Muhammad Ali taught me to be proud of my skin and Muslim faith

Omar Musa writes: Once, when I was a child growing up in Australia, I got teased by another kid because I had brown skin. The kid told me my skin was the same colour as shit. I went home in tears and, for the only time in my life, I said to my parents that I wished I wasn’t brown.

My parents sat me down and told me to be proud of my skin and of being Muslim, even if other people put you down for it. I don’t know if it was connected but soon afterwards my dad began to show me tapes of a charismatic, handsome black boxer from America, a proto rapper who spat rhymes and cracked jokes, who drove a pink Cadillac, who stood up for his people and his convictions, all the while dancing on the canvas like no one before and no one to come.

And he was Muslim, like us, and proud of it! And a poet! And he had even fought in Malaysia (where my dad came from) once!

I went to the Queanbeyan library and photocopied pictures of him to stick in my school diary and on my wall. I could never be a boxer but I could have that unfuckwithable attitude.

Ali taught me to be brave, to stand up for myself, to fight for the underdog and that, even if society was against you, your conviction for what was right would be vindicated by history. That there was something radical in being completely and utterly yourself. That my brown skin was not the colour of shit – it shone brighter than gold. He taught me to be proud. [Continue reading…]

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