Terror In Orlando: Ali Bomaye!

TerrorOrlando

Terror in Orlando: Ali Bomaye!

I was prepared to continue mourning the loss of Muhammad Ali in private, with my family and local community, and then this morning I awoke to the the horror in Orlando, and I just wanted to scream.

I am a Muslim.  I am a Muslim in large part due to Muhammad Ali, who was a childhood hero of mine, long before I knew anything about the faith.  He remained a hero into young adulthood and into this present day, because he represented many of the things I also rep for, such as Islam, blackness, social justice, humanity and love.  He took two holy names and made them a part of global lexicon, so much so that people throughout the world scream Muhammad and Ali in unison, just as they had once had in Ghadeer Khum in the middle of the desert for only the faithful and historians to hear.

Muhammad Ali represented many things.  Those who outcry the participation of many at his funeral, who they feel are incongruent with the politics of Muhammad Ali, have themselves “flattened” Muhammad Ali to a sliver of his robust and intricate persona.  He was many things and his funeral was attended by many people, and his Islam was a global Islam, evolving beyond the backwards fatawa (plural of fatwa) of Saudi clerics who label anything new an innovation and associate it with shirk (polytheism), in order to destroy it, so that they can further manipulate and control the faith.  Muhammad Ali also represented Islam, better than anyone without the surname Shabazz in the West and like Malcolm X, who was his mentor, Muhammad Ali continued to evolve and grow, becoming a better human being day by day.  This is what I know of Islam and why I became a Muslim, and this is why I hate what happened in Orlando and mourn it doubly.

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What happened in Orlando is sick and it has no faith, let alone Islam.  If you think it has something to do with Islam, then check your own timeline for posts about Muhammad Ali and have fun trying to reconcile those two very disparate things.  Muhammad Ali represented Islam, what Orlando represents is faithlessness.  Today the community in Orlando is mourning, and I mourn with them.  The LQBTQIQ community is reeling, and I too reel.  Gun owners feel they are being homogenized with terror and I too feel the same.  Yet there is a sliver of hope and it is named Muhammad Ali, for even in death his memory destroys the argument that this is Islam—it knocks out bigoted polemics and stands victorious, so that we all can chant “Ali Bomaye!” while facing terror with the poise of this unique and singularly powerful soul.

Muhammad Ali walked away at his prime, because he did not want to kill.  His stance, which cost him dearly, represents Islam greater than any singular bomb blast or mentally unstable individual with an Islamic name.  No one has ever done that in my memory.  Imagine Lebron James  Steph Curry stepping away from the sport of basketball, or Joe Cool walking away from the field in the late 80’s because he did not agree with the Gulf War.  My Bay Area pride aside, no one has ever come close.  Mahmoud Abdur-Rauf, whom I had the opportunity to meet in 1996 at a Muslim Unity Conference, came the closest in my opinion, but even he never walked away from sport for his beliefs—and as ill as he was with the rock back then (check tape if you are Steph Curry fan), he was never the G.O.A.T.

I never got to meet Muhammad Ali and it will remain an unrequited item on the bucket list.  I was lucky to go to Louisville last year and visit his museum, walk through a street named after him and imagine as a squinted the segregation of the city in which he was bred.  Last year as I visited his city, I was mourning Paris, events in Nigeria, Syria, and Yemen.  This year I add Orlando to the list—as we as a human population try to heal, while we are baited into a never-ending conflict of us versus them.  Like Ali versus Frazier, one side versus the other, where victory can only come when bodies hit the floor—and yet, if we understood Ali, we would know what Ali versus Frazier truly was.  Frazier supported Ali as he took his moral stand and walked away from boxing, financially and stood by his side—these weren’t enemies caught in a never ending cycle, but two human beings who stood beyond the sport of boxing and became friends.  This is the Islam that Muhammad Ali represented and this is the Islam I know.

17822_837194406315646_7409196219918621380_nSo I ask you, if you have been reading this to invoke Muhammad Ali in your mind.  Let him fill your consciousness and allow his memory to knock out the media fabricated mythology of the Islamic terrorist.  Islam is about justice, peace and the evolution of the human being to become a better human being; that is why you love Muhammad Ali and why in that love we have to have to battle bigotry and hatred as he once did, in order to rise.  It is why we have to build bridges and not walls, to paraphrase Billie Crystal, and why we have to stand for justice, instead of giving into the easy path of hatred and indiscriminate blame.  Let us mourn those who we have lost and let us stop this cycle of hatred, by reminding those who would terrorize us that we will no longer give into their greatest strength, which is bullying us into conflating our hatred of them with a billion innocent Muslims—because these Muslims are represented by Muhammad Ali and nobody can’t beat the GOAT.

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Professor A.L.I. is a spoken word and Hip-Hop artist and educator; in his piece “The Pen” he immortalizes Muhammad Ali with these words, “or channel Sonny Liston with devil intuition and fight Muhammad, then, pen becomes a prison.”

Professor A.L.I. has also written the book “A Muslim Trapped In Donald Trump’s America”, which speaks to the issues outlined above.

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Asiatics and the Knowledge Resurrection

#HipHopEd

#HipHopEd

Above all else, I am in-equivocally an Asiatic Black Man.  Dravidian (Tamil) & West Indian narratives from my paternal and maternal respectively, coupled with a National Geographic DNA test that shows markers that link me with my brethren from Papua New Guinea, the Aboriginal human being from Australia & Tasmania, the Andamanese and other Dravidians and ultimately East Africa.  Along with the rest of my global black community, I am what the Honorable Elijah Muhammad would have called an “Original Man”.

Sharing this narrative was important for me to do for two important reasons.  First, it’s important to establish the motivation behind my weaving of this narrative into the oral storytelling of the song “Asiatics” featuring Planet Asia and understanding that it comes from a space of authenticity.  The second is to understand that the piece and the idea behind Asiatics its ultimately engaging in knowledge resurrection, knowing, in Foucaultian fashion that knowledge is everywhere and is layered, and that what we see is merely that which is erudite and accepted by the current systems of power and therefore cannot be a universal truth and can be, at best, one interpretation.

The knowledge I speak of, is that of “origin”.  Where do we originate from?  Why does our shared knowledge point us towards Europe, Athens or Rome then to the Crusades and the Renaissance, Empire, Colonialism and Global Conflict as defining settings for the narrative that answers that question–in spite of the insurmountable evidence of our African origins, of Black Athena, of the African wealth that fueled Rome, and the whitening of Jesus after the Crusades and the Renaissance, of the wealth of Africa that empowered the West and continues to… I mean is that coltan in the phone or tablet you are using to read this on?  Asiatics, therefore questions the accepted narrative and postulates that true knowledge, i.e. knowledge of self, that comes through deep inquiry and digging beyond erudite systems of information reveals a broader, more universal truth.

The irony is that this argument is put forth through Hip-Hop, an artform that reaches back into a method of preserving narratives in the shadows–such as the various oral traditions that ultimately come together in the Bronx, N.Y. in 1972 coalescing into a paradigm shift, essentially forming a new intelligent movement–a “hip” “hop”, which initially, before being co-opted for the most part, preserved the narratives that were discarded by the status quo and protected the truth brought to the surface by scholars like Frantz Fanon & Stokeley Carmichael, leaders like Malcolm X and Kwame Nkrumah and by activists like Assata Shakur and Fred Hampton.  Hip-Hop took that truth and retold it, keeping it alive, while crack & heroin flooded the urban community and Blackexploitation manipulated the image of Blackness, so recently rediscovered into one akin to the Jim Crow narrative–ultimately creating a new psyche, one which again re-oriented the Black Human towards Europe and Eurocentric framings.

This is why I reached out to Planet Asia, an artist who has been dedicated to the preservation of HIp-Hop as intelligent movement, in spite of corporate pressure to shift it into something devoid of intelligence altogether.  Planet Asia is an artist I’ve admired and as a fellow West Coast Muslim M.C., it felt appropriate and two years ago we put together a project that spoke to the youth in an African-American Literature course I was teaching at the summer at U.C. Berkeley.  It was almost as if Planet Asia was guest lecturing for the project and the song Asiatics was born from it, a remix of the original joint that created a back-and-forth conversation that conveyed the message that truth lay underneath the surface and that knowledge was key.

This is Foucaultian, Intelligent Movement to the fullest, this is in the words of my sister, Aisha Fukushima, “Raptivism” of the mind–it is Hip-Hop to the core and moreover it is Hip-Hop-Ed… a genre that was created because they have hijacked Hip-Hop with the likes of Iggy and Drake…

P.E.A.C.E.

A.L.I.