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Charles Bradley isn’t dead!

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As more professional athletes begin to ‘take a knee’ for racial equality and the right to peaceful protest permitted by the American constitution, it seems almost fitting that we are forced to recognize the immortal words of the Screaming Eagle of Soul. For even in passing Charles Bradley arrests the skies with powerful volume:

This world
Is going up in flames
And nobody
Wanna take the blame
Don’t tell me
How to live my life
When you
Never felt the pain

I can’t turn my head away
Seeing all these things
The world
Is burning up in flames
And nobody
Wanna take the blame

These lyrics belong to the song ‘The World (Is Going Up In Flames)’ and indeed for much of America’s black community, this soulful lamentation may well go beyond melody. An acknowledgment of even the most recent history forces a confrontation of what is, arguably, racial inequality that has cruelly rendered many black men and women residents of the heavens or overrepresented in prisons. Black athletes, activists, lawyers, educators, politicians, artists and their allies are employing diverse gestures to confront the same struggle as those who precede them. A hard earned equality as of yet unknown. This, often to the detriment of their future employability.

One cannot escape the irony of the cancerous systems crippling the African-American community and the timing of President Trump’s most recent controversial statement delivered a day before Bradley’s passing from cancer. However, one cannot ignore the capacity of the choir conducted by the creators of today’s protest songs. The ones that record a vocal account of the pain people of color have been subjected to, and the necessary quest for accountability, remedy and justice.

This week in particular, a resurrection of celebrated images of Tommy Smith, John Carlos, Peter Norman and Muhammad Ali are being widely shared beside those of Colin Kaepernick, Steph Curry and Bruce Maxwell—to name a few. Additionally, a large number of NFL players on Sunday knelt in peaceful opposition to the divisive words of their president; provoking the expansion of picture frames by claiming a seat among proponents of freedom. In the immortal words of Bradley, they are in fact refusing to turn their heads away. There is real triumph in unity—in accepting responsibility for your fellow human beings’ welfare because it is the right thing to do even when you are granted an alternative existence.

Bradley may no longer grace the musical stage with his physical presence but I like to think he is demonstrating still in his own way. By virtue of this alone, he continues to live boldly.

My soul is bleeding.

Here’s to an American Eagle! My how you soar.

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President Obama- Thank you.

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A lot of people seem to forget that Martin Luther King Jr died not only an enemy of the State but also largely unsupported by the black middle class, allegedly because of his stance against Lyndon B Johnson’s Vietnam war. A war several black revolutionaries opposed, including Muhammad Ali. Nelson Mandela was also strongly criticized for not doing enough for black South Africans during his presidency. President Obama continues to face criticism from members of the black community for not being more attentive to black needs. People like Cornel West have gone as far as to call him: “a Rockefeller republican in blackface”. When I look at history, something tells me Obama’s legacy’s gonna be just fine. He had the audacity to believe he could do what was once impossible- and boy did he! I pray God gives him the world he has meant to this one.

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A Tribute to Ali

“He is giving up on fame… He is giving up on millions of dollars in order to stand up for what his conscience tells him is right… There is a very dangerous development in the nation now to equate dissent with disloyalty.” – Death of a King by Tavis Smiley with David Ritz

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Ali (Image Credit lylejk)

I didn’t grow up in a house where my parents viewed a regulated fight between men as an honourable test of mortality, substantiated only by the contenders adopted strain of humanity. Therefore, with neither of my parents being boxing fans, there were never any pay-per-view invoices stacked on the table, no sounds of bells every few minutes travelling down the hallway of our home and leaking into my bedroom to announce the end of another round. Not even a taped cassette, commentary from a celebrated night in Zaire or the Philippines. However, though Ali retired before I was born, it is but an impossible feat to escape references to the giant; his name embedded on the tongue of every hopeful, replicating his motion and reimagining themselves in his place, earning his glory. Ali bomaye! Ali bomaye!

The quote aforementioned allegedly recites Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s support and admiration for Muhammad Ali’s controversial refusal to fight in the Vietnam war. I remember as a child that this historical event was one of the first encounters I’d ever had with the work of the man said to be The Greatest of All Time. So irrespective of how ignorant I was of his boxing career, this man, this Muhammad Ali still managed to find a seat at our table. It was through his contribution to the Civil Rights Movement that he found a way to pervade our hearts. Reports of his strength outside of the ring, where his power though seemingly incalculable, surely laboured to match the strength of his convictions. The man he chose to be, undeterred by the villain people sought to make him in his anti-war stance, revealed in such measure the worth of his heart.

A civil rights leader. An asset to the black community. A champion in his right. May the God you know welcome you home and may the hearts that break at your passing, find comfort in the light of your story.

What a life you have lived.
What a man we have loved.

 

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