Saturday, June 11, 2016

Muhammad Ali laid to rest as funeral speakers include Bill Clinton, Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch, actor Billy Crystal, and Louisville Saint Stephen Church senior pastor Dr. Kevin Cosby, also a community activist, and who brought the house down.....Minister Louis Farrakhan was there and Mike Tyson and actor Will Smith were among the pallbearers....One speaker called racist judges and killer cops to task....By native Lousivillian and editor Kathy Wray Coleman of www.clevelandurbannews.com, Ohio's Black digital news leader

The hearse that carried the casket of boxing great Muhammad Ali


Yolanda "Lonnie" Ali, the widow of boxing great Muhammad Ali, at home-going services for the sports legend and Civil Rights activist on June 10 in Louisville, KY


Former president Bill Clinton eulogizes boxing legend Muhammad Ali at funeral services in Louisville, KY


The Rev. Dr. Kevin Cosby, senior pastor at Saint Stephen Church in Louisville's largely Black west end, brought the house down with a speech on Civil Rights and Black empowerment at funeral services for Muhammad Ali, a Louisville native


Louisvillians and sisters Beverly Johnson and Trina Metcalf pose at the Yum Center in Louisville, KY at  funeral services for Muhammad  Ali


Muhammad Ali (sitting) with his father, the late Cassius Clay Sr. (at top and third from left), his mother, the late Odessa Grady Clay, and his younger brother, Rahman Ali


By Editor-in-Chief Kathy Wray Coleman, a-23-year journalist who trained at the Call and Post Newspaper in Cleveland, Ohio for 17 years, and who interviewed now President Barack Obama one-on-one when he was campaigning for president. As to the Obama interview, CLICK HERE TO READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE AT CLEVELAND URBAN NEWS.COM, OHIO'S LEADER IN BLACK DIGITAL NEWS

This is the second  two-part series on the life and legacy of boxing great and Civil Rights activist Muhammad Ali by reporter and greater Cleveland activist Kathy Wray Coleman, a native of Louisville, Ky like Ali. Coleman knew Ali and wife Lonnie and she grew up and went to school with Lonnie's siblings. And Coleman played cards with others at the neighborhood home of Lonnie's parents. Part 1 addresses Ali's death and legacy with comments from international boxing promoter Don King. Part 2 herein is coverage of Ali's funeral in his hometown of Louisville with comments from dignitaries, activists, Black leaders and Lousivillians.

Boxing great Muhammad Ali
CLEVELAND URBAN NEWS.COM-LOUISVILLE, Kentucky- Thousands converged on Louisville, KY. Friday afternoon for funeral services for boxing great and Civil Rights activist Muhammad Ali. They include former president Bill Clinton, Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, longtime U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch of Pennsylvania, and actor Billy Crystal, all of whom were among the speakers at the Yum Center in downtown Louisville that was packed to the hilt with more than 18,000 people.

The funeral procession, led by the hearse carrying Ali's casket, left A.D. Porter Funeral Home in suburban Louisville and ultimately passed by Ali's childhood home on Grant Avenue in the inner city before riding along Muhammad Ali Blvd, his namesake street. 

Thousands lined the streets to watch and some tossed flowers onto the hearse that delivered Ali for a home-going celebration that began at 3 pm EST, the most well-attended funeral in Kentucky history.

Mike Tyson and actor Will Smith were among the pallbearers.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fisher said that police have estimated that roughly 100,000 people turned out across the city. 

The three-time heavyweight champion of the world and a native of Louisville, KY, Ali was born in 1942 as Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr.

He changed his name to Cassius X Clay, and later to Muhammad Ali, a Muslim name that reflected his conversion to Islam.

He died last week at a hospital in Phoenix, AZ after a 32-year battle with Parkinson's disease, and at the age of 74.

Three of Ali's children spoke via the lineup of speakers, as did his wife, Yolanda "Lonnie" Ali, a native of Louisville like her  legendary husband, whom she married in 1986.

Former president Bill Clinton, the husband of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, eulogized Ali, and thanked Yolanda Ali for making the second-half of Ali's life "greater than the first." 

The former two-term  president said that Ali, a conscious objector of the Vietnam war who was stripped of his championship via a draft-evasion conviction that was later overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, was a sports legend and Civil Rights icon who, unlike so many others, could "live with the consequences of what he believed in."

The articulate Dr. Kevin Cosby, senior pastor at Saint Stephen Church in Louisville's largely Black west end, spoke at length on issues impacting America's Black community, and like a few other speakers, he brought the audience to its feet.

Ali, said Cosby, was a viable voice during the Civil Rights Movement, and a symbol of Black pride when it was not popular.

"He loved Black people at a time when Black people had a problem loving themselves," said Cosby. "Before James Brown said 'I'm Black and I'm Proud,' Muhammad Ali said I'm Black and I'm pretty."

The funeral was marked with calls for peace between Israel and Palestine, and reform of the nation's unjust legal system.

It was religious and empowering, and no doubt a history lesson on Islamic culture.

Racist judges, and killer cops were called to task by one speaker. And another deemed the attack on the Muslim community an act of hatred against a peaceful people. 

Minister Louis Farrakhan was there, as were former boxing greats like Sugar Ray Leonard, 60, who said that Ali was his idol.

On Thursday internationally known boxing promoter Don King and Civil Rights activist the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. attended Muslim funeral services for Ali, also in Louisville.  It drew thousands too, including Louisianians, prominent clergy of the Muslin faith, and mourners worldwide.

Robert Coleman, who went to elementary, middle and high school with Ali, both of them friends and graduates of Louisville Central High School, told Cleveland Urban News.Com, Ohio's most read digital Black newspaper, that  Ali boasted of becoming the heavyweight champion of the world in his youth. 

"Ali said at 12-years -old that he was going to be the greatest boxer in the world and nobody believed him," said Coleman, 73.

A 1960 Olympic gold medalist and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Ali  ultimately retired in 1981 with 56 victories and only five defeats.

Ali was married four times and in addition to his widow,Yolanda "Lonnie" Ali, is survived by nine children, including daughter Laila, also a well- known former American boxer like her famed father, multiple grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and a younger brother, Rahman Ali.

He was laid to rest at the Cave Hill Cemetary in Louisville.