Marvin X on the Last Rites of Muhammad Ali
As we say goodbye to our beloved brother Muhammad Ali, I submit the following notes on the most recognized man on the planet earth, the man who made the transition from Toby to Kunta Kinte or in his own right or rite, made the revolutionary transformation from a man of Clay (dirt) to Muhammad Ali, (Arabic: Ali:one who is most high; Muhammad: one who is worthy of much praise).
In my essay The Psycholinguistic Crisis of the North American African, I wrote:
…The proud African was beaten down from Kunta Kinte to Toby, perhaps the first level in his psycho-linguistic crisis: who am I, what is my name? Once in the Americas, he was no longer Yoruba, Hausa, Ibo, Congo, Ashanti but Negro, and according to Grimm’s law (the consonants C,K, and G being interchangeable) he was dead, from the Greek Necro, dead, lifeless, without motion and spirit.
Of course, he retained some of his African consciousness in the deep structure of his mind, in the bowels of his soul and he expressed it in his dance, his love life, his work habits, his songs and shouts, but basically he was a traumatized victim of kidnapping, rape and mass murder–genocide, for after all, when it was all said and done, between 50 and 100 million of his brothers and sisters were lost in the Middle Passage, the voyage between Africa and the Americas, thrown to the sharks trailing slave ships, one ship named Jesus, the one whose captain had the miraculous conversion and wrote the song Amazing Grace!
But changing the African into Negro was a primary problem in terms of identity which persists until today, even as we speak a new generation is now in the psycholinguistic crisis trying to decide whether they shall be called by Christian, Muslim or traditional African names, trying to decide whether they are Americans, Afro-Americans, African-Americans, Bilalians, Kemites, Sudanese, or North American Africans.
With this term I’ve tried to emphasize our cultural roots by making Africa the noun rather than the adjective. Also, I wanted to identify us geo-politically: we are Africans on the continent of North America, as opposed to Africans in Central and South America, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia or the Motherland. As such, we are unique and have created an original African Culture in North America, imitated throughout the world. For our unique improvisational genius, the Black Arts Movement mystic Sun Ra said we were, “The Latter Day Egyptian Revisionists.”
Muhammad Ali is the grand persona in our psycholinguistic crisis, for he represents our battle for identity formation and verbal expression, i.e., his verbosity and poetics, and yet he transcended psycholinguistics to encompass and express the crisis of the African physique (the struggle of the African body in time and space) as well as the political struggle of the North American African nation to achieve liberation from oppression in America and throughout the world.
In the manner of his model, Jack Johnson, the North American African who beat America’s great white hope, Jim Jeffries, to win the heavyweight championship of the world and caused one of the worst race riots in American history, July 4, 1910, Ali also expressed unforgivable Blackness, minus the white women of Jack Johnson’s delight.
Alas, America established the Mann Act after Jack Johnson’s ritual (and conviction) of transporting white women across state lines for prostitution. Psycholinguistically speaking, call it the Black Man Act, a more precise definition of the term.
Jim Jeffries and Jack Johnson
Ali’s greatness transcended the boxing ring to advance our struggle beyond civil rights (civil rites, Sun Ra) into the arena of human rights that Malcolm X tried to teach Ali and us.
Of course we cannot mention Ali and Malcolm X without including their teacher, the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad.
Ali and Malcolm, both inspired by Elijah’s son, Warith Deen or Wallace, attempted to transcend the Nation of Islam’s unorthodox theology for Sunni orthodoxy but we see today with the turmoil in the Sunni Islamic world, North American Africans are being forced to reconsider the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad (evidenced by the Hip Hop generation’s embrace of 5% Islam and Noble Drew Ali’s Moorish Science), especially his cry to leave Sunni Islam alone and embrace North American African Islamic mythology in the same manner Africans, especially West Africans, have their unique version of Islam, no matter what Arabs, Pakistani or others say about it. West Africans have their own holy city in Touba, Senegal, a city as sacred to them as Mecca to Sunni Muslims. (While writing in North Carolina, when a taxi driver told me he was Senegalese, I asked him if he knew about Bamba? He turned around to show me his T-shirt with a picture of Bamba. I then asked if Bamba was a holy man? He replied, “Bamba was beyond holy!” Of course, Bamba was a Sufi or Islamic mystic revolutionary who fought against French colonialism in Senegal. The story goes that he was under arrest aboard a ship being transported to an island prison when he wanted to pray, so he jumped off the ship, prayed in the water and returned to the ship for the ride to prison.
The madness of Sunni inspired ISIS and the Sunni denunciation of Shia Islam, Ahmadiyya Islam and other sects to the point of annihilation of their members, is beyond the human imagination in barbarity except we know Christians have been known for similar savagery, e.g., Irish Catholics and Protestants, not to mention genocidal Hindu attacks on Muslims, Sikhs and Buddhist; or Buddhist attacks on non Buddhists. We are of the Sufi belief: the only religion is the religion of the heart!
In the end, we think Muhammad Ali saw himself as a divine being in human form, true to his name,i.e., the most high, worthy of much praise. And we think the world agreed with him, for he revealed himself to be one of the greatest human beings who walked the earth.
As-Salaam Alaikum, Muhammad Ali! Surely we are from Allah and to Him we return!
Chapter 30 contains notes by Marvin X on Muhammad Ali