The barbershop was particularly crowded.
The weather was good like a Montreal summer, so everybody was stopping by and greeting each other with high fives, and joining the conversation about plans for the summer.
Just Chillin walked in and said, “Did you hear what happened?”
A regular of the Ways and Means Committee responded, “A whole lotta things are happening. What specifically you talking’ about?”
Just Chillin continued, “The greatest is gone…”
Crystal interrupted, “Make it clear. What you talkin’ about the greatest is gone? Be clear, whaddya mean the greatest is gone?”
Just Chillin said, “Muhammad Ali, he died, at 74-years-old.”
There was a silence in the barbershop, somebody did die; one of the greatest. Everyone pulled out their cell phones, and started Googling to find out if it was true. The Ways and Means Committee soon found out that it was no joke. There was a one-minute silence as everyone bowed [their] heads in a tribute to the greatest, the greatest, and the former king of the ring, Muhammad Ali.
Dropout said, “Did you know “the greatest”, Professor?
Professor answered: “Let me tell you a little story. I want everybody to listen, and don’t interrupt me.”
Back in the day, when Montreal was Montreal, Leroy Butcher was in the process of getting a building to put together a Black community. At that time the city was vibrating on a high frequency where Blacks were concerned. Montreal had a summertime event, a #1 Parade called Carifiesta. People came from all over the world to see the Carifiesta in Montreal. And the tourist office did not list the Carifiesta in their list of summer festivities. Remember now, it was the largest Caribbean-style festivity in the world.
Leroy Butcher wanted to bring Muhammad Ali to Montreal and was told go down to the barbershop and meet the Ways and Means Committee, they will hook it up for you. So Leroy came… and they listen to his plan to honour him at Mount Royal Hotel, and he would stay at the Hotel Bonaventure.
Royden Hamilton and some regulars at the Ways and Means Committee made a few phone calls. Ali people said ‘Yes, he will come to Montreal to be honoured. Here’s the fee. When Ali came to Montreal he saw that the Ways and Means Committee was legit. He said, “just pay my expenses that’s all. He was honoured at the Mount Royal Hotel and we talked all night with him, not about his fights… HE talked about how people were still getting hanged and about Marcus Garvey. He said that he was glad to talk to some brothers who were aware of what’s going on.
And next day we stood on Fort and St. Catherine and watched the Carifiesta parade, and we talked… for about two and half hours in the hot sun.
Ali he kept saying was, ‘This is beautiful. Too bad you can’t make money from it.’
Ali also spoke about his issues with the establishment. He said that Walter Smith changed his name to Sugar Ray Robinson. Arnold Cream changed his name to Jersey Joe Walcott so why couldn’t he changed his.”
After listening to him speak for two days, it was obvious that he did not hate white people like white people hated him.
He said just read the history of white people and you will know how much they hate you.
Ali had good reason to hate white people because at one time Muhammad Ali was the most hated human being in the Western world because he would join the army and fight an illegal war.
Now that he’s safe and gone to heaven… wherever that is, all of the hypocrites are coming out (even the ones that wanted to put him in prison) are coming out and saying: ‘what a great man he was because he had the courage to take a stand.’
These are the same ones who refused to call him Muhammad Ali after he changed his name (from Cassius Clay).
He told us that everything that he did was for all people not just Black people. Just like when John Carlos took a stand with Tommie Smith at the Mexico Olympics in 1968. (If you read history about why they took that stand, it had nothing to do with Black power; it was about poverty and suppression of poor people around the world.)
The Pallbearers at Ali’s funeral should be Jim Brown, Kareem Abdul Jabaar, Tommie, John Carlos and Bill Russell. Because they all took a stand.
These days the only thing Black athletes stand for is the national anthem.
Ali lived according to his conscience, he didn’t want to be a leader or a hero, he just wanted to be free.”
When he returned from the 1960 Olympics in Rome, with his gold medal hanging from his neck, he walked into a restaurant in his hometown Louisville, Kentucky, and couldn’t get served. That why he said he threw it in the river.
And he observed when he travelled the world how people were living, and the poverty they faced. That’s why he told Leroy Butcher to just pay his expenses.
We had to put up our hand a couple times to interrupt Ali. We asked
him about living in a racist society.
He gave us a hard stare and asked, “How did you know? Are you sure guys from Montreal? I’ve been all over the world, I should’ve come here and talk to you guys on the regular.”
We asked him, “After all you’ve been through, why don’t you hate white people?”
He answered, “If I hated, I couldn’t think. If I hated, I couldn’t eat. If I hated, I couldn’t work. I’d be nervous, I’d be frustrated. I don’t hate….”
Ali continued, “I’ve been all over the world and people show me love. I wish people would love everybody else the way they love me. It would be a better world. Hating people because of their color is wrong. And it doesn’t matter which color does the hating. It’s just plain wrong.”
Ali said, “You know I’ve been all over the world. I’ve met heads-of-state and poor people. I shook hand s with the best and the worst.”
Then he quoted Indira Gandhi, “You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist.”
People from all over the world call the barbershop to find how they could get an interview with or meet Muhammad Ali. The Ways and Means Committee allowed only one person to meet and interview him, Max Wallace. Why? Because we trusted Max Wallace, a personal friend of Egbert Gaye, Publisher and Editor of the Montreal CommunityCONTACT
Max Wallace wrote a Bestseller, Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight. Inside the book, signed June 13, 2000, the author writes, “To Bobby who, like Muhammad Ali, always fights the good fight. Without you, this book wouldn’t exist.”
It’s all because the Ways and Means Committee established a good relationship over the years, with The Greatest, Muhammad Ali.
For the next few months you’ll be hearing a lot more about Muhammad Ali in the media that never knew him or liked him…and even hated him. But when he came to Montreal we embraced him.
So if you want to read the truth about Muhammad Ali just keep reading the CommunityCONTACT. Because we knew him well… and he let his guard down around us. He knew we would not betray him. Love and Peace!
Rest in Peace, Muhammad Ali.