Movement, a human rights organization that has carried on the struggle for human rights and self-determination for African people in the United States for decades and is now spearheading The Choice: The Black Vote for Reparations in the 2016 presidential election.

“Muhammad Ali made a conscious choice in the midst of his rising boxing career as the new World Heavyweight Champion, based on principle that inspired our people,” said Omowale Clay. “In the interest of oppressed Black people here in the U.S. and our right to self-determination, he first changed his ‘slave’ name, from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali, and he pushed the envelope further when he dared to resist participating in the unjust Vietnam War. His conscientious objection would crush his boxing career for several years, as he fought in the legal ring and ultimately won in the Supreme Court in 1971 decision, overturning the lower courts.

“We have got to stop in time and pay respect to our brother, and learn from his example. He made a choice in his time to put the interest of our people first at a great personal sacrifice. During this election year we must vote for issues that are in the interest of our people.”

Many people in the crowd came forward to give honor to Ali. Phil Frison, an elder, shared his experience. “I met him when he came back from the Olympics,” Frison said. “At the time, I was with another fantastic brother named Sugar Ray Leonard. Brother Ali, then known as Cassius Clay, was driving up and down Seventh Avenue in an open air (convertible) car to let everybody see him. I never dreamt that somewhere along the line, I would be a part of his fight staff. I was blessed to be with him in 1978, when he won the third heavyweight title against Leon Spinks. One thing I learned from Ali was humility. If you were around him you could just hear his strength and people would gravitate towards him. He was a dynamic individual.”

A young man named Mike remarked, “One thing that really stuck too me that a lot of people don’t know is that Muhammad Ali was the first rapper. He was really smart about it to because he had a platform to speak to people. Every time he had a fight he would throw a punch to society and a punch to his opponent!”

Daleel Jibir of the Nation of Islam commented, “The unspoken story in all those stories you read in the newspaper is not being told is about where Muhammad Ali got his discipline, where he got his profound behavior as far as bringing humanity together. His beginnings came in Lexington, Ky., but his discipline came from the Nation of Islam. The NOI converted us out of these slave ghettos and made us what we are today. Our discipline in our Fruit of Islam class as you can see in our brother. Muhammad Ali was a minister and in the Fruit of Islam. They don’t want to tell you that. They try to whitewash us out of history: his relationship with Malcolm X, Minister Louis Farrakhan and his mentor, the most Honorable Elijah Muhammad. That’s what made him the man we knew him to be. Of course he took it further as he went along in life.”

Roger Wareham stated, “I grew up like a whole lot of young Black men. We were big sports fans. Muhammad Ali was the forerunner of Black athletes who took a stand. If you remember at the press conference when he said he wasn’t going to Vietnam, Black athletes like Jim Brown, Kareem Abdul Jabar (then known as Lew Alcindor), Walter Beach and Curtis McClinton stood behind him. A lot of athletes came out in support of Ali. He set the precedent for the stand taken by John Carlos and Tommie Smith in the 1968 Olympics. Muhammad Ali was the catalyst for Black athletes taking a stand.”

Ali was the Greatest and he truly shook the world.

“Today we must be courageous and dare to step out on our own politically,” Clay concluded. “Let’s make our own choice, and take a united step toward self-determination, reparations and a plebiscite.”