Muhammad Ali and gender equality

June 08, 2016


Every now and again, I encounter stories and posts from other people's social media pages that evoke admiration and engender inspiration.

The past few days I've been checking out the page of my brethren and Toronto-based Jamaican freelance journalist Neil Armstrong, and one of his posts took me to a story that redirected me to the Facebook page of a politician in Ontario who's taking action that I find truly worthy of admiration.

The Hon. Ted McMeekin, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and MPP is actually resigning his post to help achieve gender equality in the parliament.

I think that is an admirable reason for resigning. What about you? You know any man in the Jamaican house of parliament who would resign on such a principle? In fact, you know any who would willingly resign for any reason at all? In a part of the official statement, which was posted on his Facebook page, the minister said, "Earlier today I spoke with the Premier and let her know that I would not be continuing as a member of her Cabinet. I will continue to discharge my duties as Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing until the Premier names a replacement. My decision was focused by the Premier's intention to achieve gender parity in her next Cabinet. I have three daughters, all confident and accomplished young women. With my wonderful wife, they are the joy of my life. Thinking of them, I've often dreamed of a day when the question of gender parity wouldn't even arise, because it would just be taken for granted. Like our Prime Minister, I've never been afraid to call myself a feminist. In fact, I've always been proud of being an honourary member of the Women's Caucus, and working for equality. But sometimes the best way for a man to advance the equality of women may be to step back and make room at the table. For me, this is such a time."


Real courage


Mi nuh know 'bout you, but I think that kind of stance takes some real courage. Yeah peeps! And on the matter of courage, several poignant posts, articles, and tributes continue to emerge in the wake of the recent passing of a man who exemplifies courage - Muhammad Ali. Another post by Armstrong caught my eye. It points us to a book called "What's My Name, Fool? Sports and Resistance in the United States" by Dave Zirin's. According to Armstrong, the book, which has a photo of Ali on the cover and a chapter entitled: "Rumble, Young Man, Rumble: Muhammad Ali and the 1960s", charts the genesis of boxing on slave plantations in the US and recounts Ali's feats in boxing but as well as his resistance to racism and war and his support of the struggle for social justice. I have to get me a copy of that book.


Patriotic duty


Neil's post goes on to explain that the title of the book is from an actual fight between Ali and Patterson - an opponent who refused to call him by his new name, insisting on calling him Clay instead. He also shares Dave Zirin's account of the episode, which I'm sharing here, especially for those who are either not on Facebook or will never read the book.

"Floyd Patterson, a Black ex-champion, wrapped himself tightly in the American flag, and challenged Ali, saying, "This fight is a crusade to reclaim the title from the Black Muslims. As a Catholic I am fighting Clay as a patriotic duty. I am going to return the crown to America." On the night of the fight, Ali brutalised Patterson for nine rounds, dragging it out and yelling, "Come on, America! Come on, white America.... What's my name? Is my name Clay? What's my name, fool? Of course, that sent me to YouTube to seek out and watch videos of the fight. Ali's life, and career is the stuff of legends. The man personified inspiration. As US President Barrack Obama said in his posted tribute, "Muhammad Ali was the greatest. Period. "

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